Anyone that knows me will tell you that I am obsessed with technology. My wife has just kind of learned to deal with that obsession. I love having the latest cutting edge toys, and if there’s any one thing where price goes out the window as a consideration, its technology. From my home theatre to my smartphone, I’ve got to have the latest and greatest thing.
To that end, being technology obsessed and liking my current marital status, I also need practicality in the way these toys other than “oooh, shiny!” Some of the these things have been lifesavers. Others just haven’t been implemented well and I quickly soured on them. There are so many options out there; what’s right for me?! I’ll lay out some of my favorites here.
I’ve gone through a couple different devices in this area. At one point, I would have considered them two distinct categories, but Microsoft made a heck of a blurry line with their Surface line of devices. There are a ton of options here, but I’m going to stick with what I know. First up, the Microsoft Surface Pro.
Microsoft Surface Pro
I’ve owned a couple different Surface Pros, mainly because I sell my old one about the time that the new one comes out and upgrade at little cost to me. The Surface is an incredible machine, runs the full version of Windows, and comes with the Surface Pen. As a student, this device was absolutely instrumental in me succeeding in my graduate studies. Microsoft bills the Surface as a hybrid device, but I really believe it shines as a laptop. Their app store is pretty lacking, and is light years behind Apple. One area they have an edge is Microsoft Office, as the windows offerings are far superior to their iOS counterparts, especially OneNote. The Windows version allows you to take handwritten notes, record audio and video as you do so, search your own handwriting, search custom tags (for you GTD folks), and when you play back your audio or video it will highlight what you were writing/typing at the time so that you can have context for your illegible scribbles. As a musician though, the Surface did not meet my needs nearly as much as the iPad Pro
Apple iPad Pro
If you walked into my house today, you would think I was the biggest apple fan boy in the world. My wife and I both have iPads, we have an iMac, we have an iPad for the baby to watch Netflix on, and my entire family has iPhones. The reason for all of that is that all of these devices talk to each other seamlessly. Part of the reason I made the switch was due to the growing difficulty in making my iPhone communicate with my Surface. The drawback of the iPad is that no accessories come with it: no cover, no Apple Pencil, no Keyboard. This was obviously not a deal breaker, but is something to keep in mind. Also, the iPad is still technically more tablet than laptop (although I would consider this a more successful hybrid than the Surface).
That said, this device absolutely shines for musicians. First of all, if you’re getting the iPad Pro, get the Apple Pencil. Don’t even think twice about it. Just get it. Secondly, the apps. Oh my God the apps.
- Forscore: If you have the iPad Pro especially, I cannot stress how great this app is. You can scan in all your music, edit it, write notes, play along to a musical track, and has a built in tuner, pitch pipe, metronome, and on screen piano keyboard. This app has changed my life.
- Appcompanist: A subscription based app, it has hundreds of arias, art songs, musical theatre numbers, etc loaded in with piano accompaniment (and the vocal line). It allows you to change to any key, any tempo, and handles fermatas like a dream.
- Scanner Pro: One thing that forscore is bad at is natively scanning. Scanner pro is the best scanning app that I’ve ever used, especially with its automatic cropping function.
- Fantastical 2: Best calendar app by a long shot for iOS. Handles all online calendars, and incredibly accurate natural language input.
What are your favorite tech items and/or apps? What’s helped your practice routine?
Looking forward to your answers. Keep singing, friends.