When it comes to making music we all have an instrument or a voice. That much is a given. What I’ve compiled here is a list of essential tools for the modern musician. These are all things that I believe truly benefit me as a musician, performer, and songwriter.
Nearly everyone seems to have a smartphone or tablet. If you are a musician, your mobile device should be your personal musical assistant. There are times when a tablet is more useful than a smartphone, and vice versa.
The iPhone/Android Phone is a Swiss Army Knife of sonic tools. It is a tuner, decibel meter, metronome, audio recorder, note taker, set list keeper, and more!
The iPad/Android Tablet is all of the above, but is better suited for documents, and controlling mixers or DAW’s. The extra real estate is perfect for reading things like sheet music or lyrics.
Boring right? I’ve used Google Docs and Google Drive for years now. It’s not glamorous, but it’s a highly effective way to manage your music documents.
Keeping song lyrics, chords and ideas in the cloud prevents the nightmare of losing your songs. I’ve had singers literally type up their songs only to lose track of them. Keeping them in the Cloud ensures that you never lose a song again. Having access to your documents from anywhere also means you’ll never forget them at home.
Being able to keep steady time is a learned trait for most of us. The rest are in denial about needing to practice with a metronome. Here are a couple of the best ways to keep time.
The vibrating metronome from Soundbrenner is like putting a metronome in your veins. It even connects to up to 5 band members for the ultimate synchronization without hearing an annoying click in your ear. You can strap it to your ankle, wrist, or arm. We don’t recommend it be used as a headband. If you’re thinking about using an Apple Watch instead, be aware, this device is 7x more powerful. That can really come in handy as a performer.
Tempo is my favorite app for managing song tempos. It combines a beautiful metronome with a set list. You can set the tempo for each song in your set. There are modes for a basic metronome, practice sets, and performance. There’s even a tuning fork to listen to a pitch.
Recording practices is not glamorous. It’s not even something you will listen back to every time. But if you are writing a song, you may find yourself wishing you could remember how you sang that verse the first time. Or maybe something magical happened in the moment and you can’t recall exactly what happened. Recording a rehearsal or song writing session can capture those moments!
If you are in a song writing session, this app is essential for iOS users. It not only records your session, it will track your chords! There is no real setup to do with this app. It’s very simple to use. Just hit record and let it record! This app can also add a virtual backing band as you play, make chord suggestions, and transfer the song to Garage Band or Logic Pro X.
With a variety of price points and features, Tascam has a quick recording solution for everyone. Tascam has been making recorders for ages and we love them. The price points are good and they last.
Izotope’s venture into the hardware world brought us the Spire Studio. They have high quality pre-amps and embedded mics. Spire is an all in one fast recording solution. While it can be used for capturing audio on the fly, you could potentially transfer those sessions to a DAW for production.
Lastly, if you are using an iPad or Android tablet for nearly any of the items above, you need an AirTurn pedal! AirTurn pedals connect to your device via BlueTooth. Turn pages, cue backing tracks, and more. If you practice or perform with a tablet, this is the best way to control it with your feet.
The freedom you get from keeping your hands on your instrument is phenomenal. These pedals can look like stomp boxes, sit on a pedal board, or attach to a mic stand. The number of options varies by model. There’s even one for drummers!
None of these things define who you are as musician, but they can help you in your journey. Allow your journey to be just that – yours. Don’t let this list of “things” be all that you need and how you work best. Instead, try them out if you haven’t already. See what works for you.
Now go make music!