iShred by Frontier Designs is available here for $4.99, and runs on iPad and iPhone. IOS 7 compatible .

Chord GUI .jpg

iGuitar was one of the first Guitar instrument Apps I came across probably way back in '08 (?). It was (and is) an acoustic guitar instrument and if memory serves iShred, its electric guitar sibling, appeared shortly after. In many ways it remains a marvel of playability and sheer fun. It is sold as an iPhone app but runs fine on an iPad in the "2x" display mode. The interface is fairly self explanatory.  There's a selection of ten chord buttons at the top and six guitar strings running over a couple of Fender style single coil pickups. Is that a Stratocaster in your pocket or are you …. enough.

I figure the designers imagined players putting the device down in portrait orientation and then strumming across the strings with your right hand and tapping the chord buttons with your left  (if you are right handed ). Especially on the iPad though, I prefer to hold the tablet in landscape mode and strum up and down like a real guitar while pressing buttons with my left hand almost like you would play the keys on a piano accordion. 

Whichever feels right to you, just tap a button and strum. Done right?  No way, there is a *lot* of depth to this app under the hood ( click to dig-in now! ) including custom chords, solo playing, effects pedals, recording, play-along… its good.

But first the sound. By default with no effects applied it's pure Stratocaster. In my opinion a fairly mellow example, not quite the 'ice pick' in the ear variety but smooth, very clean with plenty of chime. Players can choose which pickup to use from 3 choices in the effects edit window with a Strat-like toggle switch, which takes the overall tone from smooth to twangy. I guess there's another pickup we can't see in the GUI! I think the samples used are discreet for each pick up ( not just tone control variations ) and they sound great. There's no out-of-phase options for mixing pickups … this is a classic model strat.

Strumming response is lightning fast and completely natural to me. Strings can be tapped individually for picking notes within the chord and the volume of the note can be modulated depending on where the string is played. Closer to the buttons is quieter. The sound decays smoothly and rings on, decaying to silence with no horrible looping to gum things up. Of course long sustains can be awkward if you want to... er… stop the sound, and how to mute a chord isn't obvious. The way iShred handles this is found in its Settings pane accessed from the upward pointing arrow at the bottom left of the main screen. In here the user can choose to "lock" the chord buttons so that the tapped chord stays active even if the player lifts their finger from the button, or "unlock" them so that the Guitar mutes if no chord button is pressed. The latter is definitely more flexible, but takes a little practice. 

Now for the buttons themselves. These aren't your mum and dad's guitar app buttons. Each one can have an incredibly useful array of functionality assigned to them and are what separates iShred from everything else out there. As you would expect a button can represent a chord chosen from a comprehensive library ( Maj, Min, 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 7th,  9ths, 13ths Dim and more) but it can also bring up a scale ( from a decent selection of choices) for soloing, in which only correct notes can be played, a chromatic note display with a scale marked in case you want to play outside of a selected scale and even 5-fret range of a blank fretboard for those clever enough to solo with no help. A button can also be used to change to an alternative page of buttons, extending the number of playing pallets to a maximum of 4. Even Effect configurations can be switched with a button, so going from clean to distorted sounds for example is simple. Switching is seamless. I can be holding a C-Chord with one finger, touch a scale button with another (keeping the C-button held) play a couple of passing notes then release the scale button and be strumming the chord again. No odd note cut-outs, no glitches.  Very, very elegant. 

And for those of us who have odd two note 'expressions' in our songs … yes they're probably chords but who knows what they're called … iShred lets you configure totally custom note combinations, string tunings and even a capo!

Once you've set up your pages of chords, scales and effects the entire configuration can be saved to a song library … or a Playlist as iShred calls it ( which can be re-ordered ) and subsequently accessed with the left/right buttons at the bottom of the GUI.

The iShred Guitar can also be run through a series of effects processors. Initially the player can activate an Amp simulator for basic clean/overdrive choices. Then an 8 unit pedal-board follows offering yet another comprehensive list of guitar oriented effects including delay, chorus, wah-wah, fuzz, compression … but strangely, no spring reverb! It is a Strat, right?

To round things out there's recording function to record your playing then export it to backing track which you can loop and jam to later using the built in player. Recordings can also be exported to a .wav file and transferred using iTunes File sharing. Audio Copy/Past is also supported, but since iOS 7 that functionality has become a bit unreliable.

Whats wrong?  Not much. The App has been updated over time, and queries to the developers are answered promptly which means someone still cares!  However the giant glaring hole in the whole thing is lack of either Audio Bus or Inter-App-Audio to integrate this app with all our other iOS toys. I've read on the internet ( so it must be true ) that AudioBus isn't a hard protocol to implement, but iShred was written in the early days of iOS when such things weren't even dreamt of!  So who knows? Maybe it is too hard in this case. Maybe the app has run its sales-life and it isn't economical to develop. But it is a *great* app. If you haven't got a copy put in on your list … write with encouragement to the developers… personally I think they should roll iShed and iGuitar into a single App, add AudioBuss/IAA and virtual MIDI support then relaunch the whole thing for $9.99. I'd buy it in a heartbeat.

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