Struggling to keep up to date with the latest music tech? Apps strive to make musicians’ lives easier, but they appear and adapt at such a rate that trying to stay up to speed can be difficult.
Whatever your needs as a musician, whether you want to play, listen, study or create, we’re on hand to help with our cutting edge guide to the best music apps.
Here are the apps we think are most likely to come good on their promise of changing the musical landscape for the better.
Top 8 best music and sheet music apps every musician should know about
- nkoda (Best sheet music app)
- Note Rush (Best app for aspiring performers)
- BandHelper (Best app for gigging musicians)
- Rhythm Lab (Best app for rhythmic development)
- Musyc (Best app for creating imaginatively)
- Tidal (Best audio-streaming app)
- Readly (Best digital magazine app)
- TuneIn Radio (Best radio app)
Best sheet music app
If there’s one app out there that’s bringing the musician’s most essential means up to date, it’s nkoda. Sheet music. It can be a difficult and expensive thing to get hold of, and consequently piracy and faux scores are everywhere.
Thankfully this app is changing all that. nkoda essentially places an entire music library in your pocket: instant access to the full catalogues of 130+ publishers’ catalogues, each boasting premium editions of the greatest repertoire of all time, from Top 40 classics to the avant-garde. Plus you can scribble your annotations all over them.
It’s a gold mine for players, students, composers, or any musician that uses sheet music. It’s on subscription, but considering the size of the library (not to mention how much buying or hiring scores can set you back), it really is a bargain.
Best app for aspiring performers
For the newer instrumentalists (and older teachers) out there, the concept that Note Rush has seized on is eye-catching, and, more importantly, it works.
It’s pretty simple. You’re presented with music notation and tasked with playing through a passage. Any errors in pitch or rhythm are detected and flagged via the microphone on your device. It’s fundamentally an entertaining, interactive and effective way to hone your sight-reading skills on a range of instruments: piano, flute, violin, and more.
Note Rush is free of charge, so there’s no reason not to give it a go, especially if you’re getting to grips with an instrument, or teaching someone who is. Widespread positive feedback from music teachers in particular has vindicated the app’s leftfield approach to learning to play.
Best app for gigging musicians
Anyone who’s experienced gigging has surely had a taste of the administrative and practical challenges that come with it. Few apps have tried to present a solution to these difficulties. BandHelper is an exception.
Basically, BandHelper organises everything for you. The setlists, the schedule, your contacts, lyrics, chord charts, finances… Everything. Not only has playing in a band never been so easy, it’s also never been so enjoyable as a result – you’ll love discovering all the additional features.
It’s another subscription service, and as pricing depends on the size of both your band and your desired BandHelper package, it’s too much to go into here. Whether it’s worth it, only you can decide, but it could save you a lot of headaches.
Best app for rhythmic development
Rhythm Lab is similar to Note Rush in that it’s designed to develop players’ practical skills in an interactive way. Anyone who’s played an instrument knows how pressing it is to master the nuances of rhythm, and how awkward this dimension of music can be at times.
Rhythm Lab hones in on this particular aspect of performance. Essentially, it involves tapping out pre-set or customised rhythmic gestures against its metronome set to a tempo of your choice, with the app identifying misplaced taps and honing your precision.
The app is compatible with MIDI keyboards and Audiobus, so if you use either of those you can easily integrate it with your existing setup.
Best app for creating imaginatively
What we love about Musyc is its original approach to music composition. We all create in different ways, and if you happen to be more of an abstract thinker when it comes to bringing musical ideas to life, then Musyc is definitely worth trying.
The piano keyboard and traditional notations have been tossed out the window. Now touch is king in Musyc’s user interface, with the shapes that you create determining the form of your composition. It has overtones of a game and there’s educational value to it, too. All in all, Musyc is rather difficult to define, occupying a unique space in the world of music apps.
Even if you’re perfectly comfortable writing notated music, Musyc’s off-the-wall conception of sonic construction might just liberate you if you often find yourself repeating patterns or getting stuck on the same old ideas. It’s perfect for classical composers and pop songwriters alike.
Best audio-streaming app
Somehow Tidal has managed to compete successfully in an arena dominated by the music-streaming titans Spotify and Apple Music. More than anything, Tidal’s made this happen by committing to the high-fidelity experience.
Its winning feature is the ‘Tidal Master’. These are extremely hi-res, better-than-CD-quality tracks, and there are thousands of them in Tidal’s library of 70 million songs. It’s the audiophile’s choice, offering more in this department than the bigger names above.
Like nkoda, it’s also a subscription service, which offers a huge library, sensational audio experience, and bespoke listening suggestions for an ultimately very justifiable monthly fee.
Best digital magazine app
Most companies gear toward subscriptions now: pay a monthly fee and enjoy unlimited access to your desired, digitised content. For nkoda it’s sheet music and with Tidal it’s audio. Readly’s thing is journalism.
While it isn’t purely music journalism, it’s huge collection of magazines and newspapers is brimming with leading music-related publications, so it’s earned a place on this list. Whoever you’re into and whatever you like to read about, Readly offers a magazine for it. Mojo, BBC Music, Planet Rock – you name it.
Compatible with a range of platforms and offering practically instantaneous access to the latest issues, it’s a great resource. Considering the cost of ‘old-fashioned’ physical magazine subscriptions, it really is excellent value for money.
Best radio app
As it was with Readly, this app technically isn’t something that’s solely dedicated to music. But the fact remains that many listeners get their fix and find new music via the radio, and for those that do, TuneIn Radio is an excellent hub for that.
The app offers very broad access to local radio stations as well as major international channels, and has even grouped together music-focused stations that can be browsed according to genre. As if that isn’t enough, you can also do all your podcast-listening through TuneIn Radio. Just download one of their millions of podcasts and away you go.
As far as ease and breadth of access is concerned, TuneIn Radio tops the lot in this category for us. It’s also available on subscription…
Best music app: Our verdict
Creative, ingenious, radical and economical. All the apps that we’ve discussed have earned a place on this list for different reasons, but the one that stands out above the rest, the best sheet music app for iPad, iPhone, Android, Mac and PC, is nkoda.
In truth it’s all of the above, a new chapter in the history of sheet music. It’s a totally different approach to accessing, sharing, and interacting with a major part of most musician’s lives, whether they’re playing jazz, classical or pop.
Who would have thought you could summon Beethoven’s Ninth (and one through eight for that matter) to the palm of your hand? Sheet music libraries will never be the same. Get started with nkoda for free.