Your most important vocal tools might already be in your pocket –says Kathy Alexander.
If someone told me a few years ago that I’d be using a phone to improve my singing career, I would have been skeptical.
But now, every week, it’s switched on and helping me before during and after my gigs.
There are 3 apps in particular that I would recommend for any gigging vocalist.
I’ll be talking about my iPhone, but you can find similar apps for any smartphone.
The Piano App
Practicing your music in the correct key not only saves your voice from strain due to singing out of range, but it strengthens your “muscle memory”.
This “muscle memory” serves you well when you are rapidly switching between many songs on a gig.
That’s why I use my piano app constantly when I practice –if there isn’t a pitched instrument around.
This means I can capitalize on any chance I have to practice, even in the car.
I use IYProduct’s MiniPiano 1.5 – this app has a range of one octave and you can quickly grab a few notes and sing.
This kind of app is better than a pitch pipe for me because instead of just getting a starting pitch I can easily give myself the first few pitches—or a whole chord.
The Metronome App
Contrary to what some might think, a sense of timing doesn’t magically descend from heaven; it is a quality that can be learned…
…through the metronome.
The metronome makes you aware of the spots where you unconsciously are slowing down and speeding up.
Changing tempo deliberately is not a mistake, but changing tempo subconsciously diminishes one’s vocal artistry.
I use Frozen Ape Tempo 1.4.5; I just turn it on at home or on the road when I am practicing to keep me consistent with my tempo.
But whatever metronome app you use, make sure it does not have a pitch – a “click” or drum sound is always better than a “beep” or “ding”.
The Recording App
Often great ideas happen in rehearsal, but they are forgotten by the next day.
So, every time you or your group has a great idea, get out your smartphone and record it.
I use the FiRe – Field Recorder 1.5.1 and find that the quality is “good enough” for me.
But there’s another, even more important reason to record.
I really believe that what separates the “good” from the “great” is not necessarily innate talent, but the courage to evaluate one’s performances and make changes.
Recording at home or in rehearsals is probably the best way to evaluate what changes you can make in your next performance.
It’s Always There…
I’m finding that a lot of people are like me: their phone is their watch – it’s always in constant use.
Now these devices have a wealth of tools for us vocalists.
And there’s so much more than I’ve mentioned: tuner apps for singer-guitarists, getting lyrics via the internet and being able to listen to all your mp3’s for inspiration.
So, the next time you reach for your smartphone, remember you just might have all everything you need to push your vocal work ahead.
Kathy Alexander completed a B.Mus. at the University of Victoria and is a certified k-12 music teacher. She has taught voice lessons, choirs and classroom music in her home town, Victoria BC. She is currently a stay-at-home mom who performs locally in musical theatre productions and as a vocalist with a jazz trio.