How to Use Apps to Make Practicing More Fun and More Productive

I strongly believe that playing along with a recording while practicing will make you a better musician. I say this for a few reasons: First off, you will be playing along with studio musicians, who usually have a great sense of “time” (playing in the correct rhythm) and “feel” (adding the right emotion and attitude to the part). By playing along, you are absorbing a little of their knowledge and methods. Second, sometimes when we play alone we don’t realize that we are taking too long to get to a note or chord. Sometimes we play a passage with the wrong rhythm or notes – maybe we remembered it wrong or we just haven’t mastered it yet. When you play along with the track you will hear if you are off and you’ll know that you have to fix something, rather than turning it into a bad habit that just needs to be unlearned later when someone points it out. Third, it is more fun to play along with tracks than all by yourself. You feel like you are “part of the band”. The challenge to get it right and keep up is motivating, and you’ll probably practice longer than you would normally. However, sometimes for a student the track is just going by way too fast. If we could just slow the music down we would have a chance to keep up and still have all of the benefits that I mentioned above. Fortunately, nowadays that is very easy to do.

If you use an ipad, ipod or iphone that can run apps, there are plenty of apps that will slow down music, some will even let you loop a section or change the song’s key as well. I can only assume the same is true for Android devices. A quick search on Google or the app store will lead you to them.

If you use Windows Media Player, the ability to slow songs down is built right into versions 11 and higher. Windows Media Player will need an mp3 file, although newer versions work with wav files as well. Follow these instructions below, depending on your operating system, to slow down playback in WMP.

You can’t do this while the track is on the cd, so first you need to import the song from your cd and convert it to a music file, like an mp3. There are lots of different software programs that can do this, but here is one easy method:

You can skip steps 2,3,4 if you’re going to stay entirely in the Apple world

1) Download the free iTunes player from itunes.com 2) From the “Edit” menu choose “Preferences” 3) Select the “general” tab, select “import settings” 4) Pull down the menu beside the words “import using” and select “MP3 Encoder” 5) Put your CD in and import the song into Itunes 6) Your MP3 will be in an itunes folder such as: Music/iTunes/iTunesmedia/music/artistname/albumname/songname.mp3

If your song is already in itunes, but you want to play it in WMP and slow it down, use this method to convert it:

1) Select the file in your itunes library 2) Pull down the “file” menu and select “Create new version” 3) From that menu select “create mp3 version”

N.B. on older versions of iTunes, “create mp3 version” is under the “advanced” menu.

Now…. To slow the playback down in Windows Media Player:

Windows 7

1) With Windows Media Player running, right click the mouse on the background within the player 2) From the menu that pops up, choose “enhancements” 3) From the next menu (within enhancements), choose “Play Speed Settings” 4) A new window with a “ruler” will now appear. By selecting “slow”, the slider will move to 0.5 x play speed. This will be too slow. Move the slider to around 70 to 80 % (0.7 to 0.8), or as desired.

N.B. the ruler seems prone to hide behind the player. You will sometimes need to minimize the player to see it.

Windows XP

1) Make Sure you have WMP version 11 or higher (free to upgrade) 2) With WMP running and the song loaded, pull down the menu called “now playing”. The song must be in MP3 format (see above to import as an mp3). 3) From the menu that pops up, choose “enhancements” 4) From the next menu (within enhancements), choose “Play Speed Settings”

A new window with a “ruler” will now appear. By selecting “slow”, the slider will move to 0.5 x play speed. This will be too slow. Move the slider to around 70 to 80 % (0.7 to 0.8), or as desired.

There you have it. You can now enjoy playing along to recorded tracks at a speed that’s right for you.