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Another great backing track app for iPad: iReal Pro

By Tim Topham | Creativity

Nov 02 2012

backing track app ipad ireal pro

Looking for easy-to-use jazz and pop backing tracks?

One of my Year 8 students recently had to play keyboard in a band for his music performance class at school. The song the band chose was Baker Street (they had a good saxophonist!) and my student’s role was to play the chords on the keyboard.

As this student is pretty new to piano, he had taught himself all the triads in root position (using my “B.S. method”) with the right hand.

While this is the easiest way to begin playing pop music, is also the most boring when practising solo. The main problem is that without the other instruments and/or vocalist to play-along with, this kind of practice can get really boring, and ultimately be quite unmusical and unrhythmic too.

iReal Pro App

Enter another must-have music teachers’ app for iPad: iReal Pro – perfect for just this situation! (ps. This app used to be called iReal B in case you see references anywhere.)

The app works by creating backing tracks in a chosen style (eg. Latin, Pop, Rock, Jazz) based on any chord chart or standard lead-sheet. You can download thousands of songs in-app from the linked iReal b forums or you can enter your own chords into the app (or via online editor) as I did today for a student playing Hotel California (which I’ve since found was available in the forums anyway!).

Best of all, the instrumental parts in the backing can be volume-controlled (want more drums, less piano – easy!) and the tempo easily adjusted. You can also loop sections and change the key of the written chords and the backing track instantly. Oh, and it’s under $10.

I’ve started using this for my 12-bar-blues teaching as a backing track in lessons and, if the student has an iPad at home, they can download the chord chart and play along. If they don’t have an iPad or iPhone, you can export your backing track to WAV and email it or share it through DropBox.

Here are two great posts from fellow bloggers about this app. One from MusicTeacherHelper and another from 88pianokeys.

App Features

The main features (from the iReal Pro website – my favourites in bold):

  • Create, edit, print, share and collect chord charts of your favorite songs for reference while practicing or performing.
  • Practice with a full rhythm section (Piano or Guitar plus Bass and Drums) with realistic sounding accompaniments for any properly formatted chord chart.
  • The play-along feature includes Jazz Medium Swing, Bossa Nova and Rock styles.
  • Includes 50 exercises to practice common chord progressions.
  • 1000s of songs can be found in the iReal b forums (including all the old iReal Book songs in one easy-to-import list).
  • Edit existing songs or create your own with the Editor.
  • Output audio to AirPort/AppleTV/etc wirelessly.
  • The Player will play any song that you edit or create.
  • Transpose any chart to any key or to number system notation (Nashville system).
  • Global Eb, Bb, F and G transposition for horn players or global setting for number system notation (Nashville system).
  • Share individual songs or playlists with other iReal b users via email or through the forums.
  • Share printable versions of individual songs via email.
  • Print any chart using AirPrint (requires iOS 4.2).
  • Export charts as JPEG, PDF and MusicXML.
  • Export audio as WAV (AudioCopy/Paste supported), AAC and MIDI.
  • Loop a number of bars for focused practicing.
  • Support for iRig/AmpliTube and other guitar connection kits using the Background Audio setting.
  • Support for AirTurn™ and other bluetooth page turners.
  • Universal App: runs on any iPhone or iPod Touch device as well as running optimized on the iPad

Have fun with it! You can download it from the app store here.

What are your favourite backing track apps?

Leave a comment below to let us know your favourite backing track apps and how you use them.

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Tim Topham

About the Author

Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular TopCast show, blogs regularly at topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, California Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.

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