Home Screen: Jazz Pianist Bob Karty

This week’s home screen features geek and jazz pianist Bob Karty (Website). I’ve been corresponding with Bob via email for some time. For years, Bob has been a sideman, playing with some of the best jazz acts in the San Francisco Bay area. Bob is now running this Kickstarter project to fund his own album and I thought it would be a great opportunity to look at Bob’s favorite music apps. So Bob, let’s see it.

I’m a professional jazz pianist and a music teacher, and I use my iPad a lot every day.

I use play-along tracks both for my own practicing and with my students. The tracks are in my iTunes library, which is stored on a Synology DS212j network drive. I play the tracks via Synology’s DS File app on my iPad, and the audio streams to a Marantz AV7005 pre-pro with built-in Air Play. It’s wonderful to have instant access to not only the play-alongs but my entire music library.

For casual listening, I use Synology’s DS Audio app.

If a play-along track is at a tempo that’s too fast for a student, or if they’re playing a song for which there’s no commercially-available play-along, I use an app called iReal Pro. iReal Pro consists of chord charts and a MIDI playback engine which reads the charts and plays them back using drums, bass, and piano or guitar sounds. You can instantly change a song’s key and tempo. The playback engine includes a mixer, so pianists turn off the piano track and practice along with bass and drums.

Most of the bands I work with have their own printed music charts of original songs. But if someone sits in and wants to sing a jazz standard I don’t know, the charts in iReal Pro come in handy.

In teaching Afro-Cuban/salsa/Latin jazz piano, I have students play along with rhythm accompaniment from an app called Salsa Rhythm. Originally designed for dancers, it’s very useful for musicians too. Pianists need to learn how to fit into the complex grooves in a very specific way, and this app is a great aid to that process.

Another app I use frequently is the Yamaha Metronome. There are many metronome apps, but this is my favorite – simple, straightforward, and accurate. You’d think a metronome would be accurate by definition, but I found one that wasn’t true, despite claims by the developer that it was “the most accurate” in the app store.

For students of music theory, I often recommend the Interval Ear Trainer module in an app called Tenuto. Tenuto contains drills and exercises for learning theory, while its companion app, Theory Lessons, covers the lessons. The Ear Trainer plays a musical interval, and you tap on the screen to identify it. It’s customizable to adapt to different skill levels, and students have a lot of fun with it.

A couple of brief mentions of clever and useful apps for audio engineers: Speaker Angle helps you set the toe-in angle of your monitor speakers, which helps improve the sound. Stereo Mic Tools uses the iPhone or iPad’s camera to help you position microphones in stereo recording configurations, which require precision positioning in order to capture the sound accurately.