The next stops on our little tour as Pianist With an iPad include two additional programs that I have found very useful. I won’t go into nearly as much of detail on these as both are for more-or-less a niche of iPad musicians, but being in a position where I use both, I want to mention them as you may find one or both useful as well.
The first program I’ll highlight is called Music Stand. Music Stand is part of an amazing suite of online tools for church musicians called Planning Center. If you are a church musician, it is very likely your church already uses Planning Center as it is getting to be rare to find a church that doesn’t. Planning Center began as a service planning tool and has developed over the past decade into a full church management suite. Each module is offered and priced separately, so for churches like mine that use a different product for a church management system, I can still use the Services module for service planning.
I’ve been using Planning Center Services since May of 2009. Music Stand was added as an inexpensive add-on in 2010, but it wasn’t until several years later that I embraced it. Just as I had not embraced the idea of using forScore it took me some time to discover the real benefit of using my iPad for music. In 2010, Music Stand was introduced for iPad only, but it is now available for Android as well. My church subscribes to for the low price of $10 per month and that allows anyone on our team to use it. Smaller churches can get it for as low as $2 per month!
The feature set is very similar to forScore. The big difference is that you don’t add songs to Music Stand, you program them into the service in Planning Center. Then they automatically appear, in order. Each week, you simply load up the service plan. You can also look ahead at future plans or behind to find a song from a past plan. A great feature for church musicians is that notes you add to the score are saved and you’ll see them each time. In addition, each user has their own notes, but they can view other users’ notes. This is a great way for a leader to pass on info to the team.
Music Stand works very well for church musicians who participate in multiple churches. The accounts link to the same log-in. While I don’t use that function for that reason, my church collaborates each year with some other churches with a men’s conference. This has made it that all our musicians no matter which church they are from can easily access the music with their devices.
As I already said, Music Stand is an add-on to a program called Planning Center Services. If your church does not already subscribe, you would need an account. If you aren’t the church music leader, ask him or her. Again, it is very likely your church already has an account and this would be only a small additional add-on. I interact with many churches and it is getting very rare to find a church that doesn’t already use this great program. Besides, if your church hasn’t already discovered this gem, I believe they would really find it beneficial.
For the second program I’d like to highlight, we can step away from the church musician side of music and move to the world of jazz. Back in the 1970’s a jazz fakebook called The Real Book started being distributed. The copyrights were not cleared, and royalties were not paid, so this book wasn’t sold on music store shelves, but was sold musician to musician in music school hallways, pulled from a hidden stash under the counter of a music store, or even from the trunk of a car! It was known as the tool any serious jazz musician needed to have. In 2004, publisher Hal Leonard stepped in and obtained rights to most of the music in the original Real Book and the first legal edition came out. Now, this legal edition is the standard any jazz musician or jazz student needs. But wait! I thought this was an article about tools for iPads. That is where iReal Pro comes in.
iReal Pro offers a tool where the chord progressions of jazz charts are published. Melodies are not provided as they can be copyrighted, but a chord progression cannot, so, while iReal Pro seems to have stepped back into the realm of not complying with copyright laws, it really is legit and a great tool for any jazz musician.
What makes iReal Pro even better than just getting a Real Book? The iReal Pro app simulates a rhythm section that can accompany you while your practice. If you play a horn, you’d leave the entire rhythm section playing, but as a pianist, you can easily take the piano out of the mix and play along with the bass and drums.
Tempo, key signature, and form are customizable, so this tool provides a great way to practice. I find this a very helpful tool for a jazz piano student. I regularly ask for metronome practice. This tool provides metronome practice in a much more fun way. It can also help develop swing style or help the student understand Latin style such as clave patterns.
The database of songs is enormous and there are many styles that one can download, or you can add your own songs easily.
While there are many great uses for iReal Pro for the student jazz musician, I would caution to not allow your student or yourself to only play and practice with iReal Pro. A significant characteristic of jazz music is the interaction between players. We “play off” one another often imitating or responding to a rhythmic or melodic pattern we hear. This is a big part of the improvisatory communication style that is inherent in jazz music.
That aside, iReal Pro is a tremendous benefit to a serious student of jazz young or old, and I highly recommend it.
These are certainly two great additional tools for a Pianist With an iPad and both can be easily found in the App Store.