There’s been a lot of noise around Amazon’s latest tech product, the $179 Echo. Most of the excitement is focused on how it can improve the user’s home life by performing voice-activated functions. But there are a handful of ways the Echo can boost productivity for musicians.
Here’s a list of all the ways the device can help with your music career.
This one may sound obvious, but the benefit of having voice-controlled stop and start functions when listening back is revolutionary for musicians.
Musicians don’t just listen to music for enjoyment. They sometimes need to study music to get ready for a gig or analyze something for a student. Think about it, one of the hardest things about learning a tune is having to constantly put down the instrument or interrupt your work flow to set the tune up and run it again.
The Echo completely streamlines this clunky process. Simply instruct Alexa, the AI assistant which performs all of the Echo functions, to stop and start when yore ready or you want to move on to another tune. The Echo even has a search function, so you can even search through YouTube for tunes you need work on without getting up from your instrument.
If you are a performing or composing musician, you understand the importance of documenting ideas and using them later. Amazon Echo has the ability to record your voice, or whatever instrument you may be playing, so you can save it for later when you are ready to develop the idea further. Both the microphone and the speakers on this device are surprisingly effective considering the size of the device.
One of the most impressive features of the Echo is its implementation of Alexa Skills. Alexa, the robot which carries out all the functions and takes her queues from the voice-over, has a range of built-in functions which lie in a drop down menu on the Alexa app.
Among the skills is a guitar tuner. From the other side of the room, the musician can demand to hear a perfect A from the speaker, just as they would from a guitarist in a band. It’ll be right every time too.
Here it is being used by someone for the first time. After instructing Alexa to enable the tuner, the user can be heard demanding what note he wants to hear. The Echo returns it four times.
My Metronome is another built-in Alexa skill. It keeps the tempo for musicians, holding from 10 to 300 beats a minute. To activate it, just tell her what you need by shouting: ‘Alexa, start My Metronome and 80 beats per minute,’ for example.
Of course, if you’d rather use your own, there are some great options here and here.
One of the coolest things about Alexa is her ability to teach you how to play an instrument. There is even a built in app designed to help you learn how to play the piano. It is very simple, making it a great device for those who are beginners to playing music and children who have very little experience learning an instrument. It starts you off by teaching you simple notes and showing you where they are. Eventually, you will work your way to being able to play a duet with Alexa! The songs are pretty simple and mostly consist of nursery rhymes, but they can be a great primer for a student who is interested in taking piano lessons who’s parents are not sure if they are really going to be into it.
The Echo also has a built in function that will play back any note that you ask and can even play a series of notes, providing students with a reference point for a pitch when they are practicing. This means you can test out ideas ahead of time or even use the device as a means to improve your ear training by trying to sing the pitch before the Echo plays it. There is even a quiz on the Echo that you can use to work on your ear. It will play a note and you will try to guess what it is. This may seem like a skill you are either born with or not but the ear is something you can develop over time and, with enough work, you can almost give yourself perfect pitch.
If you are an improvising musician, you know one of the best ways to practice is to simply improvise. Of course, you can’t always call your friends to have them come over and play some tunes with you, so you need a solution. One way you can use the Amazon Echo to practice is to utilize play a longs. A play along is a recording of music that has your part taken out, so you can play as if you are playing with a band in a live situation. One popular version of these for jazz musicians is the Jamey Aebersold series. He has recorded thousands of tunes that students can practice over ranging from jazz to funk and RnB classics. Download them to your Echo and get started today.
Here’s an idea of the sound quality you can expect
Amazon Dot: A cheaper version of the Echo
The Echo sits a stop a cylinder speaker which is powerful enough to be used alone. But if $179 is too steep a price tag, the Dot is a great alternative. At $49, it’s considerably less expensive and performs pretty much all of the same functions as the larger Echo.
The only major difference is the lack of speaker. So if you have your own already, the dot may be the way to go.
Amazon Echo Show: The Echo with a touchscreen
A huge hook of the Echo is its voice-controlled function. In commercials it plays out very smoothly and it appeals to a lazier, Siri-obsessed generation. But some people would still like to have the option to control the device by hand.
To accommodate them, Amazon recently released the Echo Show which combines the Echo with a touch screen for easy use. It’s the most expensive device in the range at $229. In essence, it looks like an iPad with a speaker attached at the bottom.
It can however be a great tool for musicians who are trying to learn lyrics. The Echo Show will display the words on screen. It’s also a great way to pull up sheet music to play along to with a tune running in the background for support