Entries in guitar (37)
If you create music on or via your iPad, you need to know about some of the very cool stuff announced at the Winter NAMM Show that has taken place over the last few days in California.
There is a lot to get excited about as always, so in the next few posts we are going to highlight some of the shiny new tech announced for your iPad.
As anyone who has tried it knows, switching settings or presets in the middle of a song using any of the iPad guitar FX sims is pretty tricky and worst of all, it means taking your hands off the guitar which usually requires adapting the way you play the song to allow time for poking at the touch screen.
Foot controllers are the natural solution to this problem and this is not the first Bluetooth foot controller for iOS we have seen, but it might be the nicest looking.
The BlueBoard ($99.99 / €79.99) is a wireless MIDI controller (so it should work with most MIDI apps you have on your iPad. It is advertised as working up to about 30ft away from your main iPad rig, so you could set it up on the other side of the stage for those spotlight solos whilst retaining some control over your virtual pedal setup. It will also work with your iPhone/iPod Touch and your Mac if you have one.
Check out the video below and the web page for more details, suffice to say, we want one very badly!
iRig HD a 24-bit A/D convertor, with thumbwheel adjustable pre-amp on the device and digital noise reduction plus many other features, but what really stood out for us is that this device can be used with your Mac too via an interchangeable cable that features USB, 30-pin and Lightning dock connectors.
This is for us a brilliant feature that means purchasing less cables or audio devices for musicians who use both iOS and Computer based processing/recording apps.
We have yet to hear what it really sounds like, but we are really keen to find out and we will be looking out for some good samples in the near future.
More details again on the web page and in the video below:
We are always interested to hear what you think and what announced products you are looking forward to seeing (or maybe just adding to your wishlist). Let us know in the comments below.
The official trailer below shows what some of the equipment included in this special edition sounds like (we're loving the OctoBlue):
IK Multimedia are rightly proud to note that Slash apparently uses the iRig and the iPad / iPhone Amplitube app on the road to capture ideas and practice his riffs.
Check out this overview with Slash himself demoing the sounds:
What more can you want? At a fairly reasonable £6.99, we're off to the (in)app store now.
At some points in this video it is hard to believe you are listening to a guitar simulation, played on a touchscreen computer by YouTube user TelevatorMuzak (a.k.a. Francis). It's a track we are very fond of anyway, but we also think it is a remarkable demonstration of what can be done with the right know-how and a lot of musical talent.
We contacted Francis to find out about his musical interests, creating music using GarageBand and the improvements that version 1.2 brings.
iPad Creative: Tell us something about yourself and your love for music making.
Francis: I've been making music (or just mere 'sound like things' when I was younger!) as far back as I can remember, from banging pots and pans to finally, real instruments. Although I've been in bands, I'm not really a band guy. I mostly enjoy making solo post-rock music, like modern acoustic guitar fingerpicking and solo piano, and probably that's why I enjoy making music on the iPad.
iPad Creative: What do you think of GarageBand for the iPad?
Francis: Oh, I'm really stoked with the iPad GarageBand. I usually do recordings on DAWs but this app is just so liberating for me because the playable instruments are self-contained. I think Apple nailed it with their accelerometer velocity sensors. The instruments are remarkably expressive. One thing I didn't really like about other iOS music apps before GB was exactly this, everything sounded robotic and electronic (which may sound good with some genres) but Apple took it to the next level with the expressive range of the instruments. So now, I could sneak convincing recordings on the couch, at work, in my car, on the toilet, LOL, pretty much anywhere, without lugging around extra equipment. Granted, it's like learning new instruments altogether, but once you get the hang of, it's satisfying what you can create.
Again, I'm not a band kind of guy and I'm mesmerized by the idea of performers doing all the parts amazingly on their own despite the limitations of their instruments and that precisely what's so challenging but rewarding when working with the iPad GarageBand app.
iPad Creative: And your take on the improvements that arrived with version 1.2?
Francis: I think it's great they took it to another level. The note editor opens it up further for everyone, all you need is a good ear. I'm glad I could transpose notes now especially with the guitar sound since in the old version, it was a bit limited in range.
It's also convenient for tweaking the parts a bit. You don't have to nail each riff each time. You could just go in and shift a few notes in time and pitch if you mess up. But as with any synthetic music, there's a danger of sounding too synthetic, so real-time expression is still important if you're aiming for that sort of thing. I think Apple provided iPad GB with ample expressive tools to make your songs subtly nuanced.
iPad Creative: Besides GarageBand, what other iPad apps excite you, for music creation or otherwise?
Francis: Pretty much any app that will take the leap from the desktop to the tablet excites me. I like how Apple keeps the iPad versions of their software clean and simple so as not to take away from their more powerful desktop versions. They're more like spontaneous sketchpads than real workstations but, of course, that might change in the near future.
Francis has something very interesting in the pipeline, we'll bring you more news soon. In the meantime listen to this stunning cover again, particularly the last couple of minutes. Just think, this was produced on a computer that some people claimed would be the death of creativity. Fortunately, that argument has been well and truly quashed.
Further reading: TelevatorMuzak
In honour of the AmpKit Retina graphics update we mentioned earlier today and the limited time 50% off AmpKit+, we thought it would be fun to find a few tracks on SoundCloud that have been made with AmpKit. Hopefully it will give you an idea of some of the sounds you can re-create in Agile Partners' authentic sounding amp sim.
AmpKit comes with SoundCloud export built right in to the app so it is very quick and easy to share your riff, chorus or even whole song idea with the world. It is also possible to import a backing track or drum loop and play over it in AmpKit, or you can use one of the provided loops complete with bass and rhythm guitars.
There isn't any punch-in type of recording in AmpKit itself though, so you often end up with imperfect one-off takes or maybe the third, fourth, fifth (you get the idea) attempt being shared to SoundCloud.
With that in mind, we have selected three different samples that demonstrate just a few of the many different types of sound you can get from AmpKit.
'Ready Set Jam' by TheRedDash
"Messing around with some Drum back tracking" is how this track is described by Dash from New York, but it features the rich, well sustained Rock sound that you can conjure up in AmpKit without too much effort and reliably every time. We liked the tight, compressed rhythm style at the start too.
'Duckie Dux' by toño châvez
A tongue-in-cheek title for this track but toño demonstrates very nicely the auto-wah pedal sound here, which is actually quite difficult to get right in our experience.
'Strat Your Stuff' by shred_777
We have featured Timothy Khalil's (a.k.a. shred_777) work once before, but we liked the funky Blues sound of this track a lot and it provides us with a sample of the Stevie Ray type of tone that makes us so happy. Nice one Timothy!
Just three short samples of the sounds you can create with AmpKit on your iOS device.
Good enough for a Commerical album
Of course, if you want to take it to the ultimate level and incorporate AmpKit as your main guitar amplification for commercial productions, you can do that too, as perfectly demonstrated by One Like Son in our bonus track below. To find out more about their album made entirely on an iPhone 3GS be sure to read our post.
Over to you
We hope you enjoyed listening to our AmpKit made picks this week, but as always, we want to hear from you too whatever iOS app you use. If you have your own iOS created sounds (preferably with the iPad, but not essential) here's how you can get them to us:
- Join our iPad Creative SoundCloud group then click on the 'Share a Track' button on the group page
- If you're on a computer, click 'Send us your sounds' at top of the sidebar --->
- Leave us a link to your track on SoundCloud in the comments below
We're looking forward to hearing you soon.
Agile Partners have updated their sonically amazing guitar amp sim AmpKit with new Retina Graphics and it looks gorgeous.
We think they are (at least one of) the first guitar sim app makers to update their in-app graphics for the new iPad's Retina display.
It isn't anything that really affects the every day use of the app of course, but it is a lot nicer to look at and makes the amp controls especially a whole lot clearer.
As we are interested in how Developers are updating their apps, we took a series of screenshots from AmpKit+ before we upgraded so that you can compare them.
It's hard to see in these scaled down versions but if you look closeley you should see the added clarity and detail on the amp controls and stomp pedal graphics in the gallery below.
With the release of AmpKit+ 1.3 Agile Partners have also added 3 new pieces of kit and bass players get a little love. From the Press Release:
Trace Elliot 1215
For the first time, a world class, full-featured bass amp and cabinet for iOS bass players.
Rocktron Metal Planet Distortion
A versatile, true heavy metal distortion pedal - not for the faint of heart
Rocktron HUSH Noise Reduction
If you aren't using HUSH, you aren't using real noise reduction for guitar.
In addition to the updates mentioned above, the purchase price for AmpKit+ has been halved to $9.99/£6.99 and the 3 pieces of new gear have between 33% and 40% off for a limited time.
If you haven't pulled the trigger on that AmpKit+ purchase yet, now is the time to do it, it is well worth it for the savings you make over individual gear purchase prices.
Now is the time to grab StudioTrack for iPad from Sonoma WireWorks if you haven't got it already!
This functionality was previously only available via Sonoma's FourTrack iPhone app. This is the app we had to use when reviewing GuitarJack 2 last month, which was less than optimal running on our iPad at 2x.
Now we can enjoy StudioTrack's 8 recording tracks along with this integration, we are very happy.
If you have been holding off on purchasing GuitarJack 2 for your iPad, this update will definitely improve your experience of using it.
We can't recommend GuitarJack 2 highly enough, it continues to impress as much as it did when we reviewed it, even more to be honest.
Non-Retina but great price
Although StudioTrack's UI has not yet been fully updated for the new iPad's 'Retina' display, it is good to see the updated version (1.5) being offered with a 50% discount at just $9.99/£6.99 for a limited time.
If you have already invested in IK Multimedia's iRig device and you've had the same problem we have managing devices and cables dangling off your iPad, you may be interested to hear about the new iKlip Studio.
Announced at this year's Winter NAMM and priced at a very reasonable $29.99, this adjustable iPad stand also folds flat for storage and importantly incorporates a little holder for your iRig, which then clips onto the back of the iKlip Studio.
We haven't seen it in the flesh yet but it looks fairly sturdy and we think it's a great idea that will potentially solve one of our main annoyances about using the iRig with our iPad.
Here's a little taster video from IK Multimedia about the iKlip Studio's general features - let us know what you think in the comments:
It is probably very wrong to get so excited about an iPad accessory before we have even seen it, but we felt the same way about the iO Dock from Alesis and their new AmpDock, designed specifically for guitar and bass players, has got us in a stupor again.
Basically a slightly cut down version of their iO Dock, Alesis have made the AmpDock more robust for live use. AmpDock features an enclosing cover on the fourth side so that you iPad isn't exposed on the top edge, as it was on the iO Dock.
There's also a handy little kickstand on the back to angle the AmpDock when it is sat on top of your amp and to allow clearance of the amp's handle. If you have ever tried balancing your iPad on top of your amp you'll know how useful and reassuring this feature will be.
But the main thing that got us excited was the inclusion of a pedalboard controller in the $299 price!
This is a great boon and means that, for the iPad-owning musician, AmpDock is ready to rock (or not, depending on your guitar style) out of the box without any further expenditure.
More details and specs below, after the teaser video from Alesis:
AmpDock Key Features
- The first professional guitar processor to use your iPad or iPad 2 for signal processing
- Works with GarageBand, AmpliTube, JamUp, and virtually any audio or CoreMIDI app
- Includes a rugged pedalboard controller with program, effect, bypass, volume and continuous controls
- Guitar Input 1 and switchable Mic/Line/Guitar Input 2; professional outputs, and MIDI jacks
- Kickstand allows for stable positioning on top of guitar amps
- Hinged door completely encloses and secures your iPad
- Mountable to a mic stand using the Alesis Module Mount (sold separately)
- 1/4" high-impedance guitar input and combo input for microphone, second guitar, or another instrument
- 1/4" outputs with Guitar/Line impedance switch
- Stereo auxiliary outputs for connection to external effects
- Two assignable endless knobs to control parameters in compatible apps
- Analog Input 1, Input 2, Main, and Headphone volume controls
- MIDI input and outputs and USB MIDI jack for use with other controllers and MIDI software or hardware
- (1) - High Impedance Guitar Input
- (1) - XLR/ 1/4" Combo Jack for switchable for Guitar, Line Level, and Phantom Power
- (2) - 1/4" unbalanced Auxiliary Outputs
- (2) - 1/4" balanced Outputs (1) - 1/4" Stereo Headphone Output
- Ground Lift Switch
- Class Compliant USB 1.1 and 5-pin DIN MIDI I/O
- True Bypass
After surprisingly little begging on our part, the nice people at Sonoma Wire Works in California agreed to send one of their GuitarJack 2 review models over to the UK for us to take a look at.
Of course, we agreed to let you know what we thought of it in return, and as always we have written our review just as we found it, in 'real world' situations we would use the device in, so here goes.
We expect by now you already know what the GuitarJack 2 is, but its main purpose is to provide you with the best sounding, cleanest audio input into your iOS device, specifically the iPhone 4, iPad 2, iPad, and iPod touch (not 1st gen.).
Here's a little video showing the GuitarJack 2 in action:
First Impressions - Construction
Our first observation? This thing is built like a tank!
All the other interfaces we've laid our hands on have been made of plastic of some sort. They seemed fairly substantial but one was certainly flimsy enough that if it were left on the floor it would not withstand the impact from a misplaced boot.
GuitarJack 2, on the other hand, has an aluminium shell and a heft to it that makes us think it could easily withstand a stomping from our 'gig boots' (we haven't tried it because we do have to send it back). It is a big chunk of made-in-America metal.
This solid shell is backed up by the very welcome metal jack sockets for a ¼" guitar/instrument cable, an ⅛" headphone jack (with increased drive for monitoring with headphones) and on the other side an ⅛" stereo microphone/line in.
The ¼" input is a solid brass Switchcraft jack, which we think is a good thing. In fact it is so solid that removing our guitar cable from this jack often involved inadvertently disconnecting the GuitarJack 2 from the device's dock connector.
About the Dock Connector
The one thing that we have found with most dock connecting devices, including Apple's own Camera Connection Kit, is that it is very easy to knock the 30 pin connector loose and it remains a problem in a busy recording setup even with GuitarJack 2.
This connector issue also means that GuitarJack is not best hung off your device with cables connected to each jack, whether in portrait or landscape mode. The weight is liable to pull the interface away from the dock.
Sonoma have obviously thought about this though and you will find four little rubber feet on the bottom of the unit which give it some grip on a desk surface when your device is laid flat on its back, as in the product shot with the iPad (above) and iPhone (below).
They also suggest using a dock extender cable, even offering a $26 one for sale on their site, but we managed to pick one up on Amazon (UK) for under £5 (pictured above) that has full charging and syncing capabilities. It is this cable that we used when recording all the samples below and it never came loose.
Some info and hardware specs
Before we get into how the GuitarJack 2 sounds, here are a few specs from Sonoma Wire Works for the techies in our audience:
- 1/4 inch (6.5 mm) instrument input
- 1/8 inch (3.5 mm) stereo mic/line input
- 1/8 inch (3.5 mm) stereo headphone/line output with increased drive for headphones
- Dock connector designed for use without removing most cases
- Device powered for ultimate portability - requires no batteries or power adapter
- GuitarJack Model 2 includes a 24-bit AD/DA Converter, however only 16-bit audio playback and recording is currently possible until a firmware update becomes available.
- Sleek and rugged aluminum shell
(Control Panel in GuitarTone, FourTrack, StudioTrack & TaylorEQ)
- Level Control: 60 dB of continuous level control
- Input Modes:
- Instrument (1/4 inch) - mono - Pad, Lo-Z or Hi-Z mode
- Mic/Line (1/8 inch) - mono, dual-mono or stereo - Pad, Normal or Boost mode
- Both inputs - Mic/Line input on the right channel and Instrument on the left channel
- Included Software:
We will be taking a look at the software integration in a future post. For this review we will be concentrating on the GuitarJack 2 hardware and its sound.
So what does it sound like?
We know, by now you're probably thinking, "This is all very good, but what does it actually sound like?", so let's get to that.
For a device costing this much, it better be good right?
Well, we have to say, it is!
GuitarJack 2 is by far the cleanest audio input device we have tested. Noise is non-existent in all but the highest of gain settings and even then you have to turn the volume up very high to know it's there.
Audio from a microphone is clear and totally devoid of noise. Sound recorded from another audio device (in our test the audio from an iPad's headphone socket) sounds just as good.
Guitar tones are crisp, clear and well balanced. Even with high-gain, distortion loaded, fuzz-maven settings in AmpKit+, there was an obvious lack of feedback.
We ran plenty of sound tests and we recorded our general observations and a few samples for you to hear below.
Compared to Headphone jack input devices
Our main concern was how the GuitarJack 2 would sound in comparison to audio input devices that used the iOS device's headphone jack.
We have always been a bit disappointed with the noise levels present in audio interfaces connecting via the headphone jack.
The iPad/iPhone audio circuitry always generates noise in our experience and, as such, we think devices like iRig Mic, etc., will continually be at a disadvantage because of this.
But let's see what GuitarJack 2 sounded like with a guitar.
We tried lots of different guitar apps and setups. GuitarJack 2 worked with everything we tried except Amplitube. IK Multimedia's apps just don't seem to detect an audio source via the dock connector, something we hope they rectify very soon.
We had been sent an A/B switch by Sonoma Wire Works too, which let's you input your guitar and split the output in two so that we could record on the iPad and iPhone at the same time. We used the amazing sounding AmpKit+ because it has both iPhone and iPad versions and we know it well.
After trying lots of distortion laden settings and comparing the GuitarJack 2 with iRig, AmpKit LiNK and the JamUp Plug, the biggest difference was the lack of screeching feedback using the dock connected device as compared to the headphone jack devices.
But it was when we stripped everything down to the cleanest amp settings we could in the AmpKit+ app, took away the noise gate and matched the settings on both the iPhone and iPad, that we finally understood how clean the signal was from GuitarJack 2 in comparison.
Here's a few sample recordings so you can judge for yourself. We used our A/B setup shown above to record the same audio onto two devices simultaneously. We recommend listening with headphones for a better comparison and don't worry, Phil doesn't have to rely on his guitar playing to make a living!
First up, clean as we can get it, using AmpKit LiNK:
and now using GuitarJack 2
It is the audio hiss that you can clearly hear from the device connected to the headphone jack (in this case the AmpKit LiNK) that sealed it for us. The GuitarJack 2 is far superior and offers the cleanest signal we have heard so far, even without a Noise Gate pedal.
This demo took us by surprise. When we were recording these we could only listen to one of the devices for monitoring (unless we wore two pairs of headphones, which seemed a bit weird).
So we chose to monitor our guitar through the GuitarJack 2 connected to the iPhone whilst recording. That sounded ok with this sample, noisier than we would normally use because of the high gain and lack of Noise Gate pedal, but acceptable:
Then later we listened to the version we had recorded via the AmpKit LiNK into the iPad. The feedback we heard here was not the nice tonal kind, but even using AmpKit's excellent re-amp feature afterward we had trouble dialling it out.
Here's how the same set-up, with the same 'Dynamically Dirty' preset, sounded through AmpKit LiNK, the headphone socket audio device that has arguably the best feedback prevention (warning: it's not very comfortable to listen to):
The difference is clear, we're sure you will agree. We haven't done anything with these sounds except trim the end bit off and export them from the apps used to record them.
As mentioned, GuitarJack 2 has an ⅛" stereo mic input with software controls to use mono, dual-mono or stereo input depending on whether or not you are using the ¼" input at the same.
When we used our old mono condenser mic (XLR to ¼" mono) we couldn't get it to work using both of the GuitarJack 2's inputs (for example vocals and guitar, or vocals and output from an iPad for video demos).
After playing with lots of of step-down/mono/stereo adapter combinations we gave up and ordered an XLR to stereo ⅛" cable that is bridged, so the mono signal is split into a left and right channel output. This worked wonderfully.
So how did the microphone sound? We compared GuitarJack 2's input to the nearest headphone jack competitor we had, the iRig Mic from IK Multimedia. This device also has three hardware switchable sensitivity settings, as does GuitarJack 2 (via the software control panel).
We wanted to specifically show you what the noise levels were like on each setting. We strongly recommend you listen with headphones to more effectively hear the comparisons.
First, the iRig Mic:
And here's our inexpensive mono condenser mic connected to the ⅛" stereo socket on GuitarJack 2:
Hopefully the difference is obvious, especially on the high sensitivity setting used at the end of our audio. GuitarJack 2's noise-free audio is clearly evident here in the second example.
Further testing underway
We are still conducting various 'real world' tests with GuitarJack 2, especially using dual inputs for videos of the iPad in action recorded on the iPhone 4, as well as the GuitarTone software that only works with FourTrack currently, but hopefully with StudioTrack on the iPad very soon.
As soon as we have more to show you we will let you know.
In our opinion, audio recorded via the GuitarJack 2 sounds better, cleaner, more dynamic and more reliably useable than that of any other audio interface we have used for iOS devices.
Much of this is due to the fact that GuitarJack 2 interfaces with the dock connector. But just as much of the GuitarJack 2's performance comes from the way it has been professionally engineered and optimised to work with both the hardware and especially the compatible software.
If, like us, you could not normally justify the $199 RRP cost of the GuitarJack 2, you can get away with devices like the ones we have mentioned above that connect via the iOS device's headphone socket. For many purposes these would probably be enough and are a fraction of the cost.
If, though, you are serious about your sound, if you want the best possible start and quality of audio recording that you can reasonably expect on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, then we think you should sell something else and/or scrape together the pennies to buy yourself the GuitarJack 2.
We are sure you'll consider it a worthwhile investment in your music and other audio productions.
GuitarJack 2 was still available for a discounted price of $149 from Sonoma Wire Works direct, at the time of writing and its online and street price may be around the same when the deal finishes. A quick Google search has the price at a fairly uniform £139 here in the UK.
Further reading: iRig vs AmpKit LiNK - which is better? Part 1 of 2
Further reading: iRig vs AmpKit LiNK - which is better? Part 2 of 2
We loved this boutique looking and great sounding app when we reviewed it back in November last year.
New in 1.3 are an "updated DSP engine, audio copy and paste, and 20+ new amps and effects available via in-app purchase.".
The new in-app purchases are obviously the big thing, but we are particularly excited to see support for ACP included in this update too.
If you're quick you can take advantage of a 50% discount on the new expansion packs, but for just one week only.
Go and grab your update.
App Store Link: JamUp Pro
IK Multimedia are throwing their considerable weight firmly behind the iOS platform with their latest round of product announcements ahead of this year's NAMM show, starting next week.
The first of these we wanted to tell you about is the iRig Mix. Here's the trailer video which got our heads in a spin with the sheer potential of this device for the mobile musician.
Be sure to watch through to the end to see the multitude of ways iRig Mix can be used.
Check out the iRig Mix page for more demo videos of the device in action and details.
Needless to say, we are very excited at the prospect of this new device, what do you think of it? Let us know in the comments.
As expected, the iPad is featuring heavily at CES, or rather, accessories for the iPad are popping up everywhere. SlashGear and Engadget both reported this morning on the soon-to-be-released Guitar Apprentice from ION Audio (the people that brought us the iCade and Piano Apprentice for iPad).
The idea is that keys on the $99 fretboard light up, teaching you how to play guitar and perhaps also enabling guitar games. The potential is there for this accessory to be used by iPad musicians with CoreMIDI compatible apps to play an iPad synth app for example in an iBand.
We think it is a fun and creative idea for those who already have an iPad, but if you are really looking to learn guitar, we think you should get a starter electric or acoustic guitar and, if you have an iPad, get the brilliant WildChords app by Ovelin. You'll do a much better job of learning to play real guitar that way.
For the next 4 weeks Positive Grid are giving away a copy of the JamUp Pro app along with their specially made for iOS hardware plug, which we really like.
All you have to do is leave your name and email address on the giveaway page and you are entered for all 4 weeks of the giveaway.
Nothing to lose and well worth winning!
Have you ever tried learning guitar? How far did you get?
If you're like a lot of people you probably learnt a few chords, maybe even a few songs, but never really got any better and you lost motivation. If you took guitar lessons you may have a had a guitar teacher who struggled to engage you and made learning guitar a chore, not fun.
Using a gaming approach, combined with a carefully ramped learning curve, cute cartoon graphics and bespoke, fun sounding songs to play along with, we think WildChords has a good chance at succeeding.
We were in on the beta program for this app and we have seen it develop a great deal from the early versions but the core idea of the app has remained the same: to make it fun to learn.
Here's a promo video made for WildChords that shows off the quirky European sense of humour that we love.
As you will have seen in the video above, the idea behind the game is that a lot of animals have escaped from a nearby zoo and are now terrorising the locals.
You play our brave guitar hero, who takes to the streets armed with the knowledge that the escaped animals can be corralled pied-piper like by playing the corresponding chord. A for Apes, C for Crocodiles, E for Elephants, and so on.
As each new chord is introduced there is a little tutorial showing you how to play the chord and where each finger should go.
The iPad's built-in microphone picks up how well you play the chord and lights up the string for each note that is sounded correctly.
Once you have started getting used to playing the chords and as you move up through the levels you get to move on and play individual notes. The cartoon-like graphics continue here, with cute little birds sitting on telegraph wires, getting zapped if you don't play the notes correctly.
Somehow, you are suspended from a bunch of balloons, guitar in hand and you have to play the fret and string indicated or the birds get it! As the stages progress it gets trickier, requiring quite a bit of concentration.
Even though we've played guitar before, we found ourselves sweating a bit and getting quite tense on these levels.
What's it like to play?
WildChords really is a lot of fun to play and at the same time quite challenging. Each time you strum a chord it has to ring out correctly and you have to hit the timing bang on if you want to do well.
Far from being the trudging, demotivating type of lesson that puts so many of us off learning to play an instrument, WildChords makes learning guitar fun and keeps you coming back for more.
Do you like collecting gold stars? We do!
WildChords rewards accuracy and timing with the oft-used three gold stars at the end of each level. Which is clever, because not getting three stars is annoying, especially when trying to learn a new skill, like playing guitar.
If you're determined to do this right, you'll want another go at the level, and another, until you get those three gold stars.
WildChords starts as a free download and this will get you a long way towards making more recognisable sounds from your guitar.
If you have completed all these initial tutorials you can extend your skills and buy further tutorial 'packs' which include new challenges and some new chords and even scales.
These packs are currently available as in-app purchases for just $2.99 (£1.99), which is not bad at all and a great deal cheaper than a single guitar lesson.
Even if you don't want to pay for the extra lessons, the WildChords app is a free download from the App Store, and we reckon you should go and get it.
If you do grab WildChords, don't forget to leave us a comment and let us know what you think.
With a few well established guitar effects apps such as AmpliTube and Ampkit already on the iOS scene, it might seem a bit overambitious to launch a new guitar effects app. Any new app would have to set itself apart and offer something the existing players do not.
So what does new effects app JamUp Pro from developer Positive Grid, offer?
Here's what Positive Grid's website has to say:
Up until now, the tone experience on iOS hasn’t really developed to give the full dimension and response of a mic’d up rig, and other solutions haven’t really provided the amazing user experience that guitar players should have on their iPad or iPhone. We decided to take this challenge head on to ensure JamUp truly re-creates the experience of playing through the most coveted guitar amps, and in some cases, way more fun.
Positive Grid's aim in developing the JamUp app (available in Lite and Pro versions) was to improve on current apps sonically. Really, although it's nice to have dials that go up to 11 and a lovely UI, in the end for guitarists it's all about their 'sound'
So, how does JamUp sound?
JamUp sounds great! We especially noticed a crispness on the more ramped up, distorted setups which was a very welcome find.
If you get the settings right (we had to pare back the humbuckers on our Epi Les Paul) the clean sounds are clear and resonant, sharp when they need to be and mellow with plenty of well rounded low end when dialled in.
Hybrid MESH Amp Modelling
This great sound comes from acute attention to detail in the amp modelling. In fact, Positive Grid have a whole page dedicated to describing the detail and parameters considered in their sound modelling.
Here's a little bit of what they have to say:
From the high level preamp and poweramp distortion, tone stack design, to the low level bright capacitor, blocking filter, cathode cap, power amp sag, and cabinet impedance interaction. We developed a unique MESH modeling technology, not only to capture the exact nuances of each amplifier in its killer setting, but also incorporated the dynamic performance of each model.
We could do no better than this demo video from Positive Grid's YouTube channel. Take a minute, grab a pair of headphones and listen to these sample run-throughs for a good range of sound demonstrations:
Both the AmpliTube and AmpKit apps have a jam function, as well as some other amp adds. So while this feature is not unique to JamUp we like the straightforward interface they use and the slightly beaten up, vintage UI is both clear and welcoming.
It's really easy to enter the Jam screen, load a song, set the tempo (0.5 for us usually), pitch and backing track volume and away you go. You can be jamming away sooner than it takes to read that last sentence out loud.
This is a brilliant tool to learn new songs and work out those riffs and solos that fox you when you hear them at normal speed.
The chromatic tuner continues the easy to use, vintage styling. It combines a lovely looking note wheel interface that helps you quickly identify the note you're playing, with a more accurate colour coded meter that helps you to fine tune your guitar.
It works well in practice and seems to be as accurate as any other iPad tuner we have used.
The effects chain in JamUp really impressed us because it is simple to access, simple to use and easy to change or modify the signal path. The drag and drop approach to adding and moving effects in the signal chain is the least complicated approach we've seen so far and works very well.
This all adds up to an effects interface that, while not as visually polished as AmpliTube for instance, offers a straightforward, accessible level of interaction that novices and more experienced players will appreciate.
We were also impressed with the quality of these effects pedals. They all performed as we expected them to, and some, like the Chorus, Flanger and Tremolo sounded cleaner and more authentic than other guitar effects apps we have tried.
Here's another video from Positive Grid, this time demonstrating the various effects found in JamUp Pro:
Sound-on-Sound Phrase Sampler
This one-man-band sampler and overdub feature is fantastic for working out song ideas, recording solo riffs over a rythm track or just trying out sounds. It works a lot like the recording / overdub function in the synth app Animoog if you have used it, but you can adjust the recording length here in JamUp Pro.
It would be nice if there was an undo available instead of the 'clear all' function for when you mess up an overdub, but it is still a useful and potentially powerful tool to have built-in.
Check out the video below for an idea of what can be done with this Sampler feature in the right hands (not ours!):
Whilst we have mentioned areas above of the JamUp Pro app that stand out to us particularly, there is more to the app. Here is a full spec list:
- 6 multi-stage hybrid amp models
- 6 matched convolution speaker emulation
- 14 studio-grade stomp box, racks and processors
- Supports up to 7 amp/effect simultaneously
- drag and drop signal path
- Sound-on-Sound phrase sampler
- iTunes Jam Player with loop, speed and pitch control
- Built-in chromatic tuner, metronome and 16 user presets
- Compatible with JamUp Plug, and most other adaptors, see the full list
Effects (JamUp Pro)
- Dunlop Fuzz Face
- Ibanez Tube Screamer
- Boss OD-2 Turbo Overdrive
- Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble
- Custom Flanger
- Mad Professor Mellow Yellow Tremolo
- MXR Phase 100
- Maestro Echoplex EP-2 Tape Delay
- Boss DD-7 Digital Delay
- Boss RV-5 Digital Reverb
- Fender Spring Reverb Unit
- MXR M-102 Dyna Comp Compressor
- Boss NF-1 Noise Gate
- Custom 4-band EQ
The Complete Package - JamUp Plug
In addition to the JamUp software, Positive grid have followed a similar pattern to IK Multimedia and Agile Partners/Peavy in releasing hardware to go with their app. The JamUp Plug is a little different though and we think it is a good thing.
Why this is a good thing
This dangles off of your iPad/iPhone limply and then has the guitar and headphone cables connected to that, which has caused us to inadvertently pull the iPad forward off its stand, not to mention the tangling problem.
Addressing this issue, the JamUp Plug fits directly in to the headphone/mic socket on top of your iPad, sitting flush against it, meaning less trailing cables to worry about.
This helps guide the guitar cable and your headphone cable down the edge of your iPad, as you can see above, and reduces cable tangle and clutter. In our opinion this is a big plus for the JamUp Plug.
The JamUp Plug is cheaper than most of its competitors at $19.99 from Amazon.com, but the construction feels a bit 'plasticky', especially the 1/4" instrument cable input which doesn't have the usual metal ring and guide channel, so we are not sure how this will hold up over time.
Having said that, we didn't experience any problems at all with the unit we reviewed so there is no reason to expect problems, we are just comparing the JamUp Plug with it's more robust looking fellow guitar interfaces.
You don't have to use the JamUp Plug with the JamUp app, but its price and lack of dangling cables would certainly recommend it.
The website states that JamUp App also supports most available iOS guitar adaptors:
- Positive Grid JamUp Plug
- Apogee JAM
- Alesis IO Dock
- IK Multimedia iRig
- Peavey AmpKit Link
- PocketLabWorks iRiffPort
If you are after an easily accessible, authentic sounding and feature packed guitar effects app with that vintage vibe, JamUp Pro is just your thing. We like using it a lot and at the moment it is our main guitar amp modelling app.
If you're not sure, there is a free version JamUp Lite available in the App Store which has just 1 Amp and 4 effects but a fully functional sound-on-sound sampler, jam player and tuner. You will easily get a feel for the app by trying out the Lite version.
This review was based on the JamUp Pro app, which is available for $19.99 in the App Store and gives you full access to every amp and effect available without the contentious in-app purchases.
We were amazed that 'Jimi Hendrix: The Complete Experience' is a free app but if you are a Jimi fan or want to know more about the guitar legend then go and grab it now.
The app is a good demonstration of interactive design and use of the touch interface. Here's what we thought of it after spending some time with the app.
Coffee Table Aspirations
Developed by Universal Mind for Sony Music Entertainment and Experience Hendrix LLC, Jimi Hendrix: The Complete Collection apes the coffee table book / reference apps that 955 Dreams make and which we are very fond of, but obviously with less depth (although, the developers Universal Mind do say in the iTunes description that more content will be added on an ongoing basis).
Discover New Content
For Jimi fans it is a fascinating read. We loved the really informative 'Early Days' section about Jimi's early life from childhood through to his time in the US Army. There are many things we never knew about Jimi and his life before he hit the public eye.
There are a lot of videos too with some rare footage and even a voice over from Jimi taken from the 'West Coast Seattle Boy' documentary, personal family photos from Jimi's childhood and some of the more familiar shots we have seen before. You will also find a Discography (with iTunes links), info on some of the big venues and festivals he played and interactive maps of significant sites in Jimi's life.
Music and iTunes
There is a constant music selection being played from the iTunes store previews (so just 30 seconds of each track) with 'Buy from iTunes' button displayed at the top right of your screen. This is obviously the model for providing this app for free.
It is actually quite good for picking up those odd tracks you don't already have in your library when you hear them being played, so we think it may work as a promotional app.
As a free app, despite the obvious promotional side of things, Jimi Hendrix: The Ultimate Experience offers a lot of content for those curious about the man and the story behind his tragically short life.
But it should get better, as the last page of the app says that in future versions there will be new storyline content and videos along with games, interactive chord sheets and more. If the app stays free this could be really good and we are looking forward to seeing what they include in the updates.
The free download of Jimi Hendrix: The Ultimate Experience is available now in the App Store.
When we raved about the professional quality audio samples in IK Multimedia's new SampleTank app (still 50% off until 13th November), we wanted to show you how good these sound, but to be honest we don't have the skills. Fortunately, IK do, and they have added a page of video demos showing just how amazing their SampleTank app sounds.
Sometimes, we are guilty of taking all this for granted but remember, this is all happening on a portable tablet device, a computer that you can take with you wherever you go and plug it in to any MIDI keyboard via things like the iRig MIDI. Future-tech of our childhood is here!
On with the Demos
We have included a few of our favourites video demos below, to see the rest check out the page at IK Multimedia. For now though, grab a pair of headphones and listen to the quality of these samples, we think you will be impressed.
The nylon guitar and Sax sounds in this one are amazing, they sound better than our real nylon guitar
Beautiful piano sounds in this one
Here's a short video that any guitarist will find interesting and it may even tempt you to replace that hefty amp that you're lugging around, at least for jamming round a friends house anyway.
YouTube user soaresgiu1 made this demo using IK Multimedia's iRig for the guitar input and iRig MIDI to connect the classic Boss GT-8 controller via the dock connector, both played through the new guitar fx app JamUp (our review is on it's way).
We think this set up has potential for playing live, what do you think?
Here's news of a new guitar fx app in town, and it looks and sounds very interesting. With its boutique looking UI for the pedals and amps, sampler with overdub, jam tools and more, JamUp has a few tricks up its sleeve that might just entice guitarists to take a look at it despite being amongst a fairly crowded corner of the iOS app store.
Developers Positive Grid have released two versions of the JamUp App, a Lite (Free) version and a Pro version at $19.99 (£13.99). Interestingly, they have also released a guitar interface called the JamUp Plug that retails at $39.99, using the headphone/mic socket of your iOS device like the iRig and AmpKit Link .
Positive Grid say that their focus was on the tone of the guitar amp simulations and they have tweaked the standard sound from the industry standard amps to come up with a tone that they claim is better than anything heard so far on iOS.
Hopefully we will be able to tell you more about it soon, but for now, you may be as impressed as we were with the demo below, the end product sounds pretty fantastic!
We were a bit sceptical before trying this on our iPad because many of these 'slow downer' type apps make the audio sound horrible, especially at the slowest speeds with clipping and stuttering.
In RiffMaster Pro for iPad though there is none of that. The audio quality is really fantastic. In fact, it is probably the best audio slow downer we have heard, on any platform.
We tried it out with two classic cover band songs, "Rebel, Rebel" by David Bowie and "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns N' Roses. Both songs, but especially the latter, have intros that thousands of young guitarists have spent many hours listening to over and over again to perfect their covers.
In both cases we were able to slow the song right down to 50% speed without losing any detail and retaining perfect pitch to play along with. Actually, the audio was so clear and we found it so fascinating to hear the individual notes and words being sung, that we started slowing down all our songs to hear how they were constructed.
You can choose to change the Pitch instead and keep the same tempo, which will help Guitarists and bands who tune down, as many do to get a bit more grunge in their sound.
Play that again
Setting up repeated sections is very easy and the waveform display is fast, accurate and responsive when scrubbing through the song. You can also mark certain points in the song, useful if you are learning a particular section and can see it coming up in the waveform display or add notes for the songs.
An essential purchase
If you are a Guitarist with an iPad and you want to learn songs by other artists, you need this app - simple as that really!
Here's a video preview from the Developers showing how the app works. Remember if you get this app to let us know what you think of it in the comments below.