Technology is everywhere these days. Before you know it we’ll be having meaningful conversations with our toasters. Since there’s so much of it around, why not use it to our advantage to make our music practice more effective, more productive and just more fun!
There are quite a few types of technology that come in handy for practicing that you can download to your computer or tablet. Here are some of my favourites for slowing down audio to play along.
Slow it down
I always tell my students to slow down when they are practicing. It gives the brain more time to think about what’s going on (see Practicing: It’s all in your head!) and means you are less likely to make mistakes. On the other hand, I always tell my students to play along with music or another person as much as possible as it makes your practice more meaningful and interesting. The response I usually get is, “But the song is too fast!” This is where software to slow down your favourite tunes comes in handy.
As the title suggests, it slows down music and is amazing! This is my go-to app. Not only does it slow music down without changing the pitch (plus or minus an octave), it can also change the pitch without altering the speed (from 20% to 200%)! This is great for tunes where the guitars are tuned down by a semi-tone. It saves you having to detune your guitar/bass. All you have to do is raise the pitch by a semi-tone and hey-presto you can play along. You can even slow down songs in Spotify in the iOS app (I’m not sure about the Android one, I don’t have an Android phone).
Another great feature is that you can save loops within songs. I have loads of songs where I want to just concentrate on the guitar solo or a tricky bass part. All I do is create the loop and save it. With just a couple of clicks I can retrieve the loop whenever I need it, instead of having to manually create the loop again. You can also save playlists. I have a playlist with all the original songs from my cover band in so I can play along when I practice. It’s very handy! You can even slow down a CD if you haven’t got the songs ripped to your computer.
The only problem with the Amazing SlowDowner is that it isn’t free. Check out the website for more information.
This app does most of the things that the Amazing SlowDowner does but with less functionality. On the plus side it is free! Any of my students who can’t or are unwilling to pay for software tend to use this. You can slow music down but there is less functionality with pitch alteration. There is also no option to create loops and you have to sign up when you install the app. The user interface is also a bit clumsy. It looks like a huge metronome and is not as intuitive as the Amazing SlowDowner. The Windows and Mac versions are free. The iOS and Android apps aren’t
Compatible with Windows XP and older.
BestPractice is a fab little app, if your PC is old enough to run it! It works pretty much like the Amazing SlowDowner. This was the app I used before I got a PC too modern to run it! You can change the pitch through 12 semi-tones up and down and also change the speed. The top speed is 200%. You can create loops easily but there is no option to save them. It can’t save playlists but you can load multiple songs at once if you have a few songs you are working on. This means you can get set up before you start your practice. Improving your flow! It can also do all these functions with CD’s if you computer has a CD player! It hasn’t been updated in a long time but if it ever is, this is probably the best free app for Windows machines.
Compatible with macOS.
I’ve never used it but it looks good! This app goes much further than just slowing down tracks and changing the pitch. Not only can slow down music, you can analyse it and find the chords, isolate instruments and vocals and even get help tabbing it out! It also includes a metronome/tick track that can sync with the file you are playing. The isolating of instruments and vocals is definitely beneficial, especially if the instrument you are trying to play can’t be heard well in the mix (bass can be like that!). The chord recognition can create chords for guitar, banjo, ukulele, mandolin and 4-6 string bass. You can also colour code regions of the tracks to make it easier to follow along. There are many more functions besides.
I think I might put this on my wish list!
The ideas above are just a few examples of the tricks you can have up your sleeve while practicing. Remember, nothing compares to getting some expert advice if you are having problems. A teacher is always the best way forward. If there isn’t a teacher near you, you can always contact me for Skype guitar lessons!
The main thing is to enjoy what you do and keep practicing!
Do you have any comments on this article? If so, please feel free to comment below. The more we can help each other out, the better the musicians we will become.