There’s no doubt that smartphones, tablets and whatnot have dramatically changed the way people find, use and interact with information, and the same goes for musicians. The sheer amount of apps, courses and interactive material out there can be overwhelming, and it has to be said that there’s a lot of crap; so here are 5 apps I’ve found that are actually useful for guitarists, some of which can be used on long commutes or when you’re waiting for the rest of the band to show up.
1. Guitar Tuna
There are a ton of guitar tuner apps out there but none of them really have the accuracy or ease of use that Guitar Tuna does. Not only does it tune your guitar with laser-like precision, it also has a wealth of other features including games for learning chords, chord diagrams, an outstanding chord ear trainer and even interactive chord games where you use your guitar in conjunction with the app.
The app also has an extensive chord library for finding chords in any key. I noticed they’ve carefully chosen the most useful chord shapes to avoid unnecessary headaches, and chords you probably won’t ever use.
Finally, there’s a handy metronome which has a great feature where you can change the time signature. I thought this was a great addition, and really useful for getting used to playing in different times. Most of the features are available in the free version though I would highly recommend investing in the paid version as this app really has a lot more to offer. Check it out here.
2. My Ear Trainer – Ear Training
It’s no secret that ear training is one of the best things you can do to not only improve your musicianship, but everything else besides. Having a better ear will make everything easier, from soloing to working out songs and licks from the music itself. For guitarists this works by refining the connection between your ear and your fingers, which you’ll hear Steve Vai talk about a lot in interviews.
The app itself has been in my collection for ages, and is very simple and easy to use. It features intervals, chords, scales, melodies and chord inversions, and provides you with statistics so that you can immediately see your strengths and weaknesses, as well as the progress you’re making.
The great thing about My Ear Trainer of course is that you can use it on the go, or away from the guitar when you need to kill time. Not all guitarists are fans of extensive ear training, some even shy away from it, but with this app there’s no excuse, and it’s an infinitely rewarding skill to work on. Check it out here.
AmpKit+ transforms your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch into a powerful guitar amp and effects studio! The paid AmpKit+ app includes 4 amps and matching cabinets, 10 pedals and 8 mics… according to the blurb.
I have to admit, I’m usually a little skeptical about this kind of app as they don’t often live up to what they promise, but this one actually does. As far as amp and effects modelling goes it’s definitely up there with the best of them, and well worth having in your collection. Alex Skolnick is reported to use it religiously for warm-ups as it features a wide variety of sounds and tones, the paid version expanding on this extensive range. Check it out here.
4. Lick of the Day
If you’re looking for something a little on the lighter side for improving your guitar skills then Lick of the Day could be right up your street. The app features thousands of mini-lessons where you’ll be learning licks in the style of different players, and not their exact licks, which I think is a good thing if you’re looking to understand what goes into a certain player’s style, and where they’re coming from theory-wise. I’m a big fan of learning licks in this fashion, rather than just copping them note for note, as it provides you with the creative impetus for coming up with your own stuff. Both the videos and the instructors are high quality, and everything is tabbed out with multiple camera angles. Check it out here.
Okay, I’ll admit it, this is not really a guitar app so to speak, but one of the most interesting possibilities about iPad and indeed tablet technologies is the ability to go beyond physical instruments and come up with something new, which is what Dream Theater keyboard player Jordan Rudess and Wizdom Music have done with Tachyon.
Tachyon takes advantage of the touch-screen interface to create an app where you can blend the sound of various instruments in what is a step beyond those touch keyboard and guitar apps. It’s kind of a synth and a sampler but don’t be put off as it’s actually very easy to use, being one of those apps where a three-year-old as well as an experienced musician could both get a lot out of it. Sounds are placed into layers, a bottom layer and top layer, which are then blended to form the resulting new sound. It’s an interesting concept, and one well-worth trying out for the pocket-money price tag. Check it out here.
At the end of the day if these apps don’t quite float your boat, you can always go old school.