Many of us are spending more hours at home these days than ever before. If you’ve always wanted to learn to play keyboards, or hoped to get back to practicing and improving your skills, there’s no time like the present. And, thanks to these three cool apps from Yamaha, your smart device can serve as both a helpful teacher and a musical partner in these endeavors.
A metronome is an essential tool for learning any musical instrument. It can be used to tell you the right tempo at which to play a piece, and can also help you to judge if you are playing at a steady tempo. Old-school metronomes were wooden boxes with a metal wand that swung back and forth, clicking at a given tempo. Mechanical gave way to electronic, and now we have digital versions too, thanks to apps like Yamaha Metronome (available for the Apple® iPad® and iPhone® for $1.99).
Metronome works with every kind of keyboard (acoustic pianos as well as digital keyboards), and it offers a number of unique features, such as:
– A tap tempo function — especially helpful when listening to a song you want to learn. That way, you’ll know what the final tempo should be when you finally master it.
– 36 possible time signature (beat) options, from the standard 4/4 and 3/4 to oddities like 9/8 and 11/2. Who knew there were so many!
– A built-in mixer that allows you to blend the relative levels of the different elements of the click, using four sliders: one for the main click, one for an accent that sounds on the start of each measure, plus a pair of sliders for eighth-note triplets and sixteenth note subdivisions of each pulse. Put them together, and you can create some pretty complex rhythmic beds to play against!
I wrote about some creative ways to use a metronome in a recent blog post. Also check out this brief video that provides an overview of the Metronome app features:
I wish this app existed when I was starting to learn to play! I had a terrible ear and had to buy sheet music or songbooks to learn a song. With the free Yamaha Chord Tracker app (available for iOS and Android™ devices), those days are gone forever. This brilliant piece of software “listens” to your favorite song (as long as it’s in your device’s music library and not part of a streaming or subscription service) and quickly brings up a chart with the chords.
There are options to show the notes of the chords either in music notation, on the keys of a keyboard, or as guitar chord symbols. You have control over the volume of the song playback as well as the tempo (tip: slow it down while you’re first learning it), and you can also transpose it if the key is too hard for you to play or sing to. Loop start and end points can be set, making it easy to learn and practice each section of the song separately. You can even edit the chords to make your own arrangement of the song by choosing from two recommended chords or selecting the chord root and chord type.
Chord Tracker can be used with any kind of instrument, but if you’re playing a compatible Yamaha keyboard (such as PSR-670, PSR-SX700, PSR-SX900 or PSR-A3000 portable keyboards, a DGX-660 portable grand piano, a Genos digital workstation or a Clavinova CVP-700 or CVP-800 Series model), you can listen to the song through your keyboard’s internal speakers. What’s more, if you’re using a model that has accompaniment features, the chord information can be sent to the keyboard to trigger onboard Styles. Many instruments even allow you to record yourself playing along with the song, saving it as a standard audio file that can be shared with family and friends.
Available for both iOS and Android devices, Smart Pianist is a free app designed for use with selected Yamaha keyboards, including P-121, P-125 and P-515 digital pianos; YDP-144, YDP-164, YDP-184, YDP-S34 and YDP-S54 Arius pianos; CSP-150, CSP-170 and CLP Series Clavinova models; and NU1X and N3X AvantGrand pianos. It’s a great tool for personal study that not only adds a graphic touchscreen interface to these instruments (yes, it knows which model it’s connected to and automatically adjusts its features accordingly) but adds lesson songs, some of which are well-known technique exercises from Hanon, Beyer, Czerny and Burgmüller, displayed in standard notation. With the ability to isolate one hand or the other, control tempo and change keys, this is a terrific tool for practice and self-learning.
Smart Pianist uses Chord Tracker technology to display the chords of the tune you want to learn, but when connected to a CVP800 Series or CSP Series Clavinova, it’s even more advanced, thanks to a feature called “Audio to Score.” This displays the chords in your choice of notation, from simple block chords to complex arpeggiated patterns.
For more ideas on learning keyboards at home, check out Jerry Kovarsky’s blog series “The Well-Rounded Keyboardist.”
Click here for more information about Yamaha keyboard instruments.