Learn an instrument with the help of apps

Use the time in lockdown to learn something new? For example, you could start playing an instrument. There is a good selection of apps that can help with this.t

Whether you’re just starting out to learn an instrument or want to brush up on your skills, apps can help you build your dexterity. For some, you don’t even need your own instrument. But to whom do such applications bring how much? And can they replace teachers?

Turn your smartphone into a virtual instrument with apps

First of all, there are apps with a more playful approach. This is basically about hitting the right notes of the song at the right moment on the tablet or smartphone on virtual piano keys or guitar pages. However, this is not comparable to a real instrument, says Volker Gerland.

“The pressure point is missing and the size of the buttons is different on the tablet,” says the head of the working group “Digital Opportunities at Music Schools” in the Association of German Music Schools. Anyone who wants to switch from these digital instruments to real ones could run into difficulties: “You don’t learn to play the guitar with them.”

In addition, there are numerous, sometimes free, moving image tutorials on the well-known video platforms, even entire academies, for example for bass players with world-class stars, which give workshops on songs by great artists, so-called master classes, explains Martin Reche from the specialist portal “Heise online”.

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Some apps actively help

Then there are apps or browser applications such as Skoove, Music2Me or Flowkey for learning the piano and Yousician, Fretello or JustinGuitar for the guitar. Reche has tested the offers and found that there are apps that can actively listen and give feedback and some that work exclusively with video material and do not give any feedback.

Example guitar: Here a virtual fingerboard runs across the screen. Apps like Yousician listen through the built-in microphones and can tell whether you are hitting the right note at the right time. “This is how you learn to find your way around the fingerboard and to play melodies,” says Reche.

There is something similar for the piano. At the bottom of the screen are the notes, at the top the piano of a virtual teacher from a bird’s eye view. Even the fingering is displayed, i.e. the information about which key you have to press and when with which fingers.

Apps are only a solution for the beginning

“Anyone who has always wanted to learn an instrument and has a small keyboard at home, for example, can use the apps to help them with the first steps,” explains Reche. Well-known pop songs provide the necessary motivation to stick with it. But of course Bach, Mozart or Beethoven are also represented in the applications.

But the services cannot replace real music lessons, says Reche. “You can judge whether you played notes correctly and got the timing right, but not your finger or body posture.” If you adopt a wrong style of playing that no one corrects, in the worst case you will prevent your own progress.

“I think it is very problematic to learn an instrument just by watching videos or taking online lessons,” says Gerland. On the one hand because of the often inadequate sound quality, on the other hand because teachers online cannot interact well with their students.

Good for training and motivating

Nevertheless, Volker Gerland considers the apps and applications to be good part-time trainers and suitable for refreshing oneself if one has already mastered the techniques but has not played them for a long time. The music schools also worked digitally in the corona lockdown.

Either as a lesson via video conference or you get a video in which the exercises can be seen. In turn, the pupils send back sound recordings for comparison. Basically a good way to stay in touch permanently, even for in-between feedback.

The apps for mobile devices and browsers that Reche tested are all chargeable. But there is a seven-day test phase for everyone, in which you can access all content. “They are enough to get a well-founded picture and to determine whether it is something for you,” explains Reche.

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Which apps are suitable for learning an instrument?

Apps for learning musical instruments cost around 10 to 20 euros a month, and annual subscriptions are often cheaper. Before deciding on a version, it is worth checking whether the app is compatible with the device and its operating system intended for practice.

Martin Reche from “Heise online” has tested various solutions and reports: “None of the tested providers did badly.” Flowkey and Yousician, for example, listened to what and how to play. Music2me, on the other hand, was the only piano learning apps in the test that also took the piano pedals into account.

Skoove, on the other hand, offers the option of practicing on the on-screen keyboard in the iOS app, for example while on vacation. Reche believes that anyone who wants to learn notes quickly is well served with Fretello. JustinGuitar, on the other hand, most closely resembles “real” lessons.

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