Guitar! Brings Singers and Musicians Together

Guitar!, a new mobile music game from accomplished iOS app powerhouse Smule offers the musically inclined mobile gamer a new twist on the virtual virtuoso theme. Playing along with popular hits using the iPhone (or iPad and iPod Touch — Guitar! is a universal app) touchscreen isn’t revolutionary.

Many past apps, including some of Smule’s own (Ocarina, anyone?) have been built around this functionality. But Guitar! stands out from the crowd, because it offers another layer of interactivity. Let’s dig into it after the jump. 

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The Beginning

The recently launched app features a (for now) limited songbook, one which includes both classic and recent pop hits. But these instrumentals aren’t just instrumental, nor are they simply album versions of the songs in question.

Great for people who love guitar's!

Great for people who love guitar’s!

The player gets to choose a vocalist — male or female — and the vocals are pulled from participants in one of Smule’s other mobile music games, Sing!. The Guitar player essentially gets to choose another real person to “collaborate” with. Which isn’t to say, of course, that Jason Mraz isn’t a real person, but knowing that the singer is someone else who picked up a musical app to have fun with is a different type of experience.

Feel like Jason Mraz with this app!

Feel like Jason Mraz with this app!

Gameplay

This unexpected artistic intimacy is Guitar’s main selling point, but the app has more going for it than a creative gimmick. Smule’s got a few successful apps in the marketplace and they’re learning from experience.

Guitar has one of the best, most intuitive, aesthetically pleasing interfaces in a mobile music game available.  There’s no neon lights or sparkles here; a muted main interface is simple to navigate, while the in-game accompaniment of gently glowing bars and dots (indicating whether the player should tap or strum a string) lets one concentrate on the music and thoroughly enjoy the gameplay experience.

Some great hits at the tip of your fingertips!

Some great hits at the tip of your fingertips!

It’s an unexpectedly mature app — unexpected because the overstimulating nature of that other guitar playing app seems to be so common amongst iTunes offerings. New songs are unlocked using “coins” earned by practicing ones the player already has access to, a straightforward and intuitive process that doesn’t feel like a grind.

The amateur vocals gleaned from Sing! might be voices most people haven’t heard before, but they’ve been chosen for their talent; this little detail lends surprising freshness to songs one has probably heard a thousand times before. If there’s any complaint to be made about Guitar, it’s simply that the songbook is too slim.

Interface & Functionality

The devs have commented that the initial songbook was limited in order to guarantee a positive gameplay experience for most players and that more will be incoming — here’s hoping that’s true!

Guitar may be lacking a lengthy songbook at the moment, but that doesn’t mean it’s short on gameplay time, even at this stage. The songs selected — “When I Was Your Man” (Bruno Mars), “I Won’t Give Up” (Jason Mraz), “Bubbly” (Colbie Caillat), “Stand By Me” (Ben E. King), “I’m Yours” (Jason Mraz), “Your Song” (Elton John), “The A Team” (Ed Sheeran), “Home” (Phillip Phillips), “Hallelujah” (Leonard Cohen), “Lucky” (Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat), and “Amazing Grace” represent a wide swath of playing styles to experiment with.

Practice makes perfect! (iPad version shown)

Practice makes perfect! (iPad version shown)

They’re also not easily mastered in the most difficult play mode (there are three to choose from). And, in addition to unlocking more songs (and the promise of future additions), there are different guitars to unlock. Players have immediate access to a traditional, acoustic style of play; they can use their coins to unlock the “electric” and “rock” guitars.

There’s also a freestyle mode of play — sans a predetermined song — which is endlessly fun. The freestyle mode is especially helpful for practicing little extra flourishes the player wants to incorporate into the songs provided by the songbook.

Design & Performance

As with Smule’s other music apps, Guitar offers some incredibly realistic options to enhance the experience of playing music. You can, for example, add vibrato effects by shaking the phone, emphasize with strum speed and so on.

As one would expect with a dev team experienced in musical apps, Guitar! lacks nothing in the auditory department. Both the background music and vocals are crisp and clear, excellent ear candy.

The player’s notes sync beautifully with the touchscreen gestures used to activate the strings. All in all, Guitar! is a treat for the eyes and the ears and an enjoyable exercise in hand eye coordination.

Closing Thoughts

Smule’s Guitar is an innovative social music experience, and it truly offers a great deal that other musical mobile games in the iTunes App Store just don’t have.

The app could use some improvement — a way to network with friends to combine their specific vocals with one’s playing, and a larger song book — but it’s off to a beautiful start. And there’s really no reason not to come along for the ride, since Smule’s Guitar is available now in iTunes and is absolutely free.


Summary

Smule’s Guitar! is an innovative social music experience, and it truly offers a great deal that other musical mobile games in the App Store just don’t have.

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