“There’s an app for that” was the catchphrase of 2011, and with smartphones and tablets fast becoming everyone’s best friend, there’s a good chance the music industry will jump onto the trend as well. There are already dozens of music apps out there, from beginners’ guides to professional tools. Music tab apps are probably the most popular slice, with new learners seeking an alternative to in-person lessons. Some of today’s popular guitarists claim to be completely self-taught, drawing material mostly from apps they found online.
Of course, like a lot of things on the Internet, there’s a load of bad apples for every good one. If you’re in the market for a guitar tab app, it’s important to know what you’re looking for. Do you want straight-up lessons or just some pieces to practice on? Do you already know the basics and just need an app to help you monitor your progress?
One thing you should always look for, no matter what your answers are, is organization. The best apps often have a digital library feature, which allows you to easily store and retrieve tabs and arrangements. If you’re a beginner, this will help you remember which pieces you’ve learned and which ones you need to work on. If you’re more advanced, it’s a great way to sort your music by style, difficulty, or any other organization scheme. Guitar Jam Tracks from NineBuzz Software is great for those who like experimenting with styles, although it can get pricey—tracks cost $1.99 each.
Simple playback is also a must. Even before music apps came along, the best music devices were the ones that were easy to use. Try to see where the main controls are—if it takes you more than a few seconds to find them, the app probably isn’t very user-friendly. Some apps have a “smart playback” feature that’s more intuitive and allows you to switch between a selected set of tracks—this can be useful if you’re working on several pieces at a time or using one as a reference.
Guitar learners will also benefit from fingering guides, which is only available on some apps (or the paid versions of certain apps). If you’re not used to reading music, this will help you follow notes and get you playing your pieces faster. For this purpose, some of the best apps are Guitarist from MooCowMusic ($3.99) and Gibson Learn & Master, which is free.