6 Best Apps for Musicians

Today’s technology is constantly changing and growing and to keep up to date everyone, even musicians, must learn to use it to our advantage. There are thousands of different music apps and computer programs designed for and by musicians. These are just a few of my favorite apps that I use on my iPad for practice and teaching lessons.

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Tonal Energy(iOS/ Android $3.99)

I use this music app everyday as a tuner, a metronome, and a recording device. I love having everything in one place. Perfect for every instrument, the tuner can listen to you and tune you to both a concert pitch and your instrument pitch with the use of a green smiley face, or it can play a sustained pitch for you to match. The metronome gives you easy access to 60+ different meters!! You can even set up a sequenced met for pieces with multiple different meters and tempo changes. But my all time favorite feature of the Tonal Energy app is the audio/ video recording feature. You can record yourself playing and then play it back at any speed you want to listed to your self and really isolate you’re playing.

Fingering Charts Pro(iOS $2.99)

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Fingerings are crucial to playing any instrument. You may assume you and your students should know all your fingerings, but not all instruments respond the same to each fingering. Fingering Charts Pro is perfect for finding alternate fingering to make harder passages easier and help you find the perfect fingering for your instruments intonation. This music app has fingering charts for 21 different instruments that are easy to navigate and understand.

 

Smart Music(iPad FREE)

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Smart Music is the perfect application for private lessons and classes. With both an iPad app and a computer program, Smart Music is easy to access for all students with access to the internet. Smart Music allows teachers to create classes, enroll students, and assign students playing assessments and enforce practice sessions. There are thousands of different method books and solos with accompaniments . With its own metronome, fingering charts, tuner, and immediate assessments, this is the perfect practice tool for young musicians.

Chromatik(iOS/ Android FREE)

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Chromatik is a fun app to play around with. It has various music from different genres including classical, jazz, rock, pop, musicals, and popular movies for every instrument. You can highlight, take notes, record, and even play along with the music video on Vevo! This app is perfect for finding quick fun music that everyone knows and loves.

Garage Band(iOS $4.99)

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As electric backing tracks are becoming more popular, Garage Band is becoming more popular. If you are a musician interested in composing or playing with an original backing track, garage band is the perfect app for you. With the ability to record vocals, play the key board and other stimulated instruments, you can create your own music to play along with. Some popular bands first albums were made with garage band tools.

Scanner Pro (iOS/ Android $3.99)

This might be the most helpful app. Making hundreds of copies of music all day everyday, can be very tiring, but its even worse when some one needs music they don’t have.  Scanner Pro makes it easy to take a PDF scan of music right from your phone so you can email it to anyone in just seconds. I have done this many times for my private lessons.

Now I know some of these music apps cost money, but it is so worth it. I have tried lots of different apps but these are my all time favorites that I have found to be the most effective.

Interview with Eric Salazar

I am very late to getting this posted, but got very caught up with the end of the school year. But it is summer now so I will try my hardest to get caught up again. This last year I had the opportunity to interview clarinetist Eric Salazar. Eric is a clarinet soloist, chamber musician in the ensemble, Forward Motion, and a composer. He is a member of the International Clarinet Association and a BuzzReed committee member. Eric has been featured on the Clarineat podcast were he discussed his use of social media in expanding his career and how he became the second most followed clarinetist on social media.

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Solo and Composing Career

Eric released his own album in 2016. This live recorded album features recordings of Salazar’s original compositions combining traditional musicians with electronic tracks and can be heard on iTunes, Spotify, Sound Cloud. This new form of music is often categorized under the indie-classical genre. Eric Salazar often introduces improvisation into his own works as improvise is the first step towards composing.

 

Forward Motion

Eric performs with his chamber ensemble, Forward Motion. Forward motion is a relatively new ensemble based in Indianapolis. Keeping up with the indie-classical genre, Forward Motion brings this new art form to the public of Indianapolis.

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Forward Motion Ensemble

 

BuzzReed

Eric Salazar is a committee member and the graphic artist for the International Clarinet Associations new venture, BuzzReed.  BuzzReed was established to bring information about “pedagogy,  equipment, culture, literature, and history” to a younger audience. BuzzReed can be found on the International Clarinet Website and in The Clarinet Journal.

Career

Eric Salazar runs a private studio and is an arts administrator. But he didn’t start out that way. Salazar said that at the beginning he “Knew how to play, but didn’t really know how to have a career in music.” I believe that the best way to pursue a career in music is to be in a constant search for performance opportunities and find what makes your playing unique. Eric Salazar did just that.  His combination of instrumental and electronic music made him unique.

Q & A

I would love to learn more from Eric Salazar about careers in music. If you have any questions you would like to ask him please leave a comment or shoot me an email so that  we can feature him again.

 

 

Third Coast Percussion

The Grammy Award winning percussion quartet, Third Coast Percussion, recently visited the Northwest Arkansas area to perform in the Walton Arts Centers 10×10 series. The 10×10 Arts Series is a season of 10 performances hosted by the Walton Arts Center with the intent to bring new and unique art forms to the Northwest Arkansas Community at the low cost of $10 a ticket.  Third Coast Percussion has been performing and expanding the depth of the world of percussion.

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Who is Third Coast Percussion?

Each of the four quartet members are classically trained percussionists and composers. Based in Chicago, the Third Coast Percussion is the ensemble-in-residence at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Third Coast Percussion put on an outstanding performance that was full of new experiences that blew their audience away.

Outreach

Throughout the week, the ensemble put on multiple master classes, and performances involving students of all ages and local musicians. Each of the members of Third Coast Percussion have been music educators at some point in their careers. This leads them be very passionate about their community outreach. They believe that “art is an invaluable experience for people of all ages.”

The Program

The program they performed Friday night,  Lyrical Geometry , is a unique and energetic collaboration of both traditional percussion and unconditional instruments. During the performance, Quartet member, Robert Dillon commented on the diverse selection of instrumentation; asking “What is a percussion instrument?” The definition of a percussion instrument is “a musical instrument that is sounded by being struck or scrapped”, but Third Coast Percussion believe that a percussion instrument is “anything you ask a percussionist to play and they say yes” or anything “that the other musicians wont play.” This seemed to be the general theme for this concert. The program included obscure instruments such as Japanese Temple Bowls and amplified table tops.

The Lyrical Geometry Program :

Wild Sound

Composed by Glenn Kotche, Wild Sound, uses a combination of marimbas and vibraphones that create an almost “wild” sound with its very fast and systematic layering of rhythms. At some points the rhythms were complementary, and at others, it was almost overwhelming. However, none of this distracted from the enjoyment of the piece. I was impressed by the way that the musicians maintained their inner pulse and were able to pull off such a feat so that their listeners did not get lost or distracted. This piece was an introduction to the rest of the performance by establishing the traditional percussion techniques with new flourishes and flares to establish a new art form all together.

Table Music

Composed by Theirry De Mey, Table Music, was by far the audiences favorite piece in the program. After the show, everyone was wondering which of the Third Coast Percussion Albums had a recording of Table Music on it. Sadly, Third Coast Percussion has not yet released a recording of them playing this piece. I was blown away by the use of amplified tables in the Table Music piece performed by Peter Martin, Sean Connors, and David Skidmore. As a tap dancer, the idea of making rhythms with your hands was amazing. The music for this piece includes descriptions of the exact way to hit or touch the table to make a particular sound. This makes the piece resemble both music and choreographed dance at the same time.

Resounding Earth mvt. II Prayer

Composed by Augusta Read Thomas, Resounding Earth, was composed for and dedicated to Third Coast Percussion. This is a very unique piece that requires the use of hundreds of metal instruments including singing bowls and bells from numerous different cultures. This piece celebrates the idea that music brings cultures together and the vast variety of musical instruments.The piece is made up of four movements: Invocation, Prayer, Mantra, and Reverie. As Robert Dillon explained the entire work is about 30 minutes long. So for time’s sake, Third Coast Percussion only performed the third movement, Prayer. Prayer, is an even distribution of eeriness and beauty that seems to grow out of nothingness. Third Coast Percussion had me sitting on the edge of my seat afraid to move or disturb the perfect balance of silence and music.

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Third Coast Percussion

Mallet Quartet

Composed by Steve Reich, Mallet Percussion, is another composition written for two marimbas and two vibraphones with multiple movements. Third Coast Percussion played all three of these movements: Fast, Slow, and Fast.  In the two Fast movements, the two marimbas provide the foundation cannon like background that continues through out the piece while the two vibraphones take turns playing the solo-like melody. I admire Sean and Robert for their fluidity as they seamlessly passed around the melody without delay. During the Slow movement, the instrumentation thins out. I enjoyed how the ensemble did not pause between the three movements and they seemed to just flow into one fluid song despite the contrast between slow and fast movements.

BEND

Composed by ensemble member, Peter Martin, BEND, is composed for a percussion quartet using two marimbas. This piece uses various different mallets, bows, and sticking techniques to create a unique sound. The bows create a very different sound when they are run across the edge of the keys that sounds like the bending of music. The piece ebbs and flows in an unpredictable and pattern-less way. As soon as a common theme is established, it is abruptly changed with the introduction of a new sound, or a drastic change of dynamics.  This was a very entertaining piece that I was not expecting to hear. I especially enjoyed the use of the other end of the mallets.

Ordering-instincts

Composed by ensemble member, Robert Dillon, Ordering-instincts, is a 10 minute piece including the only two drums in the program, wooden blocks, and a few metal “disks”.  It was easy to get lost in all the new sounds you were hearing. But with the aid of a live video streaming to a screen above the stage, you could see the choreographed dance of the musicians. Their music provided a road map to guide them through the traffic of the piece. Creating perfectly organized sound, music.

Blindness

Composed by Isaac Schankler, Blindness, is composed for 4 percussionists playing on one vibraphone accompanied by an electronic recording. At first I was a little skeptical about how 4 grown men could play the same instruments at the same time, but all of my doubts were put to rest the moment they began playing. In the past, my personal experiences playing with an electronic backing track have not been successful. But in this composition the electronic track did not take away from the ensembles performance, but added additional sound effects resembling sounds one would expect to hear if they were blind.

Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities

Composed by ensemble member, David Skidmore, Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities, was the perfect end to a phenomenal program. This piece incorporated visual art by projecting an animated design that was mesmerizing and moved with the music. This addition to the program emphasized how all art forms are connected in their abilities to express feelings and movement without out the use of traditional language. Art: music, design, dance, and literature are all abstract forms of communication used to express what one does not have the courage to express on their own. I feel that this composition described the diversity of life and talents among people.

I am not a percussionist but as a musician, I am enamored by new art forms and Third Coast Percussion did not disappoint. Each piece introduced a new theme accompanied by a perfect blend of traditional instruments and new sounds. The program was a perfect arrangements of pieces that made a statement: the art world is changing. I had never seen or heard anything remotely familiar to what Third Coast Percussion played. Third Coast Percussion never ceased to impress me.

The Grammy

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Third Coast Percussion at The 59th Annual Grammy Awards

A Percussion Quartet is not the norm, but Third Coast Percussion despite skepticism from friends, they did it anyway and won a Grammy for it! In the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, the quartet won their first Grammy for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance on their album featuring works by Steve Reich, an iconic percussionist and composer. In their Performance at the Grammy Awards, they performed the third movement Steve Reich’s Mallet Quartet with jazz saxophonist, Ravi Coltrane. This is a huge game changer for the world of percussion as it is  the first time a percussion ensemble has won a Grammy in a Chamber Music category.

Third Coast Percussion is opening doors for future generations of percussionists. Percussion has come a long way since the 18th century and the invention of the drum. Percussionists are constantly looking for new things to play around with to create new sounds.  Third Coast Percussion is always pushing the boundaries of what percussion is. Modernist composer, Edgard Varèse, once said that music is “organized sound” when referring to his own musical style. I feel that this definition of music describes Third Coasts Percussion perfectly.

To listen to Third Coast Percussion check them out on sound cloud or my video page:

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