What are the best mobile applications (apps) for marching band, drum corps, color guard and drumline? Well, it all depends on what you want the app to do because there is an app for just about anything in the world of the marching arts. The following five apps top the list, based on a search through the technological realm and reader recommendations.
Photo by Ed Crockett
No more flip charts. No more drill sheets. Nope, it’s not the off-season. It’s the not-so-distant future when smart phones and tablets set you free.
These days, nearly everyone has used a mobile device at least once to help make accomplishing a task simpler. You say you need an app to help tune your horn line, provide tempo with a metronome or have all your drill sheets in the palm of your hand? You bet there’s an app for that and much more.
In fact, one college marching band has taken a step toward going paperless by putting its music and drill on Apple iPads. The Ohio State University’s 225-member marching band has spent $25,000 to purchase 45 iPads for squad leaders, directors and staff to test out in a pilot program this fall.
“In theory, next year when the whole band is using iPads, non-value added parts of rehearsal like copying music or flipping through drill charts will be eliminated,” says Ryan Barta, a senior trumpet player who is majoring in operations and aviation management and who helped develop the idea for the technology’s implementation. “This will ultimately allow for more time spent on learning music and drill.”
In addition, the band would save money in the long run. According to reports, it had previously been spending about $24,000 per year in paper and printing supplies.
The marching band uses a variety of apps in an effort to simplify drill learning and music practicing, such as Buckeye- Box (similar to Dropbox.com), Drillbook Next and ForScore.
However, the project has not come without its challenges. There has been some resistance to implementing the technology due to security risks or high initial cost of the iPads, says Charles King, who is working with Barta to implement the iPad project and helped successfully pitch the idea to the band and Ohio State’s Office of Sustainability.
“We have had to do a lot to convince people it works better than paper,” says King, who is majoring in computer and information science as well as history. “Even more effort has been spent on convincing everyone to transition to this new way of operating and then teach everyone how to use the iPads and apps. We have had quite a lot of success, though. It seems to be working well when all the necessary access is granted to music and drill at the correct times. Overall, the support for our idea has been incredible.”
After the season, Barta and King will review the pilot and make adjustments for next year’s full implementation. Not quite ready to purchase 225 iPads for your marching program? Check out our review of the Top 5 apps for the marching arts.
1. A.P.S. MusicMaster Pro ($4.99)
Are you a person who likes to have it all? The A.P.S. MusicMaster Pro (by C.L. Barnhouse Company and developed by A.P.S. Development LLC) has everything you need for the marching arts in one convenient app. It includes an Adobe PDF viewer with the ability for annotation, a chromatic tuner with a pitch pipe option, an audio record feature, a metronome, timer and basic musical terminology.
Through the PDF viewer, you can import PDFs through email or Dropbox. There is even a notepad function that lets you make notes for practicing without leaving the app. You can also add rehearsals and game schedules with the included calendar. This app has all that and rhythm.
“A.P.S. MusicMaster Pro is a dream for any ensemble conductor,” says Joseph Pisano, chief operating officer for A.P.S. Development LLC. “Having so many needed functions included in one app completely simplifies the use of the product. One of my personal favorite functions of the app is the built-in stopwatch and its ability to easily email a list of recently completed timings by touching one button.”
2. TonalEnergy ($3.99)
TonalEnergy (by Sonosaurus LLC) has many tools within it to make it a solid choice for marching arts professionals. According to its website, the app works with individual practice and large ensemble rehearsals to help musicians improve sound quality and intonation. This app includes a tuner, tone generator, metronome and a waveform display.
“I use the app every time during individual practice as well as when I am teaching,” says Taylor Smith, who is double majoring in music education and jazz performance at California State University-Long Beach. “It allows my high school students to visually see any inconsistencies with their sound. I enjoy using TonalEnergy to record live samples and have instant playback and analysis. The tone generator allows me to play multiple tones at once to play chords as well as sustain pitches for ear training exercises.”
3. Coach’s Eye ($4.99)
Of the hundreds of recording apps out there, Coach’s Eye (by TechSmith Corporation) has many teachers praising its ability to record and slow down video, highlight specific areas with visual markers (just like the football commentators use on television) and include audio and text commentary to help performers improve technique and performance. In addition, the app’s side-by-side video comparison allows instructors to view their students’ progress.
“Coach’s Eye was created to provide a powerful learning experience in the palm of your hand,” says Mike Kujansuu, Coach’s Eye marketing manager. “Our overall goal is to improve the speed of improvement for athletes and students by allowing them to instantly see what they’re doing well and what needs to be fixed.”
And there’s no argument from music teachers.
“Although the app was made for sports analysis, the application for a marching drumline setting is perfect,” says Izaak Mendoza, percussion instructor at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. “The students like when I slow down the video to make a point, but it also slows down recorded voice and highlights the crazy faces they make when they play. It adds a little humor that keeps the students engaged.”
4. Tempo SlowMo (Free)
Have you ever wanted to slow down a song, so you could learn to play it by ear? The Tempo SlowMo app (by Martian Storm Ltd.) is definitely for you. This app’s simple design will help you by slowing down or speeding up an audio track’s beats per minute without affecting its pitch.
It can be a valuable resource for music teachers and guard instructors. “This free app allows me to place rehearsal markers, set loops, and also detect and alter the tempo of a track,” says Ali Martinez, movement supervisor for Identity Winter Guard. “It makes rehearsals more efficient since I only have to tap a marker to rehearse a section of the show instead of messing with fast forward and rewind. I can even share the track with the new tempo via email or … Dropbox.com.”
5. Drillbook Next ($4.99)
Are you looking for a reliable app to help you find your dot coordinate on the football field? The Drillbook Next app (by Scott Rundell) will work for you. This app has the ability to import coordinate sheets from Pyware or Field Artist 3 or create custom drill in the app. There’s even online support.
“This app is extremely user-friendly and has several advantages over the usual three-ring binder,” says Rusty Hart, assistant band director of Cabot (Ark.) High School. “One of my favorite features is that you can go from count to count within a move and still pull up the exact coordinate for any marcher. This is a big help to give a student their exact coordinate in the middle of a count sequence through a subset, especially with a band of 275 students.”
About the Author
Gregory M. Kuzma (www.gregorymkuzma.com), who simply goes by “GM,” is a performing arts consultant for drum and bugle corps and marching bands around the United States. A drum and bugle corps veteran, he is the author of the book “On the Field From Denver, Colorado … The Blue Knights!,” which highlights his 1994 summer tour adventures as a drum corps member.