Guitarism V2 By Rhism,  available here at the App Store, $4.99, Universal.

All about Guitarism ...

Please Note - some details contained in this review are out of date. Revisions coming soon.

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Guitarism is perhaps the best playing guitar instrument I've found for the iPad. If this is your first Guitar App purchase prepare to be disappointed with other offerings going forward! Here's why...

The app opens with 3 simple choices, "Rhism Nation"  which lets users hear uploaded recordings of Guitarism performances,  "Recordings" where you can record your own performances and "Play Guitar" which goes to the heart of things, . So tap Play and lets get on with it!

The initial interface is awesomely "guitary". No help needed here. Just rest the iPad on your knee, hold down a chord pad and strum. Yeah … wow!  This app sounds great. The strumming is responsive, dynamic and the sound stunning. The guitar loudness is controlled by strumming speed, but it's done so well you won't even think about it. LIke a real guitar it just is. Note tapping is possible with similarly beautiful results. Chord changes are just so smooth and natural you won't notice them. And yes, you can slide your finger between chords, getting a great sounding transition with finger noise… and even different noises on different changes ( about 3 variations ).  If you don't like these they can be turned of in the App's preferences.

There's only one acoustic guitar model on offer in the App, but its resonant and sparkly with tons of life.  Audio Bus is supported, so if you want tonal flexibility run Guitarism through JamUp, AmpKit  ( I tested these ) or any other AudioBus Effect slot enabled app and I promise your tweaking will be rewarded!

The chords assigned to the Pads initially start out according to a root Major / Minor key selected within a popup options menu ( see the following "Digging In" link ). These can can be substituted with alternate chords from a healthy list of 27 variations including  Major, Minor, 7th, Sus 4, Sus 2 (yay) , Aug, Dim and a whole lot more.  Just hold a pad, select the chord for a preview and its done.  There's no custom chord entry, but unless your playing Jazz you probably won't get caught out.

If 6 chords aren't enough ( I think that's all I know anyway ! ) two Secondary Chord Palettes can be activated each of which slide an extra six pads in and out of view in the GUI. On the iPad the slide is  sprung loaded which means the Secondary palette doesn't 'lock' in place and can sometimes revert to the Primary pads at the wrong moment. I'd like an option to have it stick! On the iPhone tilting the device will make the Secondary Chords palettes slide in and out which works surprisingly well, 

Chords can be played in a standard strum fashion, or with a palm muted style which I really like. So many other apps leave this out completely. And to round things out a Hammer On/ Pull Off style is included which I can't seem to master reliably. The idea is to hold a chord pad, strum, then quickly press another chord pad to produce the "Hammer On". The sound is great, but it seems only to work if the time between the strum and hammer-on is quite short.  If you miss time the hammer nothing happens! Whoops. Maybe a slider to tune the delay window would be nice.  Guitarism also offers the ability to change the overall pitch tuning of the instrument within the standard EADGBE standard string setup. There's no alternate string tunings. 

UPDATE : all In App Purchases are currently included in the price of Guitarism

In-App purchases include a 99c (US) "Smart String" option which increases the string-spacing while finger tapping ( picking ). As of this writing Rhism is giving this away free if you write an App Store review of Guitarism.  On the iPad it didn't really help me, but the smaller screen on the iPhone makes much better use of this feature - in fact I think you'll need it. So write a review!  MIDI output will cost you $3.99, and if you have any Synth apps ( or other Guitar apps ) with MIDI input capability, then this is a very worthwhile augmentation. It allows the output of 3 channels of note data which follow your guitar playing. A Chord channel mirrors the Chord Pads, A Bass channel plays a root bass note from the currently selected chord, and a third channel outputs any notes played by tapping strings. Each element can have a custom MIDI channel assignment ( 1-16 ), can be transposed by Octave, and have note velocity set ( shame there's no way to vary this with the iOS accelerometer reading touch 'pressure' ).  Additionally some polyphony control on the tapped note output also prevents choking the receiving instrument with too many notes. 

The MIDI functions very well, although it does require a bit of fiddling around with the destination instruments to get adequate control over your new power-ensemble. One of the difficulties with MIDI Guitar controllers is that while Note On events are easy to detect ( a plucked string) and transmit to another instrument, it is difficult to know when to send the required Note Off,  since a guitar string just fades away, or is strummed again ( that is, there is no definitive end to a note!).  This leaves the destination instrument with the possibility of being left with notes ringing on … forever!  Guitarism thoughtfully provides an all notes off button in the form of tapping the options Arrow key, but its a bit sudden and not musical. However, as long as you pick sounds on your MIDI destinations that naturally decay, you can build up huge soundscapes. And like everything in this App, the MIDI implementation is solid.

I mentioned earlier that Guitarism performances can be recorded and shared from the choices on the App's launch screen. Recordings include animation of the playing and watching the effort of others can be illuminating. Other configurations choices include a Left-Handed mode, Help Tips pop-ups, Mono/Stereo  and ways to contact the developer, Rhism who is one of the most responsive devs I've come across after years of hassling them all!  

I hope Rhism has been rewarded sufficiently  for this great work that development continues. I'd like to see a way to play individual notes within a scale to augment the chord-notes strummed or tapped. Its tricky nut to crack from a design perspective and only a couple of Apps have tried ( with varying degrees of success ). But solo notes are a integral part of guitar playing and from what is already on offer in Guitarism , Rhism can do it if anyone can!  MIDI functionality could be tweaked too, maybe just some MIDI Channel Volume control (CC#7) for each of Guitarism's outputs to enable mixing of the component instrument.

There's guitar apps out there that strive for more innovation, more features, more sounds but none that match the quality, playability and confidence Guitarism imbues. Just buy it. Now.

 

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