This issue’s review is for an app I have been meaning to try out for ages, iRealPro! I am having such a blast exploring all the new ways we singers can go about learning with technology, and this app definitely has me in a tizz!
iRealPro is $7.99 on the iTunes store (also available for Android), which, for me, is kind of expensive. But, I think the more I learn about the wonderful world of apps, the more I realize that you really get what you pay for. In my experience, the features of paid apps far outweigh the free ones. Perhaps all of you out there already know this! If not, and you are like me and somewhat apprehensive about having $7.99 zapped from your account, don’t be.
This app is awesome!
The iRealPro website states the following:
iReal Pro offers an easy-to-use tool to help musicians of all levels master their art. Our app simulates a real-sounding band that can accompany you as you practice, and also lets you collect chord charts from your favorite songs for reference.
Every time I’ve sat down with iRealPro to work on my review, I’ve ended up practicing. And I mean, practicing in a way I haven’t done in a long time! Essentially, iRealPro is an app of backing tracks, enabling you to change keys, tempos and styles of a really large catalog of songs, and practice along. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I was just starting out with this app as my guide: it makes practice really fun, and really easy. Its functionality enables users to print charts, share backing tracks, write songs, and even flash you guitar or piano chord fingerings (additional purchase necessary for this) as the song progresses. I cannot wait to share it with my students!
In addition to its amazing functionality, iRealPro is really easy to use. Upon downloading, you get an app that is fairly “bare bones” but is full of ‘exercise’ backing tracks. These are mainly jazz styles that you can practice along to on any instrument. Of course, as a singer, I wanted to find some full- blown songs right away, which aren’t pre-loaded into the app, but are very easy to find in the ‘forums’ tab. I quickly downloaded 1,300 jazz songs, and 400 pop songs to my playlist. Yes, enough to keep me going for a while! If you think 1,700 songs are too many to have to sort through at once (overwhelmed anyone?), you can make separate playlists at any time to break it up. Super easy. Super user-friendly.
Once you have opened up a song, you come to a screen that’s full of chord changes. This in itself is great! If you’ve ever found yourself scouring for chords to a particular song, you will understand why this is great. Having access to the chords to a song is such a good resource for singers, if only to be able to share them with the rest of your band. With iRealPro you can either send chord charts directly to your band, or print them out for your next rehearsal or gig.
As a playback tool, iRealPro really shines. Simply press the play button and you are away. Is the song too fast? You can easily change the tempo. In the wrong key? You can easily change that, too. What about if you want to try a song in a different style? Yep, can do! There is even a practice tool that allows you to continuously play a song and have it go up a half step every time you get back to the beginning, while also changing tempo if you want. While perhaps that is something that is more helpful to an instrumentalist who is learning to ‘play through the changes’, it is also a helpful tool for singers to work on ear training, understand their voice, find a comfortable key, work on phrasing or – like our instrumental friends – work through guide tones, scales, and chord changes whilst learning to scat. If you are a songwriter, you can even make backing tracks of your own songs.
The styles that come with iRealPro are fairly basic. You can choose from Jazz, Bossa Nova or Rock. Not many, but within these styles you can change the instrumentation and tempo, so there end up being quite a lot of sounds to play with. You can also purchase additional style packs separately, if you need more. The playback tracks on iRealPro are pretty good. For me, the drum sounds are always too loud, but that is no problem because I can turn them down or off completely using the mixer tool.
Sometimes I like just practicing with bass so I can really tap into the root movement of a song, so I love that this is possible with the mixer tool, too. The instruments available for playback are piano (Rhodes), vibraphone, piano & strings, electric guitar, acoustic guitar (although sometimes not all of these are available for a particular song, depending on the style), acoustic and electric bass, drums, a 2+4-click and a 4-click. On each song you can adjust each instrument’s volume and sound, and there is also a reverb mixer, so you can really personalize the way you hear a song played back.
The other thing that is great about the iRealPro is the ability to share your songs. You can download, or send directly, your song’s chord chart or audio (WAV, AAC or MIDI) – making it super easy to share a song with your musician friends, your students, your non-musician friends, whomever. Easy. No fuss. I liked the MIDI export function, as once a song is in an editing program, you can also change the arrangement if you want to, altering instruments, adding sounds and making the backing track a little more to your own taste. It enables my students to change the key of a track I have sent them at their own discretion.
The forums tab is great for searching for any song that you might be looking for: I simply typed a song into the search bar, and up it came! I imagine that not every song on the planet will be available, so you may have to get your transcribing skills into action at some point, and if you do that, you can then share the song with the iReal- Pro community, which seems to be really enthusiastic and eager to add new charts and chords, and answer any questions you may have while using the app. It definitely doesn’t feel like you are all alone out there with iRealPro, which is nice.
I bet there is a lot more you can do with iRealPro that I haven’t explored yet, but just scratching the surface has been so much fun for me, and I really recommend it to anyone who wants to have a backing band in their pocket (everyone, right?)! It is an amazing practice tool, especially for singers; being able to find the key that is just right for backing tracks is challenging if you don’t play an instrument, or have an accompanist for a best friend. What’s more, working on different tempos, styles and keys is something that, as both a teacher and eternal student, is always important. Oh, and being able to bring up a chord chart when you want to jam with your friends? Priceless! iReal- Pro really delivers.
Wishing you lots of fun in your practice and singing!
iREALPRO DEMO FOR iPAD AND iPHONE