Musicians and Apple products go together like viruses and Windows: where there’s one, you’ll find the other. It’s no surprise then that there are a ton of really high quality iOS apps for music lovers.
Today we’ll be looking at a couple of apps that will help you tune your guitar in addition to a whole lot of other cool stuff. If you own a guitar and an iPhone, you won’t want to miss this one!
If you don’t want to spend any money and just need a basic tuner, Gibson’s app is the place to start. The interface is beautiful and tops just about all of the other free tuner apps out there.
Though the app has many functions, the tuner is the first tool you see. Gibson provides you with two different modes that you can use to tune your guitar (show below).
The first is a nice chromatic tuner with an awesome faux-analog theme. As you pluck a string, the needle jumps back and forth exactly like the tuner in your guitar case. Simply line the needle up in the middle to tune the string. If you’re used to using a real tuner, you probably won’t ever want to leave chromatic tuning mode.
The second mode is simpler and just utilizes a sharp or flat indicator on an illustration of the head of a guitar. If you activate the sound, you can tap on any of the tuners to hear the note. This allows you to tune by ear if you prefer that method over trusting the tuning software.
In the options for the tuner you can choose between “all notes” to tune any string to any note, or choose a preset from a large list of popular tunings including Drop D and Open G.
Even though this is only a free app, Gibson certainly wasn’t cheap about the features; it’s actually much more than a tuner.
The first button on the bottom after the tuner will bring you to a metronome. Again we see a really nice interface that emulates physical controls. When you hit the “Start” button the bar at the top slides back and forth at the designated tempo and makes a noise for every beat. The first note is deeper than the rest so you can easily distinguish where you are in the sequence.
To change the BPM (beats per minute), simply slide the big knob in the middle or tap a tempo on the button at the top. You can also change the time signature and mute the sound.
Next up is a chord chart shown on a zoomed-in portion of the guitar’s neck. All the necessary indicators are present including fret numbers, finger positions and numbering, open strings, and strings that aren’t played.
The screen on the right below shows the list of chords that you get to choose from. Several alternate versions are included for each chord (m, m7, 7, and sus), simply scroll down the list to find the one you’re looking for and tap to see it on the neck.
Unfortunately, you can’t actually hear a sample of the chord but hey that’s what your guitar is for right?
It seems some of the logic behind releasing the app for free is so Gibson can advertise its “Learn and Master Guitar” program. The app actually comes with a number of sample videos for you to check out the series.
Despite owning the app for quite a while, I had never actually taken a look at any of these videos until I sat down to write this article. I thought that they would be short video clips that lasted only a minute or two but it turns out these are full blown 20-45 minute lessons! There is a lot of solid theory here for beginners all the way through to advanced players. Be sure to check out the jazz guitar lesson, it’s packed with great tips.
The final feature here is a mobile version of the Gibson website. There are quite a few things to check out including instrument prices, articles, news and more.
GuitarToolkit is so similar to the Gibson app it feels like more of a major upgrade than a completely different application. Because of its impressively beefed up feature set, GuitarToolkit will set you back $9.99.
The chromatic tuner works just like in the previous app but feels tighter and has more visual indicators for how close you are to the center. As you can see below, there are also a couple of different styles for you to choose from.
As you can see, GuitarToolkit has stunning interface that’s definitely not short on visual flair. At this point, it doesn’t seem too different than the previous app but the other features are where your money is really being put to use.
On the surface, GT’s metronome seems almost exactly like that of the Gibson app. You set the BPM by either tapping or turning the knob and the little arched indicator goes back and forth to the beat.
Underneath, there’s a lot more going on. For starters, you have a ton more time signatures to choose from, including 5/4, 6/8, and even 7/8 (if you frequently play in 5/4 and 7/8, you’re better than me). You also have a bunch of different sound effects to choose from and can enable a visual flash for those times when the music is too loud to hear your phone.
Fretboard and Chords
The features that really shine in this app are the fretboard and chord diagrams. The fretboard shows you interactive scales that go all the way up and down the neck. Tapping on a note will play it for you and you can switch between all the popular scales (major, minor, pentatonic, etc.).
The chord charts here blow away that of the previous app. Not only can you play and hear each chord but you can move it up and down the neck to see alternative voicings.
Both of these features are awesome for advanced players who don’t really need a standard chord chart but can really take advantage of the additional scales and chord forms.
As a bonus, you can change the guitar to left-handed or switch to a 12-string guitar or four string bass.
If you like GuitarToolkit, be sure to check out Ampkit, an awesome free amp modeling app from the same developer.
Other Guitar Tuners
The two apps above are definitely my picks if you’re in the market for a tuner. The second app might seem a bit pricey but when you consider that a music store can easily charge you $20 or more for a tuner, getting that plus a whole bunch of advanced features for $9.99 is a pretty good deal.
Below are a few more tuners that seemed worth mentioning. If you don’t like the apps above, give one of these a shot. I particularly like the simplicity of tun-d.
“With support for custom temperaments, transposition, notations such as solfège, adjustable calibration and more, Cleartune packs more power than most pro tuners, yet is simple enough for everyone to use. Cleartune can tune acoustic or electric guitar, bass, bowed strings, woodwinds, brass, piano, tympani, tablas and any other instrument that can sustain a tone.”
“A dead simple, rock solid guitar and stringed instrument tuner. You will love it’s hands free operation and its big, bright and stable display. There is no fluff in this app, just the best and easiest to use electronic tuner available for the iPhone. Standard, chromatic and alternate tuning presets for guitar. Also presets for banjo, ukulele, mandolin, violin, viola, cello and more.”
“Stay in tune with this chromatic tuner and pitch pipe for your musical instrument. It tunes not only with guitars, bass guitars, and banjos, but also many other instruments and even with your voice. (Just sing into it!) The tuner works with the built-in microphone on the iPhone, and with any audio that comes in from an external source, such as the microphone on a headset, on the iPhone and iPod touch second generation. The built-in pitch pipe lets you play a reference tone for tuning by ear. ”
“Exclusively featuring StopperStimmung™ (1988), a slightly stretched tuning, which comes to meet more the musical intuition, than this is able with the conventional tuning: By the tunings recently discovered stunning structural symmetry, you can develop an amazing and clear sound on your instrument in chord playing through taking place of symmetrical beat reduction.”
Yep, you read that right, this one costs a whopping $99.99! Why does it cost so much more than other tuning apps? I haven’t the slightest clue, nor do I really understand the description above, but I definitely couldn’t leave this one out!
How Do You Get In Tune?
I looked at just about every guitar tuner there is on the app store and I have to say, this specific category is filled primarily with junk. The apps above represent the few gems that I pulled out of the mess, now it’s your turn.
Leave a comment below and let us know about your favorite tuner app. Also let us know which of the apps above you like best and help educate me on why I should drop $100 for the last one.