There are some apps that are simply the best-in-class for their category. Letterpress is the best word game available on the app store. Vine is still the best social video app, despite Instagram’s entry in the category. Reeder is the best RSS client for iPhone, and Limelight is the best social movie app available on the platform. That being said, there are some categories that are so filled with strong contenders it’s hard to find a best-in-class app for them.
I’ve been playing guitar for over a decade now, and if there’s one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty, it’s that there are more apps for guitar players in the App Store than we could ever cover at AppStorm. That being said, I’m certain I’ve got the best-in-class app for most guitarists’ needs with GuitarToolkit. Read on to find out what makes GuitarToolkit a must-have app for any aspiring string musician.
For More Than Just Guitarists
I’ve tried out a ton of different apps like this, and almost all of them are missing something. Sometimes, it’s simplicity. Other times, it’s functionality. But the reason it’s so hard to make an app like this work is because every mobile musician has different needs. GuitarToolkit takes on the inescapable challenge of trying to meet all of those needs.
I’ve used apps that only include a couple scales and a few in-app chords before requiring an in-app purchase to unlock the others, but Guitar ToolKit comes with pretty much everything you could ever need built in. The app does offer a one-time in-app purchase to unlock some advanced features including advanced metronomes, custom instruments and chord sheets, but it’s never in your face and most users won’t need it or even realize it’s there. Agile’s development respects users and places their needs first, even when it comes to in-app purchases, and I think that’s very admirable.
GutiarToolkit includes a tuner, scales, metronome, chords and support for several different instruments. Instead of just being about guitars as its name implies, it handles everything from 6 strings to 12, bass guitars, banjos, mandolins, ukuleles and even lefty instruments for every category.
It’s easy to swap instruments with just a couple taps, so one purchase could cover just about every person with a stringed instrument in your band, even the pretentious bassist who bought a six string bass. Any app that supports a band with banjos and mandolins gets extra points in today’s era of bad Mumford & Sons cover bands. All kidding aside, I know from my days of being in a rock band that having one accurate tuner every could use in my pocket all the time would have been a dream.
Speaking of tuners, the tuner that GuitarToolkit has included is rock solid. It’s not only the best tuner I’ve tried in the App Store, but it’s also possibly as accurate as my $20 Korg. Already, GuitarToolkit is more than making up for its $5 price. The tuner defaults to 440 Hz as expected, but allows the flexibility of changing the reference pitch to anything from 392 Hz to 528 Hz, which is absolutely insane.
A single tap lets you choose between preset tunings, of which there are more than enough for most people to get by, but the app also supports custom tunings for really creative players. The custom tuning isn’t just for the tuner, but it also changes the app’s visual scales, chords and arpeggios. This is an app that truly adapts to every player’s needs.
And Scales …
The built in scale and chord identifiers are truly fantastic. Selecting a scale you want to work with highlights a visual fretboard that illustrates every note within the scale. Tapping on a note allows you to hear how it sounds, and I have no doubt (unlike with some apps) that these midi notes are reference material.
What I’m most impressed with in the app are the advanced features within scales. You can choose different scale types, including Asian and Indian scales as well as classical and popular scales. With the tap of a button, you can take a look at arpeggios and choose from a huge list of reference material.
And I’m not kidding when I say huge. The app feels absolutely limitless in the number of scales and arpeggios you can look up. There are literally hundreds of scales and arpeggios for every single key you can imagine. This part of the app is more than a GuitarToolkit; it’s quite simply a music encyclopedia. It’s a reference user’s dream come true.
And Chords …
The app’s use of chords are also fantastic. It’s really easy to find the chord that you need, and you can see the fingering or the note identifiers for the scale with a quick tap. The app also lets you strum to hear how a chord sounds. But not only can you check out every chord in a scale (and all of its variations along the fretboard), but the app also supports chord identification.
If you’ve just played a really nice sounding chord, but don’t know what it is, you can tap the finger positions on the visual fretboard and the app will identify it for you. I can’t think of a handier tool if you’re putting together a song and want to know what chord will perfectly resolve to the next or where the chord you’ve just played will fit in within a song’s structure.
Not unlike scales and arpeggios, the amount of chords in the app is insane. For a $4.99 app, this thing is more than worth its weight in gold. There are more chords, scales and arpeggios here than I could ever dream of needing or even playing in my entire life.
… Oh My!
The app also includes a handy metronome that’s easy to use, but slightly antiquated. Instead of just punching in a number, you can to scroll through a dial to get to the tempo you need.
And that is literally my one complaint about the app. It feels like it comes from a different design era of Apple, one that looks all the more antiquated after iOS 7’s debut at WWDC a couple weeks ago. As it is, it’s easy to use despite its overwhelming power, and I can’t give it higher praise than that. But I also know it’s going to have to change to keep up with Apple’s newest design principles (and knowing the developers’ focus on updating the app, it probably will change).
But I’m not worried. Agile is a great developer. GuitarToolkit debuted on the App Store on day one, and they’ve consistently kept up with the times. Version 2.0 even made it a universal app for iPad owners as well. I can’t wait to see what they’ve got in store for the future, but I’m even more excited about its current capabilities. GuitarToolkit is, quite simply, a must-have for all guitarists, bassists and even mandolin players.