Smart phone apps have grown in popularity in just about every industry and profession.
They can help you capture ideas, track progress, and be more productive with your time, even when you don't have access to a computer.
But there is one major downside – or danger – to getting hooked on apps. You can easily get sucked into a bottomless pit of fun, distraction, entertainment, and even addiction.
Social media sites have been specifically engineered for pleasurable chemical release in your brain, but smart phones really aren't that different. If you don't believe me, observe as people cradle them in their hands, touching them sensually, waiting eagerly for the next notification, text, or call to come through – as if the next email is going to change their lives.
This is counterproductive to human interaction and building relationships, especially one-on-one. So while I'm happy to share these apps with you, I'm also giving you a bit of a cautionary disclaimer: always place more value on human interaction than on digital communication. Tools are tools, and the value you get from them is up to you. But apps and smartphones aren't living beings.
With that out of the way, let's look at eight smart phone apps for musicians.
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1. Genius – Song Lyrics & More Android And iPhone App
Having a hard time remembering song lyrics? No problem, download and install Genius on your iPhone or Android phone so you can easily browse the world's largest collection of song lyrics (according to Genius Media Group, Inc.).
If you can't remember your own lyrics, you have a different problem entirely, but if you're in a cover or tribute band, Genius could definitely come in handy.
Genius can also help you find lyrics for the songs that are playing around you (sort of like SoundHound).
2. Ultimate Guitar Tabs & Chords For Musicians
How does that song go again? What was that riff? What was the chord progression?
Guitarists can use the Ultimate Guitar app for iPhone or Android to quickly look up a huge database of songs and find the riffs, solos and chords from popular songs and artists (and some lesser known) on the fly – that could save your next gig.
But this doesn't mean that what you find is always 100% accurate, as tabs and chord charts are created by community members. If you find yourself in a situation in which you need to “wing it” or “fake it” though, it should be enough.
This can also be a good backup tool for guitar teachers who need to look up a song to share with their students.
3. Audio Recorder – One Of The Best Apps For iPhone Or Android Smartphones
It's nice to have some kind of audio recording app, whether you're looking to capture a practice session to listen from a more objective standpoint, or get ideas down before they get away from you.
When it comes to sound recording apps, there are plenty of options available (see these guides for the best for Android and best for iPhone). But the idea of making, and even mixing music on a smart phone is a little absurd to me, especially since the sound is coming from tinny little speakers.
You're welcome to find other apps that are better matched to your needs. I think the main advantage to having an app like this is the ability to capture musical ideas and revisit them later.
4. B'Metronome, An Android App For Musicians
So you've found yourself a tuner. The next thing you're probably going to go looking for is a metronome. Keeping time is an art form, and we could all benefit from going back to the basics and practicing with a metronome – at least periodically.
B'Metronome is really a no-nonsense, easy-to-use, ad-free metronome. It may not be sophisticated, but it is useful.
Ironically, a metronome app isn't exactly the best thing for drummers (a band's designated time-keeper), who play at louder volumes. You would probably need to plug in through the headphone jack to hear it, and even then it may not be enough volume.
That's the first 4, now let's look at 4 more top apps for musicians. Number 7 especially is a really good one.
5. PitchLab Guitar Tuner (PRO)
Free to install and use, the Guitar Tuner is an easy-to-use, hands-free tuner.
Guitar players should always keep a discrete tuner on hand, just in case, but in a pinch, having a backup app is always nice.
This app can also be used for tuning violins, mandolins, and banjos, but you will need to pay to unlock additional features. Either way, it's good to know that a variety of instrumentalists can take advantage of the app.
6. iReal Pro MusicBook
Looking for jam tracks to play along with? Every lead instrument player wants to make sure they're on top of their licks, and even develop new ways of processing common chord progressions. Using an app like iReal Pro MusicBook ensures that you're keeping sharp and prepared for any musical situation.
With this app, you can import thousands of chord charts, edit them, or even create them and jam along with them. A must-have for lead players.
7. Functional Ear Trainer
Unless you happen to have perfect pitch, there is always an opportunity to work on that ear of yours.
Functional Ear Trainer for Android is a highly rated app that helps you train your ear so that you can transcribe and play music by ear.
This app has training modules for whatever level you're at, so you don't have to have achieved a certain level with note recognition. You can start from the very beginning, or whatever level you're comfortable at.
It might be obvious to some, but it's worth mentioning that many of your favorite music-based social networks do have a presence in the app marketplace.
The SoundCloud app might be a nice one to have if you're actively using the platform to connect with other musicians, producers and podcasters.
You can also use the app to monitor communication and play counts on the tracks you've uploaded.
Top Smart Phone Apps For Musicians, Final Thoughts
I'm not one to go crazy with apps. They can slow down the phone, provide unnecessary distraction, and pose a security threat too (they often ask for more data than I'm comfortable giving away – but that's for you to decide).
But I do use what I find useful (like Evernote, Pedometer, and Slack), and most of my work does involve technology, so I definitely see the value in apps. As I said at the beginning, use some discretion and have fun. Stay safe.