In three previous posts (here, here, and here) I’ve mentioned several music-related smartphone apps and online tools. Although I still highly recommend the smartphone apps listed, I’ve recently been using my office computer and internet connection as a central workstation for practice sessions. If you’re a student and don’t have a dedicated practice space, a laptop computer and wi-fi connection can work just as well, provided that you have decent headphones or speakers.
My favorite metronome is still the Advanced Metronome Online, because of its capability for customization and very high bpm (beats per minute) limit. Most standalone metronomes – even expensive ones – top out around 300 bpm, but this one can be cranked up to 900+ bpm. This feature is very useful when you want to hear all of the eighth notes or sixteenth notes in asymmetrical meters like 5/8 and 7/8. **Note: Recently this website has been triggering a “Java Security Alert,” but I think updating to the most recent version of Java fixes it.
I’m a big fan of using intonation drones instead of tuners, and recently stumbled upon two very helpful sites. First is a collection of downloadable sound files from the International Double Reed Society. The files are in MIDI format, which iTunes (and other media players as well) will play. The files can also be converted to mp3 format and burned to a CD or loaded on a portable device. The organ sound is easier on the ears than the sound from a tuner or other tone generator. Multiple temperaments are available. Next is an online tuning fork at Seventh String Software. This one is customizable to different temperaments and timbres. To me the sound isn’t quite as pleasing as the organ drones, but not bad overall. **The Java security warning above also applies to this site.
The last tool for today is the InTune app for smartphone. Designed and developed by Professor Daniel Kazez at Wittenberg University in Ohio, this handy little app takes a simple principle and uses it to help improve intonation. Here’s a full description from iTunes.
InTune is an outgrowth of twenty-five years of research and testing in the field of intonation by cellist and professor of music Daniel Kazez. The concept began as a simple game to test the ability to hear two pitches that are very close together. But then in a university research study, Kazez discovered that students’ hearing improved the more often they played — at triple the rate of those who did not.
With InTune, you’ll hear two pitches and determine whether the second is higher or lower than the first. It starts easy but gets more difficult, until you find the closest pair of pitches that you can hear. Play again and improve your score — and your ear! Share your score with others and find out who has the best ear.
Although I haven’t thoroughly tested the effectiveness of InTune, I can say that it is very easy to use, and fun as well. It has numerous applications for use in private or classroom instruction, and other intonation games could easily be built off of the basic design. Here’s a screenshot.
The price is also very reasonable, making it a fun and useful addition to your practice toolbox. If you’re not convinced, try a brief session with the InTune app every day, and see if it helps improve your ability to hear intonation discrepancies. Also noteworthy from this developer is the free Composer of the Day app.