This article comes from musician & writer Hayley Bauer!
Every musician can benefit from using the Musicnotes app in their practice. Whether you are a classical musician, or an aspiring rock star, the Musicnotes app has many great options to enhance your practice, and expedite your progress.
Most likely, you are familiar with the playback option on the Musicnotes app. But have you stopped to consider how you can best use the playback to make the most of your practice time?
Some musicians learn music most effectively when they hear the music, and others learn best when they can read the sheet music. The playback option gives the best of both worlds. You can follow along both reading the sheet music, and listening to it being played.
The playback also helps you learn the rhythm at the same time as you’re learning the notes. Sometimes, when you’re just focusing on getting the notes right, it can be hard to decipher the correct rhythm. The playback helps you to learn both simultaneously, and helps stop incorrect habits from developing.
If you are a pianist learning a song one hand at a time, it can be tricky to understand how both hands will fit together and what the finished product should sound like. With the Musicnotes app, you can practice one hand at a time, while still hearing in the playback how the other hand’s part will fit in.
The tempo adjustment feature is one of the best aspects of the Musicnotes app! You have a wide range of options for what tempo to use in the playback.
It is super helpful to dial the tempo way down when you are first learning a song. Then, speed it up gradually as you get better and better. Once you’ve learned the song, consider practicing at a pace that is faster than the default speed. Then, going back to the default speed should make the song feel easier yet.
If you have a certain part of a song that is especially tricky, it can be helpful to isolate that part and practice it at a slower tempo than the rest of the song. Difficult rhythms and fast or elaborate passages are examples of places you might want to slow down to learn it correctly. Slowing it down and focussing on the rhythms and patterns note-for-note will work wonders for cultivating precision in the finished product.
Another musical challenge that the app can be helpful for is polyrhythms. A polyrhythm is when you have two or more different, simultaneous rhythms that have to fit together. They can feel confusing when you are first learning them, and can be extremely difficult to hear and decipher properly when listening to the song at its regular tempo. With the Musicnotes app, you can slow it down to both see and hear how the notes are supposed to fit together. To practice, follow along with the app at a slow pace, and gradually increase the speed.
If your song has ornaments, you can check to see if they are included in the playback. If they are, the same principles work for these. Slow it down to decipher what notes are being played, and how they fit rhythmically with the rest of the song.
The audio mixer is great for singers and instrumentalists alike. If you are playing an arrangement with multiple parts, try making your part louder and the other part(s) softer. This way, you can amplify the part that you most need to hear when practicing, but still stay in time and tune with all the other parts. This is great for learning harmonies as well. Check to see if your arrangement has the option to turn up or down different vocal lines. If it does, learning harmonies just became easier!
The app playback can also serve as a basic accompaniment. No, the automated sound is not the most gorgeous rendition, but it serves to keep you on track to practice singing or playing with accompaniment. Try adjusting the volumes of the different parts to amplify the passages you are working to master.
Alternately, the audio mixer is great for learning to sing a cappella (without accompaniment). In many arrangements, you can turn down or turn off the different instruments in the playback. If you turn off everything but the vocals, you can sing along with only the vocal part as your guideline. This is a great step in learning to stay on pitch and in rhythm when singing without accompaniment. Becoming less dependent on instrumental accompaniment is an excellent way to prepare for a performance, and it’s awesome for ear training.
While some people don’t care for the automated, computer-like sound of the playback, there are actually some real benefits to it. If you’re listening to a recording of the song by a performer, you’re likely going to get a lot of artistic nuances added in. While this is lovely to listen to, it’s not always helpful if we’re just trying to figure out the basics of a song. The Musicnotes app gives you the bare basics of an arrangement, making it easier to figure out the notes and rhythms. Then, when you’re ready, you can add your own artistry.
Consider using headphones or earbuds to hear the playback extra clearly. Have your headphones or earbuds on one ear only, and use the other ear to hear yourself playing or singing.
With the Musicnotes app, you have the option to write notes on the music. Take advantage of this by writing reminders of technicalities, rhythms, embellishments, or artistic ideas you want to incorporate into the finished product.
App options may vary a bit from song to song. Check out the options on your chosen arrangement, and choose from the many ways you can use the Musicnotes App to enhance your practicing. Any practicing is good, but practicing with intention and a plan is often better. The many options available on the Musicnotes app serve to keep practicing organized, intentional, encouraging, and fun.