There are more than a few Best iPhone Apps for Musicians lists floating around out there, but most of them seem tailored to the occasional musician rather than the professional one. As much fun as a virtual drum set or ocarina might be, they’re not really useful daily tools for a working musician (unless, of course, you happen to play in an iPhone Ocarina band). With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of what I consider to be the four best and most essential iPhone apps for performing musicians. These are all things that I use on just about a daily basis and have found to be absolutely indispensable when I’m on the road.
1. iStroboSoft by Peterson – $9.99
In terms of precision and accuracy there’s really nothing that compares to a Peterson strobe tuner. There are a couple things that keep an actual Peterson prohibitive to many folks, however: cost and size. Luckily, now you can carry around a bona fide Peterson tuner in your pocket via the iStroboSoft application. I’ve not had any issues with the application and have been impressed by how sensitive it is. Plus, it just looks great. The only thing that would make this app better is if they added a tone generator. Actually, this could be the perfect app if they added both a tone generator and a metronome, basically making it an iPhone version of the V-SAM.
2. Tempi by Employee Five Systems – $0.99
Until Peterson actually adds a metronome to iStroboSoft, however, there’s Tempi. I heard about Tempi from a friend who replied to my tweet soliciting iPhone metronome app recommendations. People can be very particular about metronomes, myself included, but this one does just about everything I need a metronome to do. You can adjust the tempo two ways: by dragging the slider, which allows you to move in 1BPM increments or by using the ‘+’ or ‘-’ buttons to go between “real” metronome markings, which I prefer. There’s also a “tap” function, which allows you to tap in a tempo and find out the BPM. Click here to see a screen shot. The best part of this metronome, in my opinion, is the way it sounds. I’m pretty picky about the sound of metronome clicks, but for me, the sound of this one is just about perfect.
3. FiRe – Field Recorder by Audiophile Engineering – $9.99
I don’t think the iPhone will ever have a recording app that comes close to the quality of my Zoom H2, but if I don’t have the Zoom handy and/or don’t feel like setting it up just to record a short sample, you can’t really go wrong with the FiRe – Field Recorder. FiRe gives you a fair amount of control over many aspects your recordings, including gain, recording quality, and metadata. It also has a built-in compressor that will optimize the quality for a given delivery method, like a podcast. FiRe also allows you to FTP any file to your web server, which, for me, has been its most useful feature.
4. Dropbox – Free
Dropbox is a service that allows you to sync files online and across computers. Their free account gives you 2GB of space, which is more than enough. Once you upload a file (any kind of file) from your desktop into your Dropbox, it is available instantly on any other machine, via the Dropbox website, or on your iPhone. You automatically given a “public” folder from which you can share any file within that folder by creating links to send to those you wish to share files with. In addition, you can also create shared folders that invited collaborators can access via their Dropbox account. On a recent 40-day tour, I was able to give instant feedback on new tracks Erik was creating for a project we’ve been working on even when I couldn’t get online via my laptop because of being on the bus or in a hotel room with poor internet service. For long distance collaborations or for collaborating during travel this app is essential.