How iPads, apps and YouTube can be a band’s best practice tools

It started innocently enough. “Let’s get together and jam” lead to a rehearsal song list, and  the possibility of starting a band. I had about a week to organize and prepare for a mostly full band rehearsal. We don’t have a singer yet, so that duty, sadly, has fallen on me until we get someone. As noted on this site before, I’m a guitar player. By nature, I’m a very organized an prepared individual, and I wanted to get everyone prepared for the songs ahead of time. After I sent out links to YouTube clips of the songs to the other members, it was time to get to work.

Here are the apps and devices I used that made my life a lot easier during this process.

Practice, practice, practice

One of the nice things about being the person everyone points to and says, “pick some songs” is, well, the songs I picked I already pretty much knew. However, there’s a huge difference between kinda knowing the song, and knowing it enough for a rehearsal. The first thing I did was create an iTunes playlist with the tunes. When I was driving around, I played nothing but those songs to get them stuck in my head.

When it came to actually putting my fingers to the fretboard, I used AmpliTube on my iPad for 90 percent of my practice — the other 10 percent were with my live rig to get the sounds right. One nice thing with AmpliTube is it will load the songs from my playlists and let me play along to them, as well as speed up and slow down parts. If there was a part I found particularly tricky to learn, I used Riffstation on OS X to loop that segment while I used the AmpliTube Orange amps to play along. For the first set of rehearsals, I also didn’t worry too much about getting the solos note-for-note, and instead focused on catching the feeling of the solo. I used my Fender Squire USB guitar for most of my practicing since it easily plugs into my iPad and Mac.

For what I was doing, I didn’t really care about my overall guitar sound; I just wanted to balance the volumes so I could hear both the song and my guitar equally. Then, I practiced. A lot.



I was asked by the bass player to chart the songs for a cheat sheet during rehearsal. While there are plenty of programs that will let you chart songs, I found them to be too advanced for my needs. What I really just needed to do was have the lyrics and then put the chord changes over it.

So, I used Pages ($19.99).

I went to a lyric website, cut and pasted the lyrics into Pages, and then added the chords and beat markers over the lyrics. This worked fantastically. In addition to giving the bass player a cheat cheat, I also had something I could reference during rehearsals. If I couldn’t remember how the chorus went, I had my own little cheat sheet. I printed out charts for her and the drummer, and had my iPad ready for my reference.

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Running the rehearsal

Generally, I frown upon singers who use cheat sheets live, but in practice, obviously they are fine. Plus, I’m just filling in until we get a real singer (hopefully soon, I really can’t sing). I needed cheat sheets where I could see them while standing up, and I didn’t have a music stand that went that high. Plus, I wanted them right in my face.

For my cheat sheets, I used the iKlip 2 ($39.99) from IK Multimedia. It’s a mic stand holder for your iPad 2, 3 or 4 in a fairly secure fashion. Note: it slides into the holder, so I’d be a cautious using it during gigs. Not because it’ll fall out, but it’d be easy for someone to just snag the iPad during breaks. So, if you use it, make sure you take the iPad off when you walk off stage.

I was able to position my iPad with the iKlip so I could read the lyrics while warbling. A minor pet peeve is that I can’t get the iKlip to hold my iPad in the portrait position on the boom portion of the stand. Instead, I had to clip it on the main stand just under the boom.

If a note about how we played something came up, I just edited the Pages document with the note. Usually, this is how long the solos were, or if we wanted to change how a bridge went.


Final thoughts

I’ve written before about how I continue to be amazed at the way technology continues to improve how I approach music. It’s been 20 years since I’ve run a rehearsal. Back then it involved a lot of cassette tapes, CDs and photocopies. While OS X continues to be a starting point for my music, I find now when it comes to rehearsals, everything I need is on my iPad. I also have all my music theory and chord books in the Kindle app, so if I need to learn a chord I’m not familiar with, it’s very, very easy.