I have a lot of apps, and that’s putting it mildly. But I have to say, as a musician, I’ve never been more excited about an app than I am about this one.
BandMaster, created by RoGame Software, is an app very similar in concept to Band-in-the-Box, allowing musicians to play along with all kinds of jazz forms. I realized within seconds of opening it just how useful this program was going to be for me.
The app opens to the Songs menu, with three already created for you – Bebop Blues, Standard 01 (a 32 bar progression), and a 5/4 jam based on Take Five (Dave Brubeck). Creating or editing existing songs just requires tapping Edit in the top right corner. Select a song, or choose “Add a Song”.
Here you can create the title, then choose a template. For my first attempt, I decided to try Straight No Chaser. I typed in the title, then checked “12 bars”. The templates available are great; choose from ii-V-I progressions, blues waltz, ballads, and much more to help the process go even faster.
Tap done, and you’re still in edit mode. Choose the song you just created (or any other), and here is where you can enter chords for each measure or beat. Each numbered line is a measure, and each slash is a beat. By tapping the number, the whole measure is highlighted. A wheel at the bottom of the screen lets you scroll through notes (F, Eb, C#) on the left and finish the chord by adding the rest (M7, 9sus4, 7b5) on the right.
Possibly my favorite part is transposing, which is as simple as sliding a bar left or right to move the key chromatically. You can also change the meter (3/4, 4/4, 5/4), or the form (ABA or AABA).
More adjustments can be made out of edit mode. Select the song you want from the main menu and you can easily adjust the tempo, the number of choruses, and which instruments (drums, piano, bass) are playing. You can also select “Piano In/Out”, giving you one time through with just drums and bass before the piano kicks in.
BandMaster even lets you go so far as to choose a basic or walking bass line, blocked chords or voice leading for the piano, and a shuffle, swing, or latin drum beat. The sounds are great, very clear and realistic. Stick in the headphones, tap play, and you’re in a quartet with musicians who will never get tired , allowing you to practice heads and solos until you sound as good as Monk himself. (Well, maybe not.)
Considering the price of programs like this for PCs and Macs, I’d say that $15 is a great deal to have the ability to play along with jazz standards on your iPhone or iPod Touch.
BandMaster requires iPhone OS 2.2.1 or later and is compatible with the iPhone and iPod Touch.