Apps to Help You Sing in Isolation

A little bit of tech and a whole lot of motivation can help you make more of your singing practice while in isolation. You don’t need to leave your house to take advantage of these tools and apply them to your singing.

1. Native Recording App on your smartphone

Everyone with a smartphone has the ability to record audio. Singing musicians already know how important it is to record yourself, your rehearsals and your performances. Now, when you can’t be with your band-mates and your accompanists, that little recording app becomes even more important.

Ask your band-mates or accompanist to record themselves playing the instrumentals for a song you’d like to practice. You can do this with several songs, as long as you give them some time to do it. Then, they can share the files with you online or send them to you in a text message, and voila! You now have an instrumental track to practice with. More importantly, you have a way of connecting with your musical partners even though you are separated from one another.

Read more about recording apps on phones.

Warning: singing along with pre-recorded accompaniment is not a perfect way to rehearse. You are missing the responsiveness that musicians have towards each other when playing music live. You are a slave to the recording and that is not the way live performance usually works. Just remember that this is a great way to rehearse, but not a true replica of live music-making.

2. YouTube

It’s completely free and it offers you a wealth of instrumental backing tracks across almost many genres. You’ll need a little time to search through the enormous amount of content on YouTube, and you may not find all your songs in the same keys or in the same arrangements as you like to use. You will, however, be able to find some good instrumental recordings that will let you practice some of your songs (and perhaps try out some new ones!) while you are cut off from your musical collaborators.

Click on the examples below to discover a sampling of backing tracks of different genres available for free on YouTube.

Accompaniment for “Caro Mio Ben” with notation and lyrics from Opera Karaoke
Karaoke track for “If I Ain’t Got You” with lyrics
Karaoke track with lyrics for “Alexander Hamilton”

3. Piano App

Singers need a pitch reference in order to rehearse in the right key, and to do their vocal exercises more deliberately. Many singers have a piano or guitar at home which they can use to plonk out a few notes, however, many singers simply use a piano app. You may enjoy those which have note names visible on the piano keys. You may also want to look for one where you can slide the keyboard to different octaves, and adjust how many keys are visible at once. Below is just one example of a piano app.

4. Metronome App

Keeping a steady beat is a key skill for any musician. When playing together live, we all must develop something called “beat agreement” which simply means we all feel where the beat is, even if no one is making a sound. A musical performance is not meant to be perfectly rigid in tempo, however.

Performers will often speed up or slow down – on purpose – for expressive reasons. However, if tempo fluctuations are not deliberate, they will detract from the power of your song. Singing with a metronome can feel a little too rigid, since in real life, a real musician you might be playing with would allow for subtle give and take. A metronome is, however, a great practice tool that reveals where you may be accidentally fluctuating on your tempo.

5. Downloadable Karaoke Tracks

There are many websites that offer downloadable karaoke tracks which will let you practice offline. Some are free and some are paid. Websites like Karaoke Version offer paid, downloadable tracks, with or without backing vocals.

6. AutoChords App

Most chord generating apps are able to let you play a whole chord progression by pushing one button for each chord. They usually limit you to diatonic chords, which means you can only play the chords that are made from the major scale or minor scale the song is based on. This means that when you come to one of those surprise chords or interesting-sounding chords, your app won’t have it! Even with these limitations, you’ll be able to play most of the chords for your songs, as long as they are reasonably simple.

7. Looping App

Looping is the art of recording a short musical phrase into an app that plays it back instantly on repeat. In traditional musical terms, this is called “ostinato.” The trick is to click to begin and end your recording exactly on the beat so that the beat remains steady as the loop plays back over and over again. Looping apps must be used with headphones otherwise you’ll get annoying feedback, so don’t forget to grab those before you get going.

Try singing a 4-bar phrase into your looping app. Click record on beat one of the first bar (even if there is a pick up into bar one). Then sing your phrase (end with the pick up into bar one as if you were going to sing it again). Stop the recording on beat one of bar 5. Now you can sing harmonies with the loop as it repeats. You can even record those harmonies and hear them looping back at you. Try improvising over top of the loop.

8. Harmony Helper App

If you use music notation, but don’t have the means to play your parts or the accompaniment, this app is for you! The Harmony Helper App requires a little patience as it requires that you take a photograph of every page of music you wish to rehearse. But once you have inevitably tinkered with your lighting and camera app for a while and managed to load in the pages of music, this app absolutely rocks for singers who work with notation. It allows you to hear your part, the other vocal parts, and the accompaniment individually or together, plus you can adjust the volume levels of any part.

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