One of the biggest advantages to having a smartphone (or tablet) is the range of apps to fit almost anyone’s individual needs, and there are a lot of apps that are designed for musicians.
I often get requests from students for the “best” tuner or metronome app, so I’ve decided to compile some of my favorite apps for both iOS and Android into one list that can be easily used by anyone.
My Favorite Apps
- Tuner: My favorite tuner app is Tonal Energy. It is available for Android and iOS and it has quite a few features. You can read my old review of the Android version of TonalEnergy here, to get a taste of what it can do. It’s not always the cheapest option, but I think that it is one of the best all-around tuner apps available.
- Metronome: My favorite metronome is currently the same as my favorite tuner – TonalEnergy. The metronome is (fairly) full-featured, and can do a lot if you’re willing to experiment. But the nicest thing about it to me is that if you don’t need these features, it’s easy to set a tempo and a subdivision and start/stop. That’s all you really need.
- Recorder: Again, TonalEnergy. Not only do you get some recording options not available in the standard iOS recorder app, but you can do audio-only or audio+video, and you can see a waveform (and tuner) while you playblack your recording.
- Practice Log: Right now I’m using Modacity as a practice log app. Right now it’s iOS only, but they are working on an Android version. While it’s certainly not perfect, it has some interesting features, including a metrodrone (combination metronome and drone), and contains features designed to encourage deliberate practice.
- Sheetmusic Reader: I use ForScore. While there are other (good) options for iOS, I think ForScore is a nice combination of ease-of-use and powerful functionality. It’s not cheap, but I think it’s worth it.
Here are some more recommendations, broken down by platform.
Android Apps for Musicians:
- TonalEnergy ($4) – Read my review of TonalEnergy here. One of the most popular tuning apps available. This app includes a tuner, metronome, recorder, analysis page, and a pitch pipe. Also gives you a smiley face when you’re in tune!
- Cleartune ($4) – Read my review of ClearTune right here. Fairly simple and straightforward. There are fewer options here than in some other apps, but it does contain a fully chromatic tuner, selectable temperaments, and a tone generator. Easy to use and easy to understand.
- Tuneable ($4) – Read my review of Tunable here. A tuner with a unique historical-type view shows how steady (or not) your pitch is over time. Selectable difficulty settings for an “in tune” note make this appropriate for both beginner and advanced players. The screen turns red if you’re out of tune and slowly turns green the longer you stay in tune, so it’s fairly easy to use and understand from a distance. A tone generator and a metronome are also included. This is a nice all-in-one app.
- iStroboSoft ($5) – Peterson has an excellent track record as a maker of precision strobe and handheld tuners, but although I’m sure this app is equally well done, I don’t know if it’s (relatively) high price tag is justified by increased accuracy or features.
- Time Guru ($2) – A basic metronome with a unique feature – the ability to randomly mute the beat pattern, to check if you are rushing or dragging without the metronome’s beat. This one can also do mixed meter and can speak the beats.
- Metronome: Tempo ($1.50) – This app includes all the basic metronome functionality along with the ability to make and share setlists, so you can easily keep track of pieces for a particular gig or record your progress for a particular piece over time – all right in the metronome app.
Other Useful Music Apps for Android
- MobileSheets Pro ($12.99) The Android (and Windows 10) equivalent of ForScore, this is a full-featured music reader application. It has lots of the same features as ForScore, but doesn’t look quite as nice or polished. It works great on both my Nexus 7 and my Chromebook, though, and is by far the most capable music reader for Android.
- Sound Meter (Free to $1.50) – Although you can use this to monitor how loud it is sitting in front of the trombones, you can also use this to quantify and improve your dynamic range. Keep in mind that the accuracy of this app (and any sound meter) depends on the microphone, and so this won’t be as accurate as a $200 single-purpose sound meter, but it’s a start!
- Easy Voice Recorder (Free to $4) – Recording yourself is one of the fastest (and most humbling) ways to improve. While recording yourself on a phone won’t sound great (the tiny mics aren’t meant for much other than normal talking), you can easily hear things like articulation, intonation, and rhythm. The pro version of this app even lets you use an external Bluetooth mic (if you have one), which will improve the sound quality of the recordings quite a bit.
- Time Meter (Free to $4) – Tracking your practice time and what you actually practice is both important and often overlooked. Using this app you can record both the time you practice and write down notes on the pieces you’ve practiced, the bar numbers and metronome markings, as well as the scales, arpeggios, and any other important information.
iOS Apps for Musicians:
- Cleartune ($4) – Read my review of ClearTune right here. Basically the same as the Android version – easy to use, very accurate, but it is just a tuner/tone generator (no metronome, recording, etc.). Also available on iPad.
- Tuneable ($3) – Read my review of Tunable here. Also the same as the Android version, a nice combination tuner, tone generator, and basic metronome The display is unique (showing intonation over a short amount of time), but for some it’s really intuitive. Varying “difficulty” ratings give you more or less leniency on what is considered “in tune”. Also available on iPad.
- Tonal Energy ($4) – Read my review of TonalEnergy here. Similar to Tuneable, this tuner gives you feedback when you are “in tune” in the form of a nice smiley face! It also features a tone generator, a metronome and lets you record yourself while you’re playing. Also has a waveform display so you a can see what your sound looks like! Probably one of the best all-around tuner apps on iOS! Also available on iPad.
- iStroboSoft ($10) – Similar to the Android app – a great lineage, but this is a more expensive app than the others in this category. The iOS version does have some features missing from Android, including settings for an input boost and a noise filter, so you can more easily use this app with an external microphone. A great tuner app, but it has no additional features beyond a tone generator. Also available on iPad.
- hz Intonation (Free) – Read my review of hz Intonation here. A unique take on an intonation app, focusing not just on live tuning, but on your historical intonation using a built-in recorder function.
- Time Guru ($2) – Similar to the Android app – this is just a metronome, but it’s got a lot of unique features that aren’t readily found on metronomes in the above combination tuner apps. The silence function and the ability to program in odd meters make this quite useful, even if you have other metronome apps!
- Tempo ($2) – By the same guys that made the Android Tempo:Metronome app, it’s basically the same app. There is also Tempo Advance ($3) an iOS-only version that support for polyrhythm, automatic speed up/slow down, and some different customization and setlist options. Also available for iPad.
- Drum Beats+ Rhythm Metronome ($4.99) – If you’re looking for a metronome that will do a bit more than just give you a click, check out this app. It comes with a variety of drum beats from popular music songs and styles, and you can download additional beats. Keep Kopprasch etudes interesting by practicing it with a drummer!
Other Useful Music Apps for iOS
- ForScore ($19.99) – The premier sheet music reading app for iOS. This app is the gold standard for music reading and annotation software on a mobile device. It can do just about anything you need it to do and it’s learning curve is (relatively) low. There is also a slightly less-expensive version for an iPhone here, although obviously an iPad makes this much more usable.
- db Volume Meter ($.99) – for 99 cents, this is an app that every musician should own! This app (and other app decibel meters) are not going to be highly accurate, but they will give you an idea of your dynamic range and they’ll let you know just how loud that trombone player behind you is! Also available on iPad.
- Decibel Meter Pro ($.99) – The same as the previous decibel app – this one just has a more “analog” display. Also available for the iPad.
- Recording apps: This is one area where iOS comes out way ahead of Android. You can get relatively simple voice-recorder apps like Voice Recorder HD or iTalk Recorder, or you can go for actual multi-track recording software, such as GarageBand, Music Studio, or StudioTrack. Many of the multi-track apps are (relatively) expensive compared to normal app prices (from $5-$15), but that’s much less expensive than most equivalent software on a desktop or laptop computer.
- Music Tutor ($1.99) – If you need to brush up on your music basics or need an app to help you learn bass clef, this is a cheap and game-ified way to do it. Also available on the iPad and Apple Watch!
- Andante Practice Journal (Free or $4.99) – If you want a specific app to track what you practice and how long, this is one has some nice extra features. It also includes a metronome, the ability to enter extra information, and it has graphs and charts to easily visualize how much you did (or didn’t) practice. Also available on iPad.
If you’re going to use a smartphone app as a metronome or drone, consider an external speaker (especially if you play a louder instrument).
If you don’t want to use a speaker, you can also use headphones. I like to use my AirPods, since they are lightweight, comfortable, and I can use them one at a time. Keeping one ear “open” makes it easier to hear playing and swap them out if the batteries are running low. Other (non-Apple) options include the Anker P2 (around $50) or the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds (which are AirPod Pro-level money).
If you’re using your phone (or tablet) as a practice tool or music reader, you’ll also want to have a portable battery to keep your device(s) charged up. I like this small Anker Slim (10,000 mAh), but if you want twice the power the Anker PowerCore Essential will keep you charged up for even the longest practice session!
If you have good computer speakers, you can also try the Cello Reference Tones website, which features a single chromatic octave of an okay-sounding cello sample. It’s not great, but it’s better than nothing.