Gengar Studio’s Pitch Pipe

Gengar Studio has created a program called Pitch Pipe which sells for $2.99 at the Apple AppStore.

As I have previously mentioned, I teach high school choir, and choirs often have the need for a reference pitch. As of the date of this review, there are two pitch pipe applications available, and of the two, I chose to purchase this program. The program is simple and effective, with clean graphics and ease of use. When a pitch plays, the pitch is highlighted on the screen, and it appears at the bottom of the screen as well. The sounds, with one exception (which I will mention in a moment) are good, and I particularly like the volume slider on the bottom of the program. I have used Pocket PCs and Palm devices in the past to give pitches for various events (singing the National Anthem at a Minnesota Twins game, or to give a pitch backstage with the Minnesota Opera) , and the ability to adjust volume ON the same page as the pitch pipe itself is a great thing.

There are two things, and only two things, that the program could improve upon. The first is to offer various pitches for the “home key” of the pitch pipe, such as with the original Master Key Pitch Pipe. The C to C is offered, and is the most popular, but an F to F and E-flat to E-flat should also be offered. Second, the sampled songs fade in, so that there isn’t an abrupt start to the sound. Unfortunately, the sampled sound isn’t very long, and you can hear the “dip” in the sound as the “fade-in” loops in the recording. The “dip” almost sounds like a change in pitch. I would suggest sampling a pure wave of sound, and allowing the program itself control the “fade in” as the sound begins. As a teacher, I wish I could offer a pitch for the length of time of the recording…but there are times when a pitch needs to be sounded longer. Ultimately, this is a real negative, as some other programs offer sine wav sounds that last indefinitely.

If you have a 1st generation iPod touch, you’ll need a way to amplify the sound from the headphone jack, otherwise all iPhones and 2nd generation iPod touch models will project the sound over the external speaker.

At $2.99, this program is a good value, and it looks great and works reasonably well. Considering a actual Master Key Pipe will cost you between $18 and $25, not counting shipping or tax, that’s a bargain! This program is recommended for use in music education.

Application Description (from iTunes):

This handy application provides pitch references for musicians and singers.

It’s a chromatic pitch pipe ideal for a cappella singers and timpanists. With thirteen pitches, each a half step above the previous, Pitch Pipe provides all of the notes of a single octave, so a singer can start in any key required by Western music. To use, play the initial key note or tonic of the piece to be sung. You can also play the first sung note of the song, particularly when the song begins in unison or with a solo.

Having a Pitch Pipe inn your iPhone is useful because you always have it with you. Normal pitch pipes can gradually change pitch as the material hardens with use, and since they are often carried in a pocket, lint can work its way into the device and affect the sound. Pitch Pipe for iPhone has none of these problems.


MooCow Pianist

Note: As of 9/24/2008, MooCow changed the pricing of this piano application to $1.99, which is a fantastic price. There are now several piano competitors which likely impacted the price drop, as well as strong sales (Pianist has long been in the top 50 paid applications)

The first review I will offer is for MooCow Music’s Pianist, which costs $5.99 at the AppStore. This application was actually created before the Apple AppStore came into existence, for “jailbroken” iPhones and iPod Touches. Ultimately, it turns your device into a small synthesizer, with up to five note polyphony.

When you load Pianist, you are greeted with MooCow’s splash screen:

I personally wish there was an option in the program to turn this off, and that you could immediately go to the keyboard (when you want the keyboard, that’s what you want to get to), but at the moment, there is no way to do so with the program.

After the splash screen, you enter a “main menu” which appears like this:

If you wish to go to the keyboard, you choose “Piano”; otherwise you can choose “Setup,” “Load/Save” or “Help.”

The piano is a fully functional, five note polyphonic synthesizer. You can change the settings as to what octave you wish to view, and whether or not to see the names of each white key on the piano. If you press SUST, all the notes you play will be sustained, likewise SOFT will make all your notes dampened. SETUP brings you to the setup screen (i.e. volume), and REC or > will record or play what you play on the piano. The synthesized sound is acceptable to me:

The setup screen gives you several options: Instrument settings, recorder settings, some application settings, and a metronome. The metronome may be the hidden “jewel” in this application which no one talks about:

The main aspect of instrument settings is the Global Volume feature. I wish this was available on the main piano screen; ultimately it is two clicks (or “touches” away). Or, I’d like the main piano screen to show the current volume.

And here is the Metronome. It is easy to work with, but again, is two “touches” away from the piano screen.

In summary, MooCow’s Pianist is a very good application for music educators. If you have an iPhone or 2nd generation touch (both have external speakers) , the program will be useful anywhere, any time. You can use it on location to lead warm-ups for a choir, or ask your students to consider downloading it so they can practice music at home. If you have a 1st Generation iPod Touch, you’ll need headphones or an external amplifier of some type to make use of the program. The recorder could be more functional, such as allowing you to import (and export!) MIDI files, or even recorded songs from other users of the application. As I mentioned before, it would be fantastic if you could access the metronome or master volume with one “touch” rather than two, and it would be great to be able to turn off the main MooCow splash screen. Under the iPhone/Touch operating system 2.0, Pianist would crash occasionally, requiring a ful device power-up; I have experienced no crashes under the new 2.1 operating system. I would like to see future versions of this software have the ability to link with music notation software (through Bluetooth, perhaps) such as Finale or Sibelius. That is, perhaps, a long way off, but the concept has potential should a developer wish to examine the possibilities!

Ultimately, for use in music education, this is an application I would HIGHLY recommend for use by teachers and students. After all, you are buying a useful synthesizer for $5.99, whereas those old Casio dual-octave synthesizers (also without MIDI or the ability to record) cost five times as much, with worse sound!


Welcome to the iPhone Apps for Music Education blog! I am a secondary teacher in music education, currently teaching vocal music, but I am also licensed in instrumental (band/orchestra) and general music. I also teach courses in music history and music theory at the high school level.

This blog will share my findings (and reviews) of various applications that are useful for music education. At the time of writing, I own several iPods, and I use iPods on a regular basis in my teaching. The iPods I use at school (4GB 3rd Generation iPod “Fatty” Nanos) were obtained through a grant, and we use those iPods with the Brookstone Boombucket, which is a fantastic piece of technology…it allows you to amplify music anywhere (battery powered) yet still is portable for use by students (they go to sectionals to rehearse in various places).

3rd Generation iPod Nano (4GB, originally $149)

Brookstone Boom Bucket ($150)

I will be purchasing an iPhone in October 2008, as I currently hold a contract with Verizon which will expire soon. I cannot cancel early, as I do not wish to absorb a $175 early termination fee–per line!

Please feel free to add comments or to post questions. This blog is based off my own purchases and observations, and is not sponsored by any software company or Apple. Likewise, if you have an application you want me to review, a review may need to wait until I can purchase an application!