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12 Great Android Apps for Musicians

My phone contract expired and as a part of renewing the contract with a 2GB/month data plan, I got a Sony Ericsson WT19A-BK Live Android device. It might not be the top of the line smart phone, but I’m really happy with it so far.

I’ve spent some time in the Google Play market, installing and checking out a ton of apps and want to present some of my favorites so far.

From helping you:

  • to organize your time
  • to staying on track with your musical goals
  • to having more fun practicing
  • to inspiring your students (and yourself)

Hopefully, there’ll be some useful apps for you included in this list.

Get the Largest, Fastest SD Card for Your Phone

But before we get into the apps, here’s one of the most important additions you need in order to enhance your smart phone experience.

Max out your storage by getting the biggest, fastest SD card for your device.

My Sony phone supports up to 32 GB, so that’s what I ordered. I got a Transcend 32 GB Class 10 SDHC Flash Memory Card from Amazon. You might be able to find a cheaper 32GB card but the speed increase by using a class10 card is worth the few extra bucks.

A card with lots of storage allows you to add tons of mp3 or PDF files to your phone. You can have all your essential playbacks and jam-alongs as well as important reference materials with you all the time. No more, “I have the perfect piece for you to demonstrate this concept. I’ll bring it to the next lesson next week.” Now it’s, “You want to learn xyz, sure, let’s get started with it immediately.”

Onwards to the apps…

The Standard Google Android Apps – Gmail/Calendar/Contacts

Don’t overlook these standard apps just because they come pre-installed. Even though the Calendar and Contacts functionality don’t have that sexy, exotic app feel to them, they are extremely useful.

It’s so convenient to have all the relevant information at your fingertips when e.g. some student has to cancel or re-schedule a lesson last minute. With all the relevant information right at your fingertips you can get things settled and re-arranged immediately even when you are on the go and away from your desktop PC.


YouTube

YouTube logo

Click for YouTube

Watch all the great performances, tutorials (and those funny cat videos) wherever you are.

For teaching, the YouTube app is great, too. Check out songs a student wants to learn that you don’t know. Watch them, compare different versions and analyze them together. Guide your students to the good stuff that’s available.

Also, don’t underestimate the motivation factor. Especially with younger students it’s great to show them inspiring performances so that they get exposed to new music and see what’s possible.

Get the app in the Google app store: YouTube app


Evernote

Evernote logo

Click for Evernote

I love Evernote. Most likely I will continue to rave about Evernote in future articles. Now that I have access to the full app (not just some skimmed down mobile site version like on my previous phone) it has become even more valuable to me.

This semester I won’t have to physically write down the homework assignments on paper first, followed by my evening session of transferring that information into Evernote on my PC. I’ll simply type in the lesson summary/homework into the Evernote app right at the end of the lesson while my student is packing up.

1 step less in administrative overhead, no paper involved and 5-10 minutes of time saved at the end of the day.

Have I already mentioned that I love Evernote? :-)

So, sign up for your free Evernote account. You’ll also get 1 month of extra premium features as a sign-up bonus.

Get the app in the Google app store: Evernote app


Dropbox

Dropbox logo

Click for Dropbox

I’ve been using Dropbox for years as a kind of back-up service. Now, with the Dropbox app I (finally) make use of that extremely convenient ubiquitous easy access. With the app I have access to all my files in my Dropbox folder from anywhere. Not all the files I might need fit on the phone’s SD card – and now they don’t have to. :-)

You get 2 GB free. Sign up through my Dropbox link and both of us get an additional 500 Mb amount of storage for free.

Then download the Dropbox app from the app store: Dropbox app


RTM – Remember the Milk

Remember the Milk logo

Click for Remember the Milk

There’s tons of task list apps out there. Remember the Milk has been around long enough already and is well established so I don’t have to fear losing my system due to some start-up company going belly up. Another thing I like is that you can start simple and over time build your own productivity system using tags, context, reminders, all sorts of filtering, etc…

Create lists for your teaching tasks, recording projects, gigs, marketing, etc… and let Remember the Milk help you stay on track and move your projects forward.

You can use the free system which has all the functionality except unlimited synchronization between devices. I definitely want to have the latest tasks and information available to me, so that’s why I chose to upgrade to the Pro version that allows unlimited synchronization. It’s 25$/year, which i think is a more than fair price for the functionality you get.

Get the app in the Google app store: RTM – Remember the Milk app


Trello

Trello logo

Click for Trello

Another really useful project/task managing app. Why a 2nd one? Why not RTM exclusively?

I’m using Trello as an enhancement to RTM, specifically for projects that are not so much date and deadline oriented but open-ended instead. The Trello concept of boards that hold your tasks lets you break down projects into stages and you can get a great overview of where you are in terms of more complex projects with nested tasks and dependencies.

Best of all, Trello is completely free, so definitely try it out and see if that board-style organization makes sense to your work-flow.

1) Sign-up for your free Trello account!

2) Then get the app in the Google app store: Trello app


AirDroid

AirDroid logo

Click for AirDroid

You can be the most organized, tidy person in the world, there’ll be times when you don’t find that USB cable to connect your phone with your computer. A real bummer when you are in  a hurry and quickly need to port some important files to carry with you on your phone.

Enter AirDroid.

On your computer go to http://web.airdroid.com/, start the app on your phone, use the camera as QR code reader for log-in purposes and then port the files via the web interface. Fast, easy and convenient. No USB cable needed and a great time-saver.

Get the app in the Google app store: AirDroid app


Keep Track

Various productivity gurus recommend to track the things you want to improve. The theory is that when you start to measure something it increases your awareness in that particular area which in turn influences your behavior and choices.

What’s so great about the Keep Track app is that you can define your own measurement units. It can be a simple yes/no choice or a numerical value, you can add text or with the ca. 2$ Pro version combine multiple trackers into groups.

Besides tracking non-musical stuff like weight and workout routines you can use it to track all your various music related topics.

  • How often did you practice?
  • How long did you practice?
  • At what bpm where you able to play your scales?
  • What was the percentage score you got for your functional ear training session?

Get the app in the Google app store: Keep Track app


gstrings – Guitar Tuner

gStrings logo

Click for gStrings

This app retired my old tuner. 1 item less to carry around in my teaching bag.

Get the app in the Google app store: gStrings app


Slick Metronome

Slick Metronome logo

Click for Slick Metronome

And joining the tuner in retirement is my old metronome. My teaching bag is getting lighter and lighter. :-)

  • Odd meters
  • Tap tempo functionality
  • subdivision accents
It’s all there.

Get the app in the Google app store: Slick Metronome app


Sight Read – Music Quizz

Apart from doing the occasional brush-up on my own note recognition, this is a great app to add some elements of gamification into your lessons.

When most students simply gulp and whine a little when you test their note recognition skills the old-fashioned way, they actually like it when you present it in the form of a challenge as a game.

With this app you can do that. Simply tell your student something like, “Let’s see how many notes you can recognize during the 1 minute countdown.” Do this 2 or 3 times in a row for a nice note reading work out that’s fun. Make a note of the result in your Evernote student tracker and at the next lesson challenge your student to beat their best result.

A killer feature would be to be able to limit the notes used during the quizz. Then I’d be able to use the app even with early beginners, who only learned 3 or 4 notes so far. I think I’ll write the developer with that feature request. Hopefully this can be implemented in a future update.

Get the app in the Google app store: SightRead app


WaveRecorder

Wave Recorder logo

Click for Wave Recorder

I use this app to quickly record ideas that I want to remember. When you don’t have pen and paper with you and are too lazy to type the idea into your phone, use WaveRecorder instead.

Additionally, it’s useful to record a student and then play the recording back to him and analyse the strengths and weaknesses of his performance together. Let your student hear what you are talking about when you critique him/her.

Also, what about that killer melody that just popped into your head? Don’t risk forgetting it, start the app and do a quick and dirty recording instead. Nothing worse than agonizing about some genius idea that you can’t remember anymore.

Get the app in the Google app store: WaveRecorder app


iRealb

iRealb logo

Click for iRealb

Once in a while, a student has to cancel a lesson on short notice. On days when I’m teaching from home that’s no problem, I have my studio with all the equipment, sheet music, jam tracks right there. But when I’m teaching in a music school such a last-minute cancellation often resulted in semi-dead time because often I didn’t have the material for an effective high-quality practice session with me.

Now I can use that 30 minute time slot to get some nice improvisation practice in. I have my backing band with me. I choose one of the standards to work on, set the style and tempo and jam away. It does sound somewhat MIDI-ish, but the quality is more than acceptable for a quick practice session.

Program your own chord progressions or download hundreds of pre-programmed songs from the iRealb forum that you can access from inside the app.

Compared to other apps the roughly 9$ might seem expensive, but it’s totally worth it.

Get the app in the Google app store: iRealb app


Conclusion

It’s amazing what technology can do today. And while there’s definitely the danger to get lost in unnecessary gimmicks there’s also a ton of real gems available to make your life as a musician easier, more productive and more fun. So take advantage of what the Google Play store has to offer.

Also, check out the follow-up post: More Great Android Apps for Musicians

What are your favorite apps? If you have any additional useful apps that you’d like to recommend, please add a comment and share your recommendations.

Comments

  1. Justin Foster says

    Cool List. Thanks! Also, check out Ensemble Composer, Symphony Pen, which is a newly released handwritten music app, and Musical Lite .

    • Marko says

      Hey Justin, thanks for stopping by and also thanks for your additional app suggestions. I really appreciate it.

      I just read the Google Play store descriptions and they all look really good. Now I just need to decide which of my currently apps to de-install so that I have some internal phone memory available for those new apps. :-)

  2. Justin says

    Ahhh I can’t tolerate low internal memory! Maybe you should root your phone and force apps to SD, or you already rooted?

    • Marko says

      My phone isn’t rooted yet – it’s my 1st Android device, so I’m still new to the system.

      The last few weeks I’ve just installed too many apps to test out. Even with forcing all the apps (where it’s possible) to my SD card, I’ve been getting close to the limits of my internal memory.

      But I’ll just get rid of the ho-hum apps that don’t cut it. So it’s no big deal.

      Thanks again for your suggestions – especially Symphony Pen looks really impressive. Time to save up for a tablet. :-)

      • Justin says

        Ahh, I see. Welcome to the Android(r) Family :) Yea, Symphony Pen has a lot of potential. It’s still in beta though so a few bugs, but I think it will be one of the greatest apps for musicians. Oh yea, it’s only out for the Galaxy Note (tablet) right now.

  3. says

    Nice article Marko. You can also add SoundCloud app in your list. It is just amazing app for a music lover. You might already know about it. Overall, I thoroughly liked the article.
    Thank you.

    • Marko says

      Hi Shruti,

      Yes, SoundCloud. I use it all the time on my desktop, but haven’t thought about checking for an app yet. So thanks for making the suggestion. Anyone wanting to add it to their Android device, here’s the link to the PlayStore: SoundCloud

      With all the great suggestions coming in, I’ll have to post a follow-up real soon. ;-)

      Thanks again and I’m glad you liked the article.

      Take care,
      Marko

    • Marko says

      Hi Stefan,

      That’s a cool idea for an app. I’ll definitely check it out over the weekend. Thanks for letting me know about it.

      Take care,
      Marko

    • Marko says

      Hi Daniel,

      This looks really good, especially the variable swing factor is a great feature. Too bad that it’s not compatible with my Android (I’m still on 2.3) version, otherwise I’d definitely try it out. Thanks for sharing your find.

      Take care,
      Marko

      • Emil says

        Actually marko, it is really good. I play funk and also a lot of jazz. Its perfect to be able to practise my walking and soloing to a swing ride where i can adjust swing amount to fit slow or fast tempos.

        I also like the samba groove. its not like authentical native south-american samba, but more like modern fusion samba, but it is perfect to practise with.

        • Marko says

          Hey Emil,

          Rub more salt in my wound… ;-)

          I really like my Sony phone but the biggest problem I have is its rather limited native memory. So even though I could update to Android 4, I won’t due to the increased memory needs.

          But good to read another testimonial for this app. Looking forward to playing with it on my next phone.

          Thanks for stopping by and taking the time.

          Marko

  4. Johan Bryntesson says

    A great MP3 player for musicians is Maple. I was thinking about how I would try to write a player that could change tempo/pitch independently, create loops for practicing along and bookmarking points in songs “chorus”, “verse 2″ and so on. But the Maple Player did all that.

    • says

      Hi Johan,

      I just installed Maple and had a quick session with it. The A/B functionality for looping will be extremely useful for “nailing” specific sections with my guitar students. And the transposing will be great for songs where the guitar has been tuned down to Eb.

      Thank you very much for the great suggestion – and right in time so I can include this app in my upcoming follow-up post featuring even more useful Android apps for musicians. :-)

      Take care,
      Marko

  5. says

    Thanks for the _great_ lists, useful comments and reviews.

    Another heads-up, directly from the developer (so I’m obviously biased):
    Please check out the Fakebook music reader. It has over 1200 jazz standards pre-loaded and easily import other tunes in PDF, Chordpro, iRealPro or abc format. As I’m a musician myself it is designed for live use. I think it is great (but, as I said, I may be biased…)

    Find it on Amazon and Google Play ( http://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.skrivarna.fakebook.android )

    Have fun playing!

    /Bernard

  6. Sheldon Plitt says

    Hey Marko, great post and discussion about Android apps for Musicians. i don’t know about you, but as I’ve played various instruments over the years, I found that my binder full of tabs and chords was getting heavy enough to collapse the hydraulics on my music stand. This seemed like a common problem with many of the jams I attended. I decided to work on this issue and developed an app to track, view and share all my chords and tabs on my phone and tablet. It’s similar to others such as the Fakebook mentioned earlier, with my own take on speed and usability. (No disrespect to the Fakebook, I’ve not used it but it looks like a great solution!). Check out my app, ‘Pickin’ and Grinnin’ Songbook’ on the play store as another option: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.Codecasters.PickinAndGrinninSongbook

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