Music app review – liveBPM by Daniel Bach

liveBPM - Beat Detector - Daniel BachOne of the things that I’ve always found appealing about the world of iOS music apps is that, by necessity, developers create apps that are much simpler than the majority of desktop software. That’s not to say that more complex apps are not available or very effective on mobile platforms – Garageband and Auria are perfect examples of just how well featured iOS music software can be – but the streamlined approach has a lot to recommend it, including the absence of a steep learning curve and all those bells and whistles that, in the desktop environment, can often just get in the way rather than really help the workflow.

So, what we get with many iOS apps are tools that attempt to tackle a particular task with as little fuss as possible. And if you want a specific example of this approach, how about liveBPM? This app, which has been developed by Daniel Bach, does one job – it listens to the audio input and, in realtime, works out the tempo (in bpm) – displaying the current bpm in a large digital display accompanied by a graph of any variations in bpm with time. Clearly, this works best if the audio the app is analysing has a strong beat and the app is designed to work best with music in 4/4 or 3/4 time (or multiples of these). However, if the app is struggling, you can, of course, simply clap along to the music to emphasise the tempo.

Tempo variation through Gimme Shelter by The Rolling Stones – the track gets a gradual ramp in energy due, in part at least, to increasing tempo.

The app itself is simplicity to use. Designed for the iPhone/iPod, it scales up for use on an iPad. There is a single screen containing just three controls. The power button toggles the live tempo detection on/off, while the ‘Clear’ button resets the display if you need to analyse a different performance. The third control – a simple slider – changes the resolution of the graphical display for those occasions when you need to adjust the bpm range. The bulk of the display is split between the live bpm value (at the top) and the graph of bpm change (at the bottom) that charts the tempo variation for the previous 5 minutes.

There are three obvious applications for the app. First, it would make a brilliant practice tool for a drummer, allowing them to monitor just how good they are at keeping a steady tempo without the aid of a click track to guide them. Second, sat beside your kit during a performance, it would allow you to judge just how well you are hitting the ideal tempo for each song in your set.

Beat It is pretty much a constant 138.5 bpm – click and a drum machine maybe?

It’s not just drummers that can benefit for liveBPM as the third use is in mapping the tempo – and any tempo changes – in commercial recordings. While this is useful for drummers, it is instructional for almost any musician. If you just want a quick answer to the question ‘what tempo is Beat It played at?’ then just let it listen to the track and you will quickly get your answer. However, if you want to know why certain classic rock and pop tracks have a dynamic that music recorded to a click track doesn’t always seem to capture, then use liveBPM to produce a graph of the tempo changes through the music – the variations can be both subtle or, at times, dramatic – but seeing where the band raises the tempo (to give the music an urgency and extra excitement) or lowers the tempo (to bring a calmer mood) can be very instructive. And armed with a few examples, you can attempt to build such variations into your own recordings, whether recorded with a live drummer or to a tempo track with the variations pre-programmed in.

There is little more to be said about liveBPM. In my own testing, it performed very well and, given the pocket money price, I’d have no hesitation in recommending that any musician should add it to their iOS app collection. The app does one simple function but seems to do it with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of efficiency – good stuff!

liveBPM - Beat Detector - Daniel Bach liveBPM is available from the iTunes App Store.

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    1. I use this app regularly on stage and it is a great way to monitor tempo and hold it steady. I would love for it to be able to output a midi clock signal to slave a sequencer with.

    2. G Kendall says:

      I use it as a drummer onstage and it’s changed drumming for me, for the better. My only complaint is that it isn’t “real time” as the displayed bpm appears to be behind a couple of seconds but it’s close enough. I lead into our songs with 8 bars of click and then with the help of this app, we take it from there.

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