Tablets or other tech for practice

Discussion in 'Accessories [DB]' started by krfoss, Jul 9, 2017.

  1. krfoss

    krfoss Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2007
    Orange County, CA
    At some bluegrass jams, I see plenty of people using tablets (Ipad and android) instead of paper charts. Seems cool, but do people use tablets with their charts to practice, and if so, what program or platform do you use, and what advise would you give to help simplify and streamline the process?

    For those who do practice this way, do you use backing tracks via itunes/ spotify/ youtube on the tablet as well? Would you recommend another technique to practice to help reduce clutter and paper?
  2. Maple

    Maple Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2016
    San Francisco Bay Area
    I use iRealB as a back up for jazz charts.
    I prefer printed charts but don't want to carry six books with me.
    I have thousands of charts already saved in it so in a pinch it's great but the lack of written melody lines makes it limited. I bring the iPad as a back up if I'm asked to play something that's not already on paper. I also use it for practicing on my own.

    The apps by Peter Erskine are also really nice for jazz practice - they're pricey as far as apps go but have helped me significantly. The repertoire is limited but it covers many common jazz tunes.
    Jason Hollar and Jmilitsc like this.
  3. I've been messing with Mobile sheets pro, it's pretty cool. I need a Bluetooth page turner though, thinking about this AirTurn PED - AirTurn I really like iRealb too.
  4. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    I use Mobile Sheets Pro and iRealPro on my Android tablets. On my Android phone, I use iRealPro and Orpheus for pdfs of charts. I use Samsung's discontinued 12 inch tablet with the pen. I like those because the charts are about the size of a piece of paper, so easy to read, and the pen allows me to make notes and save them as part of the charts. I use Band in a Box and Finale on my laptop. I recommend all of them with a few caveats. iRealPro isn't perfect - sometimes it hiccups the rhythm when it's trying to think and make noise at the same time and doesn't play or display the melody and that's an issue if you want to practice bass lines that take the melody into account. Of course, you can always get around that by singing the melody yourself while you play bass and iRealPro accompanies you. Band in a Box can play the melody too and has better sequencing, of course, it's much more expensive. MobileSheetsPro is kind of a pain because to set it up the best, you have to print every chart into its own document and that's a very tedious few hours work, but worth it in the end. I always bring two tablets, one as backup in case one dies at the gig. Last, you can also hook up tablets to an external speaker to play along to recordings or YouTube vids. I find a physical cable into a PA much more reliable than a bluetooth speaker. Hope that helps.
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  5. I stay away from anything connected to the internet for practice at home. On the road an "all in one" is better than lugging a bunch of paper and gadgets. At home, even one email or FB check during practice time is not worth ANY perceived benefits.
    Kickdrum, Jeff Bonny, Seanto and 6 others like this.
  6. Maple

    Maple Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2016
    San Francisco Bay Area
    For that reason, I set up my iPad to not have social media. No messaging, FB, email, etc. it has an internet connection but few of the distractions.
    RBrownBass, Dudaronamous and MDrost1 like this.
  7. Maple

    Maple Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2016
    San Francisco Bay Area
    As far as hardware goes -

    at home I run the iPad and electric bass into my Felix and wear headphones or I play upright with either headphones or through the iPad speaker. The setup is flexible and sounds great for practice.

    I occasionally go camping with my family. For that, I stick to electric bass. It limits what I can work on but is a great compromise. I run it through an apogee jam into the iPad (using an amp modeler) and into headphones. I can practice till the cows come home without bothering others.
  8. krfoss

    krfoss Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2007
    Orange County, CA
    This is really helpful. Thanks for the tips!

    Where do you all find the charts to upload? I assume the apps dont come with all the charts you'll ever need.
  9. Maple

    Maple Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2016
    San Francisco Bay Area
    For iRealB (...iRealPro) it's pretty easy to get started. the forum has lots of playlists of standards. There are one or two master playlists with around 1000 jazz standards already in them. There's also master lists for Latin and other genres. You'll also want to get comfortable editing charts. It's quick and easy. I've found it essential because often the band leader wants a different set of changes than what's in the iReal chart. All of that searching and loading can be done from within the app.
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  10. jlmorgan84


    Feb 16, 2014
    Columbia, SC
    I use an iPad and forscore for charts. I love it. Only problem I've ever had was playing outdoors in the sun, the iPad can overheat and shut down mid song. If you're just using it for practice then not a concern.
    RyanKinBK and Groove Doctor like this.
  11. the_Ryan


    Jul 10, 2015
    Boise, ID
    I use my phone with a metronome, tuner, iReal Pro, a workout timer (for when I warmup), stopwatch, video camera (most of the time I don't need anything super high quality), etc. I think it's certainly easier than having to carry around a bunch of different devices when I could just use one that's small and is always on me.

    I only have messages go through while I practice, but I don't check anything until the stopwatch goes off and I'm on a 5-10 minute break.
  12. I'd really argue for a stand alone metronome at home. The PDFs of charts and books are undeniable, even still, I've never met anyone who "exhausted" basic practice tools (metronome and music stand). I think this stuff more often falls under what I would call "playing" as opposed to "practice".
    Jeff Bonny and peteswanson91 like this.
  13. I've been using an iPad pro (the screen is basically the size of a standard sheet of paper), although I don't have a page-turner yet. I import PDF orchestra parts from IMSLP and use an app called GoodNotes to mark bowings, fingerings, etc. with the Apple pencil. It's been pretty slick being able to mark notes in color, highlight key changes, etc.

    Because of its size, the iPad pro has a battery that will last for days. I recommend using a spring clamp to secure it to the stand to avoid an accidental nose-dive onto the floor. There are a number of iPad holders designed specifically for mic stands and gooseneck fittings, however.

    Here's a screenshot of a part marked up with GoodNotes (you can make your own rubber-stamp icons, like the eyeglasses.):

  14. Maple

    Maple Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2016
    San Francisco Bay Area
    After this thread started, I thought of trying out one of the PDF music organizers. But they require you to import your own sheet music.

    Is there a public repository online of jazz standards from the various jazz books?
  15. okcrum

    okcrum in your chest

    Oct 5, 2009
    Verde Valley, AZ
    RIP Dark Horse strings
    I've done a project with one LA studio arranger who never used paper unless requested by the client. I'd get a chart from Dropbox, put it on the tablet, and get to work. My metronome is a Linux or Android app. I also use iRealPro and Songbook for other projects since that's their agreed medium of exchange. @Maple, the lack of melodies in the iRealPro charts (and their general unavailability online) is due to copyright issues. Every project seems to resort to buying the odd chart PDF from or other publisher, or the composer (Dave Holland, for example, sells charts for many of his tunes/bands).
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2017
  16. Maple

    Maple Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2016
    San Francisco Bay Area
    Thanks. I have plenty of ireal pro content but was wondering about PDFs.
    Buying from the publishers might be a good option
  17. I think at least one real books in paper comes (maybe optionally) with a CD-ROM or DVD with PDFs.
    The iOS app "Calypso Score" (there is "Calypso Jam" for tryout with some limits) can read complete fake books in PDF because there exist a lot of indexes (that can be changed if pages are missing or if there are additional ones) for well known fake books. If you canmot find an index you can make your own and publish it so others don't have to do it again for themselves.
    You even can add MP3s and with a little work sync them to the sheet music. There is also a visual and/or acoustical metronome in that part.
    Also writing and some predefined symbols like dynamics can be added to the sheet music. I'm not sure if the construction of your own symbols is possible, but I think it is on the programmers to-do-list.
    Has some inconveniences on iOS 7, but runs fine on iOS 8 and 9. An older version even runs on iOS 5 and 6.

    Together with iReal Pro that's all I need.

    But Android users have to look for something else. Maybe "The Fake Book".
  18. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I use the iPad in a number of ways for practice. Here are a few:

    - I've taken to learning most tunes by ear first, so i like to make a private youtube playlist for new tunes and learn a few bars at a time.

    - For transcribing, the Amazing Slow Downer app is great both for slowing down fast passages for transcription (duh), but also for looping passages I am trying to get in my ear and practicing transcriptions I have already completed under speed while I work them up. More recently, I also used it to tune a symphonic recording to the pitch of my piano so i could practice a 4 hands part along with the orchestra for an upcoming concert event. The audio engine on that app is amazing.

    - I use Drumgenius regularly for practicing grooves, lines, and soloing at varying tempos and with various feels. That app is brilliant.

    - I'll often use the video recording function of the iPad to record small snippets of a student's lesson or parts of my own practice so we can see and hear objectively what's going on when we aren't all caught up in the moment. Breaking that 3rd wall can be huge.

    - I've also used the iPad to film several segments for my video series, and it does a surprisingly good job.

    - iRealPro can be a lifesaver in a pinch, although i try not to use it too much because it's too easy for it to become a crutch.

    I'm sure there are more, but these are the things that come immediately to mind.
  19. Jay Corwin

    Jay Corwin Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    I subscribe to this idea too. I have a tablet just for practice. The only apps other than the pre-installed ones are music related, and google drive to access my tunes, charts, etc. All of my social media stuff is on my phone.
    MDrost1 likes this.
  20. lurk

    lurk Supporting Member

    Dec 2, 2009
    Plus one for Drum Genius. Much better than a metronome. I also use Tampura Droid to play drones for intonation practice. I think technology is great for ear training, both Amazing Slow Downer and dedicated ear training apps. Music Practice Box is one that's very flexible and can be adjusted from stupid easy to stupid hard and is especially aimed at the improviser.