A Killer App for Practice With a Rhythm Section

I’ve long been a user and lover-hater of Band In a Box. It’s always been a clunky, overly-complicated, expensive piece of software, but I bought it and used it and recommended it to others despite its clunkiness because there wasn’t anything better available. Now there is. Orders of magnitude better. It’s called iReal Book.

Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice by Jonathan Harnum is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the book, check out a sample from The Practice of Practice.

The iReal Book app gives you access to thousands of jazz and other chord charts, and it will play a decent-sounding MIDI rhythm section in several styles. You can enter your own tunes, and, best of all, you can share them with other users. The forum contains thousands of tunes, and with a simple click on an html link, the app automatically installs it to your iReal Book. Within 5 minutes I had nearly 1,500 songs on my device, and over 300 of them were Gypsy Jazz, the genre I play most.

Just before a gig on Saturday I needed a couple lead sheets, and sent them from the app to myself as a PDF and printed ’em up, no sweat. The printouts are great and structured well. Be sure to check for accuracy, though. One tune, Them There Eyes was missing a line, which is a problem in the middle of a gig. We learned that the hard way.

The app is around $10, and with some of the in-app purchases (I bought the Gypsy Jazz accompaniment and the guitar chords function), you can push the price up to around $20, but that’s still a great deal for the functionality and usability of the app. I’m not entirely happy with the guitar chord fingering choices for the app, and have not yet discovered whether those can be tweaked, but I sure hope they can. If so, this is a grand-slam home run app. It’s a minor quibble, no pun intended. When you consider that Band in a Box goes for around $100, and even more if you want realistic sound quality, the iRealBook app is a steal.

This is one of the best practice tools I’ve come across in many years. Absolutely brilliant! If you need to practice with a rhythm section in just about any style (jazz, bluegrass, pop, rock, etc.), you’ve got to get this app. It’s available for both iOS, MacOS, and Android devices). Here’s a comprehensive video walkthrough of most of its features:

iRealBook Features Walkthrough

Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice by Jonathan Harnum is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the book, check out a sample from The Practice of Practice.

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