Guitar Chord Progression Songwriter, iPad,iPhone, Free by Hopefully Useful Software

Guitar Chord Progression Songwriter, iPad,iPhone, Free by Hopefully Useful Software

Guitar Chord Progression Songwriter

I've had Simple Songwriter Guitar Chord Pro on my iPad for ages. Can't even remember when I got it. Pretty sure I got a free version then bought IAPs to enable some more guitar sounds, MIDI output and perhaps a chord editor. Since then the App has dropped the  'Simple Songwriter' name and is in the App Store under 'Guitar Chord Progression Songwriter' as a free App with IAP's or as 'Guitar Chord Pro Platinum' for $19.99. The IAP's in the free version offer the options I mentioned previously at $2.99 each ( ie $8.97 )  or a 'Pro' update  for $19.99, which I can only assume gets the purchaser all the way to the Platinum version. And what magic does the extra $10 provide? I have no clue. The app descriptions are identical, my version ( with IAP ) has no option to go 'Pro' ... so I'd have to buy the $19.99 all over to find out? 

It's confusion like this that does the developer an enormous disservice, because Guitar Chord Pro or whatever it's called, is really special in so many ways.

It's main positive is a really brilliant main GUI on which to play the guitar. It's slightly reminiscent of the approach taken by Apple in Garage Band, but to be fair a cursory look at the history of the apps shows they first came out close together... with an early iPhone version of GCP first by a few months. GCP ( on the iPad ) offers a playing pallet which makes almost perfect use of the screen space available. In the center is a guitar fretboard ... 6 strings and 6 'frets'. Above each fret is a chord ( customizable) which plays when the user strums the strings. There's no need to touch the chord button at the top, the chord is selected  dependent on which fret space is strummed ( this is the Garage Band model I mentioned previously ). However if the chord button is tapped an auto-strum pattern is triggered and a single measure plays. This pattern can be common across all chords or each chord can have a different pattern. Patterns can be created ( by actually  recording a strumming action... clever ) and edited in detail ( see Digging In )

When playing chord modifications can be added with 5 buttons on the left which bring in the note embellishments  6, 7, 9, sus 4 and 7sus4 . On top of all that a secondary fretboard on the right of the UI permits the player to tap a fretboard position to choose how far up the neck the chord is fingered. That is so smart! Add a Bank A/B button at the bottom left of the screen and you double the chord content available for a song. I don't think any other app can approach the potential variety of the chords the player has available on one screen.

But does it play?  You bet it does. Strumming is fluid and the strings can be tapped to create finger picking. One advantage of the chord/ string / note matrix arrangement is that all the notes from the 6 chords are available at once. So the player can tap out melodies and passing notes using the all the chord-notes from the selected scale. The only thing missing is the ability to tap/hold a note and bend it by dragging.

OK,  time to look at things from the developers point of view. There are  no bones about the fact that Hopefully Useful Software created this app as a 'Chord Progression Editor' and I'll look at the great features included towards that goal later. But if a nice progression editor is your aim then check out Suggester, it's faster and easier by leaps and bounds. Not that GCP isn't an admirable muse, but it feels like it wants to be an instrument, it really does, and there's only one or two things in the way. Aside from the string bend thing, the fact that the auto-strum buttons only play a single bar and don't loop is a shame. It should be an option. And the lack of any dynamics ( velocity ) when playing is also a limiting factor. These features are all implemented in other apps, so I'm pretty sure it could be done here too. But an instrument is what I want ... maybe tweaking progressions are your bag and to that end there's plenty more on offer here.

While working in the Guitar pane ( it's called the 'Record' window ) a song can be started by defining a Root Key note, plus a selection of scale types ( Major, Natural Minor, Harmonic Minor and Melodic Minor ) which initialize the chords available to those found within the scale. Each chord can then be customized from a healthy list available from a nice selector wheel in the setup menu. A Tempo, Time Signature( 4/4, 3/4 )  and click track can then be configured too. Once that's all done the player can tap the record button and play away using all the features mentioned.  This recording becomes a 'Section'.... perhaps the intro or a verse to a song and so on. Sections can be added at will until a Song is complete.

The user can now enter the app's Edit mode which shows a list for each Section which chords were played along with their other attributes ( embellishments, fret position, strum pattern etc ). It's a simple matter to change these by tapping on the interface or even rearrange things completely differently.

Finally a Play window allows all Sections to be organized at will, looped as necessary and played back to create the finished song. Oh, and be exported as audio. 

Anything else? well, the entire 'Guitar' playing interface can be swapped out for a 'Pads' view where each chord is a single drum machine style pad. There's five guitars to choose from ( with IAP ) Acoustic Steel, Acoustic Nylon, SS Electric, Dirty Electric, Laid Back Les. They aren't the best sounding examples I've heard ... the acoustic steel is the best. Reverb and Distortion can be added, but honestly what's needed here is AudioBus support for access to other effects. There is a MIDI out on Channel 1 (only) which works well in my experience and points to the fact that the developer must be thinking of the App as a playable instrument.

Neither version of Guitar Chord Pro has been updated for a couple of years but they seems to run fine on my iPad Air under iOS 8. I've started trying to contact the developer but so far haven't heard anything back.  Seeing as there is a free version of Guitar Chord Progression Editor you have no excuse not to try out the exceptional playing surface. It really is fun. Sure it needs a little bit of refinement, but email the developer and encourage some more progress. There's a link in the Help section of the app ... go to it!

To look at the whole App click here and Dig In ....