Patrick Continues...

"When fretting chords on a guitar, it’s easiest if you just need to raise and lower fingers, and you don’t have to move, and almost always, it’s more than one finger pressed.  This is what I was going for with my approach — you have four fingers, and you can raise and lower them, to get different combinations.  When you put all four down initially, I can distinguish between index, middle, ring, and pinky — and then, as long as you stay pretty close to the original locations, I can tell if you have the index finger down, or the middle finger, and so on.  This gets fifteen different combinations, most of which are very easy on the hands, and you don’t have to look at the screen at all.  Lifting up all the fingers gives a quick way to mute.
I think the fretting approach is different, and may throw people initially, but once you get used to it, it works pretty well.  Huge numbers of songs have four chords or less, so the fingering patterns you have to use are almost always easy.  Having fingers pressed down also ensures that you’ve got a grip on the phone or pad.
Another thing that I’ve done differently from most apps is in supporting actual fret positions — so you can grab either a generic chord from the library (if you’re just blocking out a progression), or switch to the fretboard view, and pick specific notes on specific strings.  I play a lot of open strings, and broken chords — the Leo Kottke influence on my playing is fairly large, and he’s frequently combining open strings with things around the 8th, 9th, 10th fret, and beyond, to get really interesting voicing.
I’ll need to do a video on this — but the fretboard based chords allow the use of guitar transcription software.  Things like Jam Maestro on iOS, or GuitarPro on the desktop, are great for capturing ideas, but can be kind of a chore to tap in or mouse click individual notes.  Live Guitar will send the MIDI pitch, with each string on a different channel — and then that gets captured automatically and correctly by the tab programs.  So, if you’re transcribing something, just get the chord shapes right in Live Guitar, and then play — not only the pitch, but the individual string gets captured.
The MIDI interface uses Audeonic Apps’ MIDIbus — I know the author, Nic, pretty well, and he’s done a great job.  Live Guitar contains a decent Soundfont, but I wanted to make it easy for the app to drive other synthesizers, so that you have more types of sounds available.
The earlier version of Live Guitar had a wood-toned user interface, and with the reboot, I’ve gotten rid of that entirely.  I thought it was a little bit goofy, but there was sort of an arms race on “realistic looking guitars” that just seemed absurd.  I won’t name names, but you can probably think of a half dozen guitar apps that talk about “realistic old growth vintage simulated rosewood fretboard with authentic virtual natural mother of pearl inlays.”  Live Guitar is an app, and it’s running on an iOS device, which is a sheet of aluminum and glass; trying for something that looked like a regular guitar just felt silly, so we’ve gone pretty hard in the other direction".

Do you think Live Guitar excels at anything when compared to other guitar apps?

"I really like how chords are selected, and that’s different from the other apps I’ve seen.  It takes a little bit of practice to get comfortable with it — but once you do, it can be very effective.  I also like the location-based emulation of velocity — while the iPad and iPhone have motion sensors to detect how hard you press, they’re not as accurate as I’d like, so the dynamics can be a bit dodgy with that approach.
There’s also a bit of a philosophical difference with some apps — there are a number that will automatically play arpeggios, or different picking patterns, and so on.  I’ll probably piss some people off, but IMO, there are too many apps that “play themselves,” and require absolutely no skill from the player.  With some apps, you simply press your finger on the screen, and like magic, an amazing symphony plays — but this really feels like cheating to me.  It’s like hitting play on an MP3 player — sure, it sounds great, but it is *not* making music.
I’m trying to walk the line between something that’s easy to pick up and play, and something that plays itself.
One other feature that I don’t know if anyone will ever use — you can take a set of chords, and import or export them through Twitter.  Back in the early days of the internet, there were chord tab sites, and people would upload and download transcriptions.  The record companies have sort of locked all of that stuff up through paywalls, and GuitarPro has sort of been the wall that everyone has to pass through.
Chord progressions, though, do not have copyright constraints (you can see apps like iRealB do this).  I can tell you the chords to any Beatles song, and that’s totally cool — I can give you lyrics or the melody line, but I can tell you if something has a I iv V progression starting on B.
My hope is that people will come up with chord progressions of their own, or transcribe things — and then share with other users.  It would be cool to have a “community” of guitarists working together.  The current situation really does feel like a corporate paywall, locked up by Ultimate Guitar, and similar sites".

Do you intend to evolve Live Guitar ... or is it just a 'hobby' for you?

I’ve got a bunch of different apps going on — but Live Guitar will definitely go forward.  I think I released the first version about four years ago, so it’s a long term thing.  I took it off the app store for a while, because it wasn’t where I wanted it to be — and I’ve been tinkering with it ever since.  It finally got to a point where I wanted to let it out again, and let people play.

Are there any features you personally want to push out ?   { clever huh? }

Long list.  Very very long list…..   { nope .. didn't fall for it }

In regards to iOS do you think its possible to engineer a complete guitar instrument solution that could compete musically with a physical instrument in terms of chords, notes, embellishments, hammer-ons, pull-offs, pitch bend and so on?

Given a choice, I think a real guitar is always the right option.  I don’t think there’s any way for an app to capture all the magic of a physical guitar, but there are some things that an app can do really well.  Pitch bend will come in the next release (shift your grip on the chording section to bend up or down).  I’ve got some ideas for hammer ons and pull offs, and a few other things up my sleeve.
There’s nothing like a real guitar; in my office, my Telecaster is always within reach, and I’ve normally got five or six others scattered about the room. But for on the road, or working out a chord progression, I think Live Guitar can be fairly handy.

Thanks Patrick for taking the time. It's really appreciated!

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