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Entries in guitar (44)

WildChords for iPad - Guitar Tutor Meets Pied Piper

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.

WildChords icon

WildChords from Finnish developers Ovelin has been designed specifically to dispel these problems with learning guitar.

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.

The story

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.

Using a real guitar (acoustic or electric) you play the chords shown as our cartoon hero marches down the street. No plastic guitars allowed here! This is about learning to play guitar for real.

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.

Moving on

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.

Rewards

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.

More lessons

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.

JamUp Pro and JamUp Plug Review

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:

Jammin'

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.

Vintage Tuner

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.

Special FX

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!):

The Specs

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

The JamUp Plug shown here with iPhone 4

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

Although we love using both of them, what really annoys us about both the iRig and AmpKit LiNK is the trailing cable design they use.

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.

Construction

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

Final Thoughts

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 Love This Free Jimi Hendrix App

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.

Future Content

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.

Video: Stunning Audio Samples in SampleTank

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.

Future Tech

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

Lose That Hefty Old Guitar Amp

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  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?

New JamUp FX App and Guitar Interface for your iPad

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!

Guitarists will love RiffMaster Pro for iPad

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.

Sample songs

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!

RiffMaster Pro is available from the App Store for $4.99, which is a lot cheaper (although with less advanced features) than their Desktop versions.

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.

 

On the Music Path: Beautiful, Intimate and Effective

How would you like an intimate 1:1 guitar lesson from some of the top musicians in the business? In your own home!

With On the Music Path app, that is pretty much what you get. You can even say, “Hang on, slow down a bit and play that again”, as many times as you like without annoying your tutor.

If you want to improve your musicianship, appreciate high quality video and classy app design, we think you will love On the Music Path, and it is not just because our favourite actor/photographer/musician Jeff Bridges told us to.

Here’s Jeff to tell you more about the app. We'll give you our hands-on review after the video:

The Approach

As you can see in the video above, On the Music Path uses high production value video tutorials to teach a skill. We liked the teaching approach used in the videos. The guitar videos, for example, show both hands of the tutor on the guitar, all the way through the lesson, so you can see exactly what they are doing.

These videos are supplemented with onscreen guitar tabs (or optionally music notation) highlighting the notes being played with a little blue arrow above or below the Tab.

IMG 0359

Each lesson begins with a short introduction from your tutor where they demonstrate the skill your are going to learn, what will be covered and how it can be used. These introduction videos are very personal and although it may sound a little hokey, it really feels like they are talking directly to you. Try it and see.

You're In Control

You can control the speed of the video playback and even slow it right down to quarter speed whilst retaining the exact same pitch. Very useful if you need to break a riff or song down note by note.

There can be some strange sort of echo like stutter if you play the video at the slowest speed, but you have to expect this really from the audio and the notes are still clearly audible to play along with.

Another great feature is being able to set in and out points on the video so that you can loop and repeat a section that you are trying to learn, very handy. 

Once a video lesson is finished the app pauses with a screen that lets you tap once to carry on to the next part of the lesson, or double-tap to replay the last video. This seemingly small detail has a big impact when you are learning.

Instead of breaking your concentration, going back to a menu or rewinding a video, just double-tap to practice the skill again, and again. It is a very useful feature (one we had to use quite a lot!).

Your Tutors

This app is not for wannabee super shredders or death metal fans necessarily, not at the moment anyway. The style of music being taught and the manner of your instructors is relatively sedate with Blues and Folk style guitar playing being the current topics covered.

Some well known musicians have lent their talent and knowledge to these tutorial videos though, talented and authentic musicians who love their craft.

Our teachers have won Grammy’s, been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, played at the very top of the charts and even been nominated to Parliament…But that’s not why we chose them. We chose them because they’re great teachers: They have the patience, generosity and talent to inspire you to become a better musician.

Among these is Jackson Browne (Rock and Roll Hall of Famer); Songwriter, Folk Rock guitarist and Brit legend Richard Thompson (OBE); and noted guitarist Steve Postell who delivers a stellar series on the fundementals of guitar. These are really good, solid basic lessons that any beginner guitarist will find invaluable to starting them off on the right foot (or leg actually) in their guitar playing lifetime.

Only acoustic guitar lessons are available right now, covering mostly folk, blues and classical playing, but the app shows a 'Coming Soon' label on electric guitar lessons with Eric Johnson, Sitar with Ravi Shankar Piano with Vonda Shepherd and Drums with Steve Ferrone, amongst several other instruments, so there is a lot to look forward to.

Video Size and Quality

The videos are gorgeous and look fantstic on the iPad screen if you opt for the full HD quality lessons. You are looking at around a 750MB to 1GB download that will be stored on your iPad though.

If, like us, you are struggling not to overstuff a 16GB iPad, you will find yourself deleting a lot of apps, podcasts, music, photos and other video to make room for these lesson downloads.

You do have the option of Standard quality downloads or the much smaller low-res versions.  These take about 380MB and 180MB on average respectively. We tried them all for most lessons and the low-res videos are ok to watch on the iPad screen if you don't need to see the detail but the Standard quality videos were more acceptable to watch on the iPad.

If you can make room for them though, the HD quality is worth it, especially if you plan on hooking your iPad up to a larger display whilst using On The Music Path. We used HDMI and VGA out to watch the video tutorials on our HDTV in the lounge and they looked and sounded fantastic.

The guitar tab overlay is always clear, no matter what quality video you have selected, so you won't have problems seeing the notes you need to play.

No Streaming

We think it would be better if there was an option to stream these lessons, meaning we wouldn't have to keep them on our iPad. This may mean we lose the portability of the lessons, but if your main use for the lessons was at home where you have wifi and broadband available, having to wait for the stream each time wouldn't bother us too much.

The Cost

On the Music Path is a free download for your iPad, and most lessons have a sample provided for free.

Lessons range from $1.99 - $19.99 (£1.49 - £13.99) which might seem a bit expensive but, when an hour with your local guitar tutor costs around £25, consider what you're getting for your money:

  • 45 mins to 1 hour of personal instruction from a professional musician
  • Content to keep and re-watch again and again
  • 1:1 lessons with top names in Folk/Blues/Country and soon Rock music
  • Very high quality video
  • Well produced teaching tools, such as tab display and video slow down with pitch retention
  • Lifetime access to download lesson content again if deleted

If, like us, you are running a limited budget, then you may have to ration yourself to one or two downloads per month.

Given the size of the tutorials, especially at high quality and the amount of content in each one, you probably wouldn’t want to download all of the lessons at once anyway.

Overall Impressions

If learning to play guitar or becoming a more accomplished player , is something you have always wanted to do we think you will relish On the Music Path, especially if Blues, Folk and Classical is your thing.

As more lessons are added in the future in other areas such as Rock guitar, Keyboards, Bass, Ukulele and Drums, so the app has the potential to become your portal to all manner of musical instruction, right there on your iPad.

We highly recommend you check out On the Music Path, you have nothing to lose as the app is a free download from the App Store.

You will be able to tell if it is for you from the free samples that are included. Just be sure to free up some space on your iPad, especially if you are already struggling with your 16GB iPad like we are.

Is this the Ultimate iPad Accessory for the Gigging Guitarist?

Wow - this thing blows us away! A full-on floor based Pedalboard with an iPad dock and a Free DSP app made especially for it by DigiTech. This monster is designed for live gigging when connected to your iPad and guitar amp/PA.

Set for a 'June 2011' release, although it is not out yet (more likely July now), the DigiTech iPB-10's main problem for some will be the price, at a SRP of $699.95 (we've seen it on pre-sale here in the UK for £522).

Pricey

We know that these multi-effects units go for a lot of money, even without the iPad functionality and this looks like a very solid metal chassis unit including a chunky expression pedal. For a professional musician this might be affordable but we still feel that it is a lot of money. Combined with even the cheapest iPad you're looking at over $1000 of kit to place on the floor and then stamp all over with your hefty size 10's.

Well connected

We will let you read all the detail on the DigiTech website, suffice to say that the iPB-10 has plenty of connection options for live, studio and practice setups, check out the back panel below (select the image to see a large version). And that's not to mention the software involved on board and in the iPad app.

We want one - look at the Specs!

We are definitely drooling over the iPB-10 and the accompanying iPB-Nexus app and we would like nothing better than to get our hands (or boots) on one but we will just have to look at the pictures and dream.

Here's the specs:

  • Drag and drop pedalboard design
  • Arrange pedals in any order
  • Touch screen control
  • 87 pedals
  • 54 amps
  • 26 cabinets
  • Drag and drop footswitch assignment
  • Real-time view of pedal settings with direct access to pedal control
  • Up to 10 pedals, 1 amp, and 1 cabinet can be added to a setup
  • Unique setup assignable to each preset
  • Infinite number of presets, 100 footswitch accessible
  • Store, organize, and rate presets using My Tones library
  • Compatible with iPad2 and iPad

More details on the iPB-10 and the iPB-Nexus app (including a rundown of the pedals, amps and cabs modelled) can be found on the DigiTech website.

George Lambro's seriously slick shredding skills

We have often said that GarageBand is a true killer app. Will Android, webOS or BlackBerry Tablet OS ever be home to a music creation app of quite this quality? Honestly, it seems extremely unlikely.

Sure George's guitar solo isn't as organic as the real thing, but this is his first attempt at transferring his real world skills to the iPad and on a platform that is only just over a year old, running an app that is still on version 1!

Exciting times...

Via: Cult of Mac