4 Musical Practice Tools You Should Be Using

Thanks to advances in science and engineering, today’s technology is pretty amazing. There are so many valuable apps, websites, and tools out there to help people of all ages and skill levels learn to play music – and there are more being created every single day. It’s not hard to spend tons and tons of money on all the latest gadgets and programs to help you with your technique and skill, but it’s definitely not necessary – having all the bells and whistles may be fun, but you only really need a few basic things to help boost your abilities.

Check out our recommendations for the top 4 best practice tools…

Metronome

Almost all musical genres have the same foundation: rhythm. Whether the music you have chosen to play has a very strict interpretation of the rhythm, or is more fluid and free flowing, a basic understanding of the pulse and timing of the rhythm is necessary to play the music accurately and correctly.

No matter what instrument you play, the very best tool to help you strengthen your rhythm and timing is the humble metronome. A metronome is a very simple piece of equipment that makes an audible sound, usually a simple click, at a regular interval that you can set, usually in beats per minute. Using a metronome while you practice can feel tedious, and might even be a little difficult at first, but it will, without a doubt, help you improve your sense of timing and, therefore, help improve your overall ability as a musician.

Our Favourite Metronomes:

Pro-Metronome App

With the advancement of technology, you can now bring your metronome with you wherever you go! This app is inexpensive, coming in at just $3, and offers a wide range of options. Here are just some features of the app:

  • Subdivided rhythms.
  • Drum machine functions that can do multi-meter and swing. This helps a lot by giving you a drummer to play with and help keep you on the beat.
  • A selection of traditional metronome sounds (like the “click”) as well, for a more traditional approach and for students who want to challenge their own sense of rhythm without the aid of a drummer.

Dr. Beat DB-30 Metronome

If you prefer your metronome be a separate device from your phone, Dr. Beat offers some pretty good features as well:

  • Subdivided rhythms
  • Tap function
  • Tuner

Tuner

And speaking of tuners:

There are a few lucky musicians out there who posses the gift of perfect-pitch – the ability to hear the exact frequency of each note, and tune their instrument or voice to those notes. For the rest of us, a tuner is a pretty important accessory. Because tuning devices can range from traditional tuning forks and pitch pipes, to more sophisticated digital tuning equipment, finding the right one for you can involve answering some important questions about your needs and your budget.

Electric guitar and chromatic tuners can come in all shapes and sizes – from pocket-sized devices up to rack-mounted units. The most basic models usually use an LED screen to display the relative sharpness or flatness of the note being played and might only include the six pitches used in standard guitar tuning (E, A, D, G, B, E). More advanced chromatic tuners allow instruments to be tuned to all 12 pitches of the chromatic scale.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of different tuner models to choose from, so keep these most important features in mind when deciding on one:

  • Display/meters: You need to be able to see and understand what the tuner is telling you. Many models use a needle-based display to show how close you are to the proper pitch. Others replicate this with a needle-like graphic or LED lights arranged from red to green. Make sure you understand the information the tuner is trying to give you.
  • Auto pitch detection: Better quality tuners can automatically detect the tone being played, and show its relation to true pitch. Less advanced models ask you to set the target pitch by hand.
  • Microphones and speakers: Tuners that have a microphone can actually listen to the instrument’s tuning acoustically, which is great for tuning a variety of instruments with the same tool. Those with amplifiers and speakers built in are also able to generate tones that can be useful for developing your ear for intonation.

The Amazing Slow Downer App

It’s all in the name! At $14.99, this app is a bit more expensive than the metronome we discussed earlier, but it’s worth it! Just download any song you want to learn in mp3 format to the app, and you’re ready to get started. So just what is it that makes this app so incredible?

  • It can slow down and speed up the song you’ve chosen as slow as 25% of the original tempo, or up to 200% of the original tempo, without changing the pitch.
  • It can change the tuning or key of a song.
  • It allows you to create loops of a section of the song that you want to focus on.

This app is a valuable took for musical students of all skill levels and experience. It’s especially invaluable for learning new songs, particularly if they’re too fast at first. Just slow it down and play along! As you become more comfortable with the song you can slowly start to bring it back up to full speed.

Backing Tracks

A back track, or play-along track, is pretty much what it sounds like: a musical accompaniment recording that has an instrument missing from the mix – yours. This is essentially karaoke for instruments. For example, a guitar backing track will likely have the drums, bass, and maybe a rhythm guitar and keyboard track, but no lead guitar – that’s where you come in. A drum backing track should have all the other instruments except the drums.

Playing along with these tracks is great practice for a few reasons:

  • They improve your ability to play in time.
  • They can give you an idea of what it’s like to actually play in a band.
  • They allow you to be more creative with improvisation and maybe even writing your own part.

There are countless backing tracks available out there now, and for all styles of music. Many are free, and many you have to pay for. YouTube is a great place to start.

These practice tools are great, not only for helping you build your skills as a musician, but also because they help make the learning process more fun and engaging! So go get yourself a metronome, a tuner, the Amazing Slow Downer, and a handful of backing tracks, and have some fun with your next practice session!

Of course, no practice tool can take the place of actual music lessons! We’ve got tons of classes and programs, designed for all ages and skill levels. Take a look and sign up, you can start your lessons any time!