Scale Assistant launches!

Another app to make your practicing more fun! This time for wood-shedding your scales.

I start every practice session with scales. Done right, it is the perfect warmup and a great way to stay in shape. I find scale practice to be a nice combination of habit and challenge. The habit part is great for quickly getting into the “zone.” Play a few scales, feel the instrument, breathe…it’s an excellent way to get into the frame of mind and spirit. I like to keep things fresh by keeping it challenging. I have a few favorite exercises (scales in thirds, varying root movements, varying scale types, varying tempi, etc) that awaken my brain and keep my fingers challenged.

This new app is designed to help you learn, study and assimilate scales. It was developed to help musicians of any level maximize their practicing. You can start simple with a single scale, at a slow tempo. And incrementally complicate the settings until you are blowing through many different kinds of scales, in all keys, at challenging tempo.

While practicing scales, you can adjust tempo and transposition. Clicking the settings button (gear icon in the upper right) lets you select the kinds of scales and the type of exercise to work with. If you select multiple scale types, the app will generate the exercise with random scale types following the kind of chord progression you chose.

While practicing, your trusty scale assistant quietly tracks your progress. You can view the practice log to see which exercises you’ve been using and how your tempo progress has been evolving.

Happy Practicing!

Basic ear training with Scalar

The initial versions of Scalar were clearly designed for advanced students and professionals. With the latest update, we added basic triads. Ok, we probably should have started with these but…well…sometimes you just excited a write the advanced features first. It’s more fun!

Anyway, to work with just triads press on Ear Training or Practice buttons. While there, press the Settings icon in the upper-right corner. Scroll down a bit and select the triads you want and deselect the other chords.

Now your exercises will be using triads. It’s fun to add more advanced chords to the mix later on and incrementally improve your ear training skills.

Have fun!

Scalar Tips and Tricks

There are two options available in Scalar which can make your workouts more fun.

Play Scale configures Scalar to just play the chords and not play the scale “answer” as part of the ear training exercise. This frees you up to just improvise within the scale as you like. I often found myself just blowing over the top of the answer anyway so why not just let people turn it off.

Show Root can add a bit of challenge to ear training. Especially when you set the root movement to random or common note. This setting tells Scalar to not display the root at the beginning of the exercise. You’ll have to use your ears to determine the root and chord.

In newer versions, go to the Settings page (click the gear icon in the upper right corner of the Ear Training view). In previous versions, there are checkboxes at the bottom of the Ear Training view.

Scalar for Android!

I got a lot of requests to bring Scalar (the ear training app for creative musicians) to Android. I am so happy to announce that it is now available on the Google Play store: Scalar for Android.

It is almost at feature parity with the iOS version. Interactive scale syllabus, David Baker’s famous ear training exercises, generated in any key, for any scale/chord. It’s a pretty nice way to have fun working on ear training, I think.

Please check it out and let me know how you like it! I have some nice updates planned and am looking forward to incorporating user feedback along the way. Cross-platform, ear training goodness!

iPad support for Scalar and JazzEars

Sure, you could just installed the iPhone version on your shiny, new iPad…but that’s not as much fun as having full support for iPad. So, with a few tweaks to the custom layout code we use – viola! Scalar and JazzEars are now universal iOS apps.

We also added some usability improvements while we were at it.

Scalar now manages ear training exercise configurations on a separate settings pages. Gone are the cool, but a little awkward, zoomable checkboxes.

JazzEars now provides optional bass notes beneath its existing tonal cluster features. 2- to 4-note clusters are played atop a randomly generated bass note. It’s a small change but it makes this feature so much more fun to use.

Happy Practicing!

JazzEars app updates

Jazz Ears is designed to assist with ear training for improvising musicians. This app lets you interact with chords and scales in unique ways.

Dual Chord Mode places two chords next to one another. This approach can be very helpful in navigating between chords. In some cases you might focus on the common tones between the two chords/scales. This is useful for building fundamental skills and improving your ability to improvise over a chord for extended periods of time. The goal, for many, is to be able to improvise freely within the chord sounds. Of course, more advanced players will enjoy playing outside the chord sounds and exploring the tension that produces.

Clusters is a great way to exercise your ability to improvise over unexpected sounds. Here, the app will challenge you with randomly generated clusters (2-note, 3-note or 4-note) and morph them through the selected root movement. This is a great way to improve your hearing and response time to surprising chordal sounds.

JazzEars provides a complete, interactive play along environment which makes practicing fun!

Here’s a video demo of JazzEars:

Scalar relaunches as an ear training app!

A few years ago I released Scale Syllabus, an app for browsing scales. It was one of the first apps I ever wrote. Pat Harbison, professor at Indiana University and long-time friend, suggested I release an app using David Baker’s famous ear training exercises. Excellent idea! And an excellent reason to bring Scale Syllabus into something more useful.

If you’re interested, here’s a link to the app on the App Store:

I reimplemented the app using Swift 3 and AudioKit. This is a really nice and enjoyable language/toolkit to work with. It was great fun to revisit David’s ear training book, write algorithms to generate the exercises and have some fun dynamically generating MIDI sequences.

Here’s a video demo of the app:

Chord Rotator v2!

I’ve been upgrading the audio engine under the Chord Rotator app. I think this version is a lot better (far less latency!) and cleaner (dig the new UI!).

This version dropped the “follow” pitch shifter in favor of three “real” rotators. The un-effected signal can be mixed via the Mix Balance knob.

The three rotators rotate sequentially through the five columns. The blue dot indicates which step is currently playing. That’s useful when debugging or practicing with your settings.

Speaking of settings, press and hold the preset at the bottom of the screen to save. You’ll get a bit haptic feedback (just a little vibration) when it saves. I think it’s a reasonable feedback mechanism. Certainly doesn’t get in the way of anything.

So, v2 is a major upgrade in terms of audio quality, stability and usability. I’ve been practicing with it and having a blast. Literally. 😉

Listening for Music! And other things

Up until right now, I’ve been rather quiet about all my ventures. I have tended to talk to music people about music, software people about s0ftware but rarely crossed those paths. In my life, those paths converge and diverge on a daily basis. So why not write about it? It could be interesting to those with similar goals or lives. And I can’t really predict what you, dear reader, may want to read about.

So, here it comes…an all-out blog about music and software projects, thoughts on the process and how to live whilst doing all that!