Review: The ScaleCoach App

ScaleCoach

Can you improve your pitch and vocal tuning with this app?

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Item: ScaleCoach App for singing Practice

Price: Scale Coach is free with in-app purchases ranging from $0.99 to $2.99 USD

Hardware Compatibility:
Requires iOS 5.1 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5

At a Glance: ScaleCoach is an app designed to help singers and instrumentalists practice a range of scales of every type. Visual representations of over 20 different scales in all keys are easy to find and easy to grasp, since each scale note appears as a dot on a keyboard. You don’t have to read music to learn scales with this app. Simply select any key with one touch of the keyboard and listen to the scale (at the tempo of your choosing). Then, perform the scale yourself while the app provides near-instant feedback on your pitch accuracy.

High Notes: Singers will find it handy that the app includes a touch keyboard and a metronome that can be used as stand-alone functions – you even get these with the free version. This is an exhaustive catalogue of scales from half-whole diminished to blues to pentatonic. You can customize how the app plays your scale, for example, it can change key with each repetition or keep repeating in the same key, allowing you to practice in several different ways. You can further customize the length and direction of the scales. In both “test mode” and “see-what-you-play mode,” it displays red, yellow or green circles on the piano keys to show how accurate your pitch is.

Off-pitch: The pitch detection is highly sensitive and occasionally gets confused, which means singers will find it nearly impossible to get consistent readings, even when their pitch is near-perfect. Even a digital piano doesn’t elicit consistent readings on the way up the scale and on the way down! Singers will get more accurate results by stopping and re-attacking a note, as opposed to correcting their pitch while singing continuously.

A VoiceCouncil Reviewer’s comments: The designers have clearly considered the needs of musicians when they practice. In vocal music, it is somewhat counter-productive to become fixated on visual (as opposed to audio) cues when trying to correct pitch. Singers should therefore rely on the keyboard in the app to reference their tuning, and be careful not to get too obsessed with the colored circles and hertz readings (although these are valuable and even fun). As you delve into your new passion for scales, be sure to turn to other resources (musicians, teachers, music texts) to help you understand the rationale behind each scale and how to apply it in a real context. Depending on where in the world you learn music, you might use different names than the ones in this app, and slight variations on the scale tones. For this reason, I would love it if the next version of the app allowed me to name and program my own custom scales.

More: Pitch detection algorithms like this one don’t register pitch adjustments very well while you sing a continuous pitch. In order for it to ‘hear’ that you’ve corrected your pitch, you must stop your sound and attack the note again (the latency means you wait a split second too). – The Hertz reading flickers incessantly for anything that is not a perfect sine wave, which could be frustrating to a singer who thinks it is possible to illicit a solid reading.