I finally downloaded the Amazing Slow Downer app from Roni Music. The Amazing Slow Downer allows you to practice more attentively by slowing down or speeding up tracks on your iPad or iPhone without changing the pitch. It’s great for learning tunes. You can isolate and loop certain sections. In addition, the app gives you the option of changing the key up to 6 half-steps in either direction.
I'm finding the Amazing Slow Downer to be stable (it hasn’t crashed), easy to navigate and compatible with my all of my music except some older files I had purchased a few years ago from the iTunes store when they were putting DRM protection on the files*.
Why It’s a Good Practice Device
Slowing down and looping parts of a tune allows you to learn it bit-by-bit through deliberate repetition. It forces you to play the tune correctly by calling attention to mistakes in need of correction and gaps in your skills worth improving. It reinforces proper technique that will help you play the tune faster and more accurately down the road.
Each tune has its own identity and feeling. Slowing it down is like looking through a microscope - you reveal certain characteristics and meaning in the notes and rhythm that can enhance your playing and be applied to other tunes. You see the nuts and bolts of the melody – what it’s doing and where it’s going. At slower speeds you can also try working in things like triplets that may test the edges of your abilities. Eventually you link the phrases together until you have the whole piece.
Examples of Usage
Banish Misfortune is a three-part Irish jig in D-mixolydian that I have been after for a while but can never quite remember. The version I had been working with with was a YouTube video by Ian Walsh that was quite fast. I downloaded the audio from this video and imported it into the slow downer, where I was able to slow it down to about 70% of the actual speed and play along until I had the tune memorized. In another case, by using the slow downer I was able to isolate the pesky A-part to the crooked old-time hoedown Indian Ate the Woodchuck and play it repeatedly for an hour until I was cleanly maneuvering through phrases that had previously seemed impossible. Now that I’ve worked on the part of the tune that was giving me the most trouble, I’m well on my way to learning the whole thing since the B and C parts have pretty easy fingerings.
The app is available for $14.99 in the App Store.
*The iTunes store used to put DRM protection on downloaded files. They’ve stopped doing that I think, but some older music files may not play on Amazing Slow Downer because of this.