14 October 2013

Jazz Education Review: The iBone App

Editor Charlie Anderson reviews the iBone, a smartphone and tablet app aimed at trombone students.

When I first downloaded this app, the first thing that struck me was how dark it was. Where are the notes? Then I went to the settings and turned up the brightness in the ‘Notes Display’ menu. The notes show up on a grid, which is actually a lot clearer than most of  the trombone position charts that you find in method books.

    Once you have changed these settings, it’s idiot-proof and  you can play around with it and have some fun. I had a quick run through playing All Blues, just to get a feel for it.

    The first thing that struck me was that it sounds like a real trombone, certainly a lot more like a trombone than a MIDI sound. You can play with vibrato, play staccato or play long tones.

    From the settings menu you can turn on the ‘Blow’ facility which allows you to blow into the microphone to make it even more realistic. I found this a bit awkward with an iPad but I could see this working on a smartphone.

    The other small menu in the top right-hand corner allows you to play along with songs inside the Songbook. You can also download other songs (mostly Xmas tunes) at 69 pence each, or play along to mp3s. The advantage with the songbook titles is that the robot function shows you which notes to play by highlighting them as the tune is played. The free, bundled songs include public domain favourites such as 2001, Air on a G String, Aura Lee, Greensleeves, Guantanamera, Ride of the Valkyries and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

    Unfortunately, there aren’t any jazz tunes available, not even a simple blues in Bb, but I guess it’s easy enough to play along with an Aebersold mp3.

    Another obvious omission is the ability to see music notation for the notes that you play. It think this would greatly enhance the learning potential of this app.

    It’s a useful tool for beginners to learn the positions and where the notes are located. And it would also be useful for teachers to use to demonstrate things to students when an instrument isn’t available. And it’s certainly a welcome addition to a marketplace dominated by apps for guitarists and pianists.


Preview video of the iBone app:


Available for Android devices (Google Play £1.79) and Apple devices (iTunes Store £1.99).



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