Updated: Jun 12, 2021
Whether you are preparing recital notes, seeking that perfect aria for your package, or searching for an obscure recording of your favorite opera, finding the right resource for the right price (and let’s be honest- the best price is free) can feel overwhelming. Information is often scattered between several databases, poorly organized, blocked by paywalls, or found on websites that are no longer maintained. Thankfully, new sites, digitized collections, streaming services, and old favorites have been rising to the challenge to provide singers the resources they need to succeed. Here are four sources that I have found especially helpful in the past few years.
We all know it. We all love/hate it. If you’ve ever written a research paper, chances are you have taken a browse around JSTOR. Offering thousands of scholarly and peer-reviewed articles, books, magazines, and other media, JSTOR is an excellent jumping-off point for research for recital notes, dramaturgy, and general musical research. Eighty, yes eightypercent of the content on JSTOR is free to access. If you are currently attending college or are affiliated with a university or other educational institution, you probably already have free access to JSTOR through your library. Check with the library or other relevant office at your institution to learn how to access the database.
For those of you who are out of school or do not have paid access yet, there’s good news! During the COVID-19 pandemic, JSTOR has opened up free individual subscriptions to their service that allow you to read up to 100 articles for free. Click here to find instructions on how to gain access to free content. Go forth and research!
IDAGIO (Premium $/€ 9.99 per month & Free - limited content)
https://about.idagio.com/ - App available on Android and iOS
Are you perplexed by Spotify? Feeling ignored and unloved by Apple Music? Languishing after listening to a sub-par recording because it was the only one available on Prime Music? IDAGIO might be just what you need! A streaming service built specifically for classical music, IDAGIO offers detailed search criteria that can help you filter and compare search results for recordings by period, genre, instrument, composer, soloist, conductor, ensemble, and year. This is not only useful when searching for a certain recording, but can also help you discover new repertoire from different periods or genres. For an additional fee, you can also access live concerts and recitals from world-renowned musicians directly through IDAGIO’s app or website. My personal favorite feature is the “mood” feature that creates a playlist with music that corresponds to the emotion or sensation you set. You can usually find me grooving out to the Radiant or Festive playlists!
IDAGIO also recently launched free subscriptions that offer full access to their collection in radio mode. This essentially works like Pandora or the free version of Spotify where you choose a recording and the app will then play recommended music based on that choice.
Vocal Music Instrumentation Index (Free)
If you’re like me, you may find yourself frequently dumbfounded by the amount of music that J.S. Bach wrote whilst searching for an aria for church or your aria package. Before I found this resource, I would blindly scour IMSLP for Bach cantatas, hoping that I could find one with a relevant tenor aria. The Vocal Music Instrumentation Index has completely transformed this endeavor. Having catalogued all 3,848 movements from vocal works by J.S. and C.P.E. Bach, VMII offers the capability to constrain your search by voice, instrumentation, text, key, or meter. While they only have music catalogued from two Bachs right now, they are currently working to add the works of composers like Handel, Mozart, Buxtehude, Rossini, Rameau, Vaughan Williams, and more. I’ll certainly be waiting with bated breath.
Appcompanist (Pick 6 Monthly Subscription - $3.99)
App available on Android and iOS (Pick 6 only available on iOS)
The worldwide pandemic has forced many singers into isolation, often without access to collaborative pianists and full piano accompaniment. Thankfully, Appcompanist has emerged to fill the gap in the meantime. While we are all aware that Appcompanist cannot replace a human pianist and collaborator, it does offer an inexpensive means by which to access quality recorded accompaniment for standard repertoire. Personally, I believe the app is best suited in ensuring that I sing all the way through a piece in my practice schedule. The app will not stop unless you tell it to, and since I usually “chunk” my way through learning a new piece, it helps me to get used to transitions between sections and test my memorization. The Pick 6 subscription allows you to access 6 pieces from the entire library of tracks that Appcompanist offers (which is extremely useful if you are learning both classical and musical theatre repertoire).
I hope that you find some value in the sources listed above. What sites or apps do you recommend? Do you have any tips or tricks for the resources mentioned? Feel free to comment below or send us a message and we might be able to include your suggestion in a future article!
Happy searching, learning and exploring!