By Eliot Van Buskirk of Evolver.fm.
App developers are no dummies, and many have figured out a way to get noticed in the vast morass of apps today. It’s become common practice to drop the price of a paid app to zero, in the hope of sending it up the charts and increasing its install base — and then ratcheting the price back up again, once it gathers momentum.
There’s nothing wrong with this strategy, and if you’re on the ball, it means you can snap up some great bargains. Today’s is InTune, a simple iOS app from the Wittenberg University Music Department in Ohio, available free for “the next few days." now .99.
We shy away from reviewing too many apps that are strictly for musicians, but really, anyone with an interest in sound will enjoy this one at least once. And it could be fun to whip out your phone and challenge the intonation of your friends.
The premise is simple, so we’ll keep this short: InTune plays two tones in quick succession, then asks you whether the second one was higher or lower than the first one. If you guess right, it makes the next two notes even closer together.
For, say, a violinist or a guitarist trying to improve their tuning ability, a tool like this would come in pretty handy, because it simulates that experience fairly closely. But even if you don’t know what a half-step is, you should be able to tell whether one note has a higher pitch than another — and that means you can play this game and get a score. According to a study conducted at the university, using this app can increase your sense of intonation by around 300 percent, so you should get better over time.
It only takes a minute or two for the app to work its way into very small differences between pitch. You will eventually slip up. Once you have entered three wrong guesses, the session stops, and the app gives you a precise score, which is the smallest difference you were able to detect, as a percentage of a half-step.
Without headphones, with some background noise, and with one mistaken press of an arrow, I broke the 1 percent barrier and felt a brief sense of pride, even though I don’t know if that’s a good result. For the next few days, you can download the app and find your own score for free. Thanks, Wittenberg University Music Department (specifically professor Daniel Kazez; lead engineer Peiqian Li, class of ’13; and assistant professor of art Crispin Prebys)!