The Guitarist’s Bottomless Toolbox

Courtesy: Pozadia

There are almost 206,000 free apps on the mobile market today. Of the paid apps available, by far the highest percentage (about 27% or nearly 112,000 apps) are priced at $0.99. We are conditioned to expect cheap applications, so more expensive apps are often overlooked; after all, they are outside of our comfort zone. I know I never would have spent $10 on a guitar application just to add convenience to my play time if I hadn’t had the $100 Apple Store gift card that came with my newly purchased MacBook via a back to school promotion. Even with my surplus of app money, purchasing Agile Partners’ GuitarToolkit felt strange. Would it really work better than the dozens of similar $1-2 apps on the market? After having and using the app for several months, the answer is indefinitely yes. GuitarToolkit simply contains enough content to deter me from looking elsewhere for any of my mobile music tool needs, and with a wealth of useful, user-friendly features, it could potentially revolutionize the way guitar players learn, practice, and play.

The app is essentially divided into three separate interfaces: the tuner, the metronome, and the fretboard. The combination of all these separate tools makes GuitarToolkit a worthy investment, if just for the breadth of content. The tuner is exactly what one would expect and yearn for from a high end music application: it is an impressively accurate guitar tuner that utilizes the iPhone’s microphone, a dream come true for every guitarist on the go. Most tuners go for $20 – $40 on their own, and while this application can’t quite match the exactness of a dedicated tuner, it more than compensates with portability, price, and convenience. The usefulness of this feature cannot be understated. You could pick up an old acoustic at a friend’s house and have it singing in no time, or make quick on-stage adjustments with your tuner tucked away backstage: this app makes the guitar tuner a constant companion.

GuitarToolkit 2.0 interface on iPhone

The metronome is a simple yet nonetheless integral function of the app. The interface shows a slider to control tempo and a swinging bar visually representing the beat of the metronome. An in depth information menu allows the user to adjust different click sounds and play with a variety of time signatures, from standard fare to more complex syncopated rhythms. Similar to the tuner, GuitarToolkit’s metronome makes practice possibilities immediate and convenient, another boon for every guitar player who doesn’t constantly carry around their gear.

By far the most interesting feature of GuitarToolkit is the fretboard interface. Appearing in the chords and scales tabs at the bottom of the app, the fully rendered guitar fretboard allows users to interact with notes in a seemingly limitless collection of modes and keys. An easy slider feature allows guitarists to select what key and scale they desire, and the notes appear on the fretboard. A similar slider allows users to browse GuitarToolkit’s chord library, showing the finger positions for every commonly known variation of every chord. You can even strum a finger across the strings to hear the chord ring out. And for those with more exotic instrumental preferences, the fretboard can be changed to a number of other string instruments including bass, banjo, or mandolin to see the chords and scales represented in alternate instruments, and the tuning of the instrument can be changed.

Although the features are incredible, this interface is not without flaws. Trying to zoom in and out or move around the fretboard is clumsy, and near impossible to do without hitting the strings and hearing random synthesized notes play out. A zoom slider or more space to the sides of the fretboard could make this difficulty a thing of the past, yet no update has addressed the issue. Although a small inconvenience, problems like this should be fixed promptly with such a high end app. Still, the fretboard resources are invaluable for jamming and theory practice.

Generally speaking, this app is the most comprehensive assembly of guitar resources available on the app market today. Agile Partners have established themselves as the premiere developers for guitar applications for Apple products, from amp modeling on the iPad to guitar tabs and everything in between, and this app is a testament to that statement. In fact, there seems to be very little missing from the feature-rich GuitarToolkit. Even so, a new 2.0 update released on December 15th, 2011 recently added a wealth of tweaks and feature improvements, including the addition of a capo option for the scales and chords, so Agile Partners’ commitment to support and improve the application is clear. Users who crave even more can spend another $5 to upgrade to a “plus” version of GuitarToolkit featuring a full drum machine, interactive organizational chord sheets, and custom instrument modeling, so it really seems like no stone has been left unturned in the world of guitar-playing resources. If you play guitar, you need this app. It is not only one of the best music apps available, it is overall one of the biggest steps in the merging of musicianship and mobile technology in recent memory.

Unfortunately for Android users, GuitarToolkit is for iOS only.


Image Source: Pozadia

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