App-solutely fabulous!

When sitting on the tube on the way to work I sometimes glance at what my neighbour is looking at.  This is allowable on the tube, so long as there is no eye contact lasting more than half a second!  Anyway, my neighbour is often head down, like me, looking at his or her phone or tablet.  I’m always surprised at how many apps people have on their phones.  Pages and pages.  It’s all relative though; I bet I have more apps on my phone/tablet than my mum though to be fair, I don’t think she has a smart phone.  Smart move perhaps.

Anyway, I thought I’d do a post on some of the apps that I have: from bog standard apps to geeky musician apps.  I’ve the usual collection of apps that I presume many of us have so I won’t go into any detail on following: Kindle; Google; Facebook; BBC News; Spotify; Linkedin, etc.


Another app that fits into what I would call generic apps is Shazam.  I used to work in a record store and people would regularly ask what a tune was that they heard on TV, during an ad break or the show itself.  I would invariably look up the answer in a book called Teletunes.  Shazam does away with that and through some magic (the force?) is able to tell you what tune you’re listening to and give you the option of buying the tune, watching the video, etc.

I no longer work in a record store and haven’t done so for, oh, over two decades.  Gulp.  For the last five years I’ve worked in the UK Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, so it should come as no surprise to you that I’m interested in energy.  An app that appeals to my interest is GridCarbon.  This app tells you exactly how much electricity is being consumed in Great Britain.  It also tells you the mix at that particular point in time.  As I write this post I can see that 12% of GB electricity is being generated by wind power and only 3% from coal.  The electricity sector is a complicated one and app is great at bringing this to life.  Go on, give it a go.  You can always delete it if it’s not worth the memory it’s taking up!



I promised some music apps.  There are lots of metronome apps available and I’ve a couple, including Time Guru.  Time Guru’s USP is, for me, the fact that you can set it up to omit beats, so forcing you to keep better time.  The second, of three, is the iReal Pro app.  I went on a jazz summer course a few years’ back, armed, as usual, with a collection of ‘fake books’ (each containing the lead sheets for hundreds of jazz tunes).  A lot of the kids seemed to be using this app rather than lugging around the door step-sized fake books.  I’ve used the app ever since.  It’s got the chord charts for well over a 1,000 jazz tunes and I’ve used it on numerous gigs and used its backing track function during practice sessions.  It’s particularly useful if you play with vocalists as you can simply change the key at the push of a button.  The only down side is that the melody isn’t included in the chord chart, which is what you’d get if you were using a fake book.   On balance though, this is a must-have app for musicians.


My last app recommendation for musicians (and non-musicians for that matter) is Highnote.   Back in the midsts of time, musicians wanting to copy their favourite solo would have listened to vinyl recordings and slowed the record down to work out the tricky part.  I may have done this myself many moons ago while learning an Eric Clapton solo on the guitar.  The downside of this is that the pitch of whatever you’re listening to is lower.  In time, software emerged to counter this.  One piece of software, familiar to many jazz musicians, is Transcribe.  Transcribe enables the user to slow a tune down while retaining the pitch.   Moreover, Transcribe enables you to sample and loop parts of the tune, e.g. a Charlie Parker lick lasting all of a second or two – great for annoying members of the family!  The only downside with Transcribe is that the software has yet to be developed for smart phones, tablets, etc.  This is where Highnote comes in.  On downloading the app you can open up any tune in your music library in Highnote and slow it down, speed it up, and alter the pitch of the tune.  I’ve used it a lot in ripping off Hank Mobley, Charlie Parker, etc. licks.  The only down side is that, unlike Transcribe, you can’t sample and loop sections of music (unless someone tells me otherwise).  Nevertheless, like the iReal Pro app, this is a must-have.


If some or any of these apps are new to you and you fancy downloading them, let me know how you get on.  Similarly, if you’re using some killer apps that you’re happy to share with the world (or more accurately the readers of this blog!) then I’d love to hear from you.