New software for Mac helps you learn tunes like nothing ever helped you before.
Visually Anytune is something like the music playing part of of Tunes but it has extra features to help you learn existing songs. Now the Mac version is here (some of you may be familiar with Anytune Pro Plus for iPad) and it’s a little like the longstanding – and much simpler – Amazing Slow Downer updated for 2016 with many improvements.
Get a track in — You can import a music file by dragging and dropping it onto Anytune in the Dock, or let Anytune access iTunes to access your iTunes library and playlists directly.
To do this, you need to quit Anytune, open iTunes, open iTunes’ Preferences. Click the Advanced tab, and turn on the option to Share iTunes Library XML with other applications. If it is already clicked, you need to turn it off and on again, launch Anytune and a confirmation will check that you want to give Anytune permission to open these files.
Double-click a song from the iTunes media (or, if you’ve drag-and-dropped a track from elsewhere, this will display the same) and a wave form view appears in Anytune’s main window. There’s a Play button at bottom centre (the Spacebar start/stop from iTunes, GarageBand, QuickTime etc also works to do this) and the song starts to play. A square button at top right (it has a musical note in it) lets you hide or reveal this waveform view – hiding it shows the iTunes lists and playlists again.
Load up a few songs to learn, and then you can work on them as a playlist, one after another. You can flick through these at top left. Anytune picks up the Beats Per Minute (BPM) value that’s recorded with iTunes – if no value is recorded there, Anytune works it out.
Interface — AnyTune is for serious users, and the developers recommend you learn some of the keyboard shortcuts to help you learn songs more easily. These are listed in the Help Menu, luckily. They open in Preview so you can print them out, which is a thoughtful touch.
Above the central transport controls at the bottom there are two little panels with plus and minus signs either side of them (above). The one on the left is for speed faster and slower, and the one on the right is for pitch, which means you can adjust a song to suit your tuning, the key you sing in or whatever. The value it lands on is displayed in the centre of this little panel, and you can Control- or right-click on this to choose a value yourself, or select Set Tempo and type in the value you want; this functionality works the same for Pitch. Any value you set here is remembered next time you open AnyTune with that song.
At top right there are three view buttons with choices Wave (which shows a zoomed-in section of the song), EQ and Lyrics.
Along the bottom, there are controls for marks you set to help you navigate, volume, transport controls and a cluster for controlling looping. Between these controls and the main view is a bar which shows the playhead’s position in the song, and on the left is displayed the time position of the playhead, and on the right, the time remaining. There are also semi-transparent A and B sliders which you can use to define the section of the song you want to work on, and/or loop. You can side-scroll with your cursor in the main window, of click-and-drag in this smaller, full-song view below. You can also just double-click anywhere in the full-song view to jump the playhead to that position. The transport control lets you also click to move forwards or backwards either side of there the current playhead is at.
Marks and jumps — There are two types of marks you can set: Audio and Loop. To set a mark, just tap the M key on your keyboard at any time (as the music plays), or click the Mark button to the left of the central transport control. Marking adds a vertical blue line onto the track with a large number tab at its top, which you can drag for more precision. The Marks List button at top left (shown above-left) lets you display all the marks you have set, and you can click on the names of the entries in this list to change them and give them names (Intro, Verse etc) as you wish. Rather than type the section name yourself, a pull-down menu appears under a disclosure triangle with suggestions (and you can edit these in Preferences). You can add text notes to these marks too, in the Marks list part.
The Mark-jump button to the right of the main Play button at bottom centre lets you jump mark to mark, or you can double-click entries in the Marks list, if you have it displayed, to jump your playhead to that position. The marks are saved automatically, and even backed up to iCloud, and can be shared with other Anytune users.
Loops — Anyone who has ever learnt someone else’s song by listening knows you have to listen to it over and over again. With Anytune, you can get those tricky sections repeating. Just drag the A on the left and B on the right sliders (they’re brown, with draggable tabs at the bottom) to the section you want, and click the Loop button; you can also click the Loop Play button without any section marked to just have the whole song playing repeatedly. There are all sorts of extra loop controls to nudge the loop section, extend it slightly, wipe the loop and more. To set Loop Marks, press the Loop Mark button or, more easily, the S key on your keyboard.
Once you have a loop section defined, try the ‘Step-It-Up Trainer (I kid you not, that’s what it’s called – it is as above). You can choose this from the Loop menu or, quicker, hit Command-U. This has its own settings to, for example, start slow and speed up on successive plays by increments that work for you. Get to this settings pane from the item just below the above mentioned: Step-It-Up Settings and set it up to suit the speed at which you learn.
Handy features — Ever tapped Play and by the time you have your fingers on your guitar, the song’s already past that critical point? Shift-spacebar gives you a few seconds grace before Anytune starts playing.
Autoloop (it’s in the Marks List View) lets you tag any marks you have set to automatically create loop sections between them.
You can decide whether to copy the song files into Anytune or let it play them from iTunes, which will save space on, say, a MacBook Air.
You can adjust the gain, balance and pan of any track right within anytune, and turn on Enable Livemix from the Livemix button to track music through a live input through Anytune. The balances of these can be controls with rotary knobs at left and right below the main window, above the transport controls.
You can re-EQ tracks too, in the EQ view, to compensate for bad recordings or to help accentuate the part you need to learn (bass, lead guitar, vocals etc) by boosting the relevant frequencies or cutting those of parts that make hearing your part harder. You can create presets for these: for example, one that accentuates vocals, to use with other songs; any EQ setting you make is stored with the song in Anytune (not on the original track – that remains pristine.)
In Lyric view, any lyrics stored in the song file are displayed, or you can add your own. You can even set ascii tabs for these so they scroll with the song (tap the little gearwheel icon at the left of the transport display) and set what colour the type is displayed in, and its font and size.
Say you have Anytune but your student doesn’t? You can export half and 3/4-speed versions of songs for them.
In use — You can set up playlists to hold songs you want to learn, or songs your teacher wants you to learn. You could rank songs in the order you are going to play them in, say for a live set – of course, since you can use this as a practice setup for original music, assuming you have your own songs recorded, you can drag and drop them into Anytune as well, and practice to your heart’s content at home, with or without headphones.
Check out the Anytune video, which is great both for an overview and also as a sort of Quick Start manual once you have the program, and there’s a free 30-day trial available at the website.
Conclusion — Anytune works really well to help you learn any song, and with the looping, pitch control and EQm it’s easier than ever to really decipher those tricky parts of those weird songs you want to learn. with its ease of importing and impressive feature set, it’s sure to answer practically all your music learning needs whether you’re working out some classical piano or some shredding metal guitar.
What’s great — Works as promised: slowing music down really helps nut out those important bits that have been defying you. It’s also great for practicing solo.
What’s not — Quite a learning curve, but the astute will appreciate the power, flexibility and control this gives them.
Needs — anyone who can’t read, or find, music for tracks they want to play.