Versatile App for Musicians
I think it’s pretty accurate to say that there’s an app for everything, and there’s an app that I use for almost everything during my lessons. That app is called ‘Guitar Toolkit’. It’s an all-in-one app that you can use with your guitar, bass, ukulele and more.
I think that every single one of my students has seen me use this app at some point during a lesson. I mainly use it for the Metronome function, but it does a lot more than just that. I thought I would share some of the features with you and give you some examples of how I use it during lessons and practice sessions.
The first mode I’d like to introduce is the Metronome, and it’s by far my favourite thing about this app. There are two metronome modes you can use, and I use both for different things.
The standard one looks more like a traditional metronome. It has the needle which swings in time and the tempo is displayed nice and clear on the big red button in the middle. There’s a virtual thumb wheel at the bottom which you can use to quickly scroll through tempos – just scroll left to go slower and right to go faster. At the top of the screen is a Tempo Tap Pad. You can tap this when you’re listening to a song to work out what the tempo is.
The red button starts and stops the metronome
How I use it:
I like to use the standard metronome mode when I want to work out the tempo of a song a student is learning. I just tap the Tap Tempo Pad a few times (usually 4) and it shows me what the tempo is. It allows students to see what their target tempo is, so if the song or riff is too fast they can practice the piece slowly and gradually work their way up to the target tempo.
This is the second metronome mode found in the app, and it’s the one I use the most. The advanced metronome mode allows you to create your own drum beats and save them within the app. It’s simple to use but is a really powerful tool. It comes loaded with plenty of demo drum beats for you play along with but I would recommend that you create your own basic beat, like the one in the image below. You can change the tempo by pushing the + and – buttons at the top of the screen, and you just press the button inbetween (the one which displays the tempo) to start and stop the metronome.
You can create your own custom grooves
You can add various drum voices on separate tracks and create simple or complex rhythms which you can play along to. I often create simple grooves using a Bass Drum, Snare and Hi-Hat and they always sound great. One thing that I love about this feature is that you can change the intensity of the ‘hit’ by tapping the coloured box and changing it from red to yellow. This will play that beat slightly louder, so you can accent beats precisely.
As you can see, there are loads of options
How I use it:
This is the mode I use the most and you can probably see why. I can customise the beats to go with any rhythm I want. Some digital metronomes that I’ve used will accent the first beat, but with this app I’ve created a simple hi-hat click in 4/4 time (without accents) which I can use during a lesson. This means that students don’t have to wait for the accented first beat before playing along. Setting the tempo is really simple too. This tool is a bit of a secret weapon and I often use it at home when I’m practicing. I’ll plug my earphones into my phone and practice scales, arpeggios and chord progressions along with the beat I’ve created. I think I’d feel lost without it some days!
The Guitar Toolkit also has a tuner. You can change the tuner’s mode from chromatic (any note) to instrument specific notes (eg. Guitar EADGBE, Bass EADG, Ukulele GCEA). The display is very clear and I’ve found it to be responsive enough for my needs.
The tuner is very useful
How I use it:
I like the fact that it doesn’t try to do anything fancy. It helps you tune your instrument. That’s it. I prefer to use my clip-on snark tuner for tuning because I can talk to students while I tune, but on the occasions when I can’t find the snark I know I can always rely on this.
Yep, the Guitar Toolkit really is a bit of Swiss Army knife for musicians. It’s got a Chord Finder mode. You can find any chord, in any position on the fretboard, in any inversion. Major, minor, diminished, augmented, m7 and more. They’re all in there. It’s not a mode I use much but I can see the benefit for a guitar or ukulele player in the early stages.
Find any chord in seconds
Scales and Arpeggios Finder
A separate but similar mode to the Chord Finder is the Scales and Arpeggios Finder. It works in the same way as the chord finder. You can choose any scale from a list of Common & Blues, Modal & Classical, World Music, Asian and Indian scales. So if you want to try out a new sound, you’re bound to find find something useful in this section.
Scales and Arpeggios Galore
Even though the app is named Guitar Toolkit, you can use it with other fretted instruments. The list so far is:
- 6 String Guitar (Tuned EADGBE)
- 12 String Guitar (Tuned EADGBE)
- Bass (Tuned EADG)
- 5 String Bass (Tuned BEADG)
- 6 String Bass (Tuned BEADGC)
- Banjo (Tuned GDGBD)
- Mandolin (Tuned GDAE)
- Ukulele (Tuned GCEA)
That pretty much covers most fretted instruments! There’s an option in there to add your own custom instrument too. You can base your new instrument on one of the choices from the list above and then choose how it would sound (is it acoustic? electric? single-coil pickup? palm muted? clean sounding? reverb?).
Plenty of instruments to choose from
You can even change the tuning of the strings. There’s a gigantic list of common tunings including:
- Half Step Down
- Full Step Down
- 1.5 Steps Down
- Two Steps Down
- Drop D
- Drop C
- Drop B
- Open Tunings
- and loads more!
How I use it:
I mainly use the 6-string Guitar, 4-string Bass and Ukulele modes but it’s great to know that I can use it when I play some mandolin at a friend’s house. All the chords I need to know are right there in the app.
That’s pretty much it!
So there you have it. I think you can see why I use this app so much during a lesson and at home. I think it’s only available for iPhone and iPad at the moment, which is a blow if you’re an Android user. You can buy it for about £2.99 (I think that’s what I paid for it) which is nothing when you consider all the functions that it has. This link should take you to the App Store.
I hope you enjoyed reading this, and please leave any comments below if you have any questions about it. I have a question for you! Are there any apps that you like to use to help you practice? Please let me know in the comments. I’m always interested in using technology to aid the learning process.