Starting a new hobby often requires time and money—but if you don’t have much of either, you can skip the expensive in-person classes or tutorials, download one of the free or low-cost apps below, and explore an intriguing side interest on your own schedule.
1. GUITAR WORLD LESSONS
Aspiring rock stars can download Guitar World Lessons, an app that provides users with hundreds of downloadable video tutorials for the guitar and bass, plus PDF documents of the corresponding music and tablature. Professional guitarists—including some of Guitar World magazine’s editors—serve as instructors; their classes range from beginner to advanced, and explore genres including blues, metal, bluegrass, and jazz.
You can download Guitar World Lessons for free, but you'll have to purchase the lessons individually for $1 to $3, or in a package for $15. Each instructional video series includes one free introductory lesson.
Find it: iOS
Free online language-learning platform Duolingo has a (similarly free) app that lets you learn more than 20 languages on the go. Interactive games, exercises, and casual text conversations with a chatbot help users hone their skills. To advance to more difficult lessons, you have to pass a test evaluating your progress. If competition motivates you more than the sheer love of learning does, optional social clubs let users share a newsfeed of their accomplishments with their friends and compare their achievements. A companion flashcard app, Tinycards, is also available for iOS.
3. HOW TO DRAW
You don’t have to be a natural artist to learn how to draw (although it certainly helps). Artfonica's How to Draw offers 70 step-by-step tutorials that teach amateur Picassos how to sketch cartoons, animals, anime figures, and more.
4. VOICE TUTOR
The Voice Tutor app is a virtual vocal coach that helps users develop and improve their singing voices. It evaluates vocal weaknesses with a diagnostic test and provides special training exercises to conquer them, complete with a pitch meter that checks and analyzes your pitch as you sing. There’s also a full vocal warm-up section, special breathing exercises, and a fun "Riff 'n Run" option that teaches you how to do some fancy vocal gymnastics.
Voice Tutor costs $5. If the app isn’t cutting it and you're willing to shell out the cash for one-on-one lessons, you can personally contact one of the app’s studios and work with their teachers over the phone or Skype.
Find it: iOS
5. ELEMENTS OF PHOTOGRAPHY (EOP)
Elements of Photography (EoP) teaches users basic concepts of photography, ranging from the fundamentals—composition, depth of field, aperture, shutter speed, etc.—to more advanced topics like metering, exposure triangle, and flash photography. It also provides tools like a depth of field calculator, technical tips for different types of photo ops, and quizzes to reinforce what you’ve learned. EoP is free to download, but you'll only be able to view its "Basics 1" introductory chapter. To gain access to the app's full array of contents, you can purchase it for $3.
Yoga newbies can squeeze in a workout at home or on the go with iYoga+. The app comes with eight 30-minute videos, all of which feature an instructor performing a full sequence so viewers can learn how to transition between different poses. Workouts include energizing “morning lessons” and calming “evening lessons,” along with hatha yoga or other specialized classes, all tailored to individual fitness levels. iYoga+ is free for download, but individual lessons cost $1 to $2.
Find it: iOS
7. iBIRD LITE FREE GUIDE
Budding birders can expand their knowledge of North America's and Hawaii’s feathered creatures with the iBird Lite Free Guide. It includes a database of 50 birds and helps users identify species by appearance, location, song, and other unique traits. Serious nature lovers can purchase an upgraded version of the app, the iBird Pro Guide, which costs $30 and has a database of over 900 bird species.