My phone contract expired and as a part of renewing the contract with a 2GB/month data plan, I got a Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 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 Android 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 Android 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.
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.
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
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
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 Android 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
There are 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$/year, which i think is a more than fair price for the functionality you get.
Get the app in the Google app store: RTM – Remember the Milk app
Another really useful project/task managing app. Why a 2nd one? Why not RTM exclusively?
I’m using Trello as an enhancement to RTM, specifically for projects that are not so much date and deadline oriented but open-ended instead. The Trello concept of boards that hold your tasks lets you break down projects into stages and you can get a great overview of where you are in terms of more complex projects with nested tasks and dependencies.
Best of all, Trello is completely free, so definitely try it out and see if that board-style organization makes sense to your work-flow.
1) Sign-up for your free Trello account!
2) Then get the app in the Google app store: Trello app
You can be the most organized, tidy person in the world, there’ll be times when you don’t find that USB cable to connect your phone with your computer. A real bummer when you are in a hurry and quickly need to port some important files to carry with you on your phone.
On your computer go to http://web.airdroid.com/, start the app on your phone, use the camera as QR code reader for log-in purposes and then port the files via the web interface. Fast, easy and convenient. No USB cable needed and a great time-saver.
Get the app in the Google app store: AirDroid app
Various productivity gurus recommend to track the things you want to improve. The theory is that when you start to measure something it increases your awareness in that particular area which in turn influences your behavior and choices.
What’s so great about the Keep Track app is that you can define your own measurement units. It can be a simple yes/no choice or a numerical value, you can add text or with the ca. 2$ 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
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
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
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
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
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
It’s amazing what technology can do today. And while there’s definitely the danger to get lost in unnecessary gimmicks you can find some real gems 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.