App of the Week #2: Guitar ToolKit

Welcome to the second instalment of our App of the Week feature. This time round, we’ll be taking a look at a utility app that is simply a godsend if you’re a guitarist.

Guitar Toolkit provides four key digital utilities that, once discovered, your average six-string strummer will struggle to live without. The app allows you to do away with that clunky and cumbersome guitar tuner that you need to keep feeding 9V batteries (which are bloody expensive too!), and you can forget digging up that ancient and indecipherable book of scales and chords that you hid under your bed all those years ago. We firmly believe that not only will Guitar Toolkit make your practice and performance routines just a little bit simpler, but it will even allow to entirely reassess your playing and breathe inspiring, fresh air into your music. [/amateurdramatics] Well, it did for me anyway.

First up, the in-built tuner. Using the device’s microphone, (if you’ve got an iPod Touch, the app can do the same job if you’ve got headphones plugged in) it measures the pitch of your playing to 1 cent, which provides impressive accuracy. Its settings are fully customisable, so you can set it to detect notes in Drop A# tuning, Open E tuning, Hendrix tuning; literally any combination of notes on any of your 6 strings (you can input your own weird and wonderful selections too). It’s impressive stuff.

[pullquote_right]As a utility tool, Guitar Toollkit has everything that I have ever needed as a musician. [/pullquote_right]

I say “6 strings”; the app also has useful functionality for the metal, jazz and djent-heads amongst you. The application allows you to define the fundamentals of your instrument, which includes specifying if you’re playing 7-string guitars, 12-strings, 4, 5, and 6 stringed basses, banjos, mandolins, ukuleles, the list goes on.

The ‘Scales’ and ‘Chords’ tabs offer a wealth of information that saves the necessity of your typical theory guide. Choose your key and your mode, pick from common scales or even a few more obscure gems (the Major Bebop II scale in G# sounds particularly cool on a 12 string). Don’t know what chord you’re playing? Pop in the notes you’re strumming into the app and it’ll give you every name that applies to the particular set of notes. It’s a useful little piece of kit and I haven’t seen this particular function in a piece of software before.

You’ve also got your typical metronome. However, unlike most online or digital metronomes, this one is quite easy to adapt to the way you want it to behave. Choose from about twenty of the most common time signatures, or if you’re not quite sure what the exact rhythm is of what you’re playing, you can choose a “No Time Signature” option, great if you’re tabbing out a complex piece of music or even penning your own tunes. Of course, a tap-tempo function is also available.  If you’re so inclined, you can even choose to change the that incessant tick-tock of the mechanical practice tool to the much more exciting thwhack of a kick drum (amongst about twenty other sounds).

The app has not always run entirely smoothly, however. Sometimes it has had a little trouble recognising that I’m running it on an iPhone instead of an iPod Touch, prompting me to ‘Please insert headphones’, or something annoying like that. A forced restart of the app often fixed the issue, but now that the developers have provided an update within the last few weeks (seeing a nice aesthetic improvement to the UI), any bugs that existed previously have been thwarted.

As a utility tool, Guitar Toollkit has everything that I have ever needed as a musician. Travelling and jamming with others away from home, having the app in my pocket has resolved the painfully silly situations when I forget my tuner. Not that I even have that old thing lying around any more. Do not be deterred by the seemingly hefty download price. For what you are getting, Guitar Toolkit is more than worth it.

Guitar Toolkit
Price: £ 6.99 (as of 08/01/12)
Available for: iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads running iOS 3.1 or later
Category: Music
Size: 45.4MB

Sam Hardy

Sam Hardy is a writer for KingLoaf and music journalism site AltSounds.