Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Music: Are you ready for that? Driving your car down a desert highway listening to the seventies and eighties rise like zombies from the rippling sand? I hope so.

One great iPad music app, and one good iPad music app

Jerry Stratton, October 15, 2011

I don’t remember how I ran across Guitar World’s Lick of the Day app. I might have been looking around for MusicNotes.com’s app, which I ran across while looking for sheet music of America, the Beautiful. There was surprisingly little good, simple versions I could use for guitar, for free. MusicNotes.com put the full first page of their version online, and it worked, so after a few weeks of internal whining about the lack of a good free version, I decided to reward them for their efforts, and then discovered that they had a decent iPad app.

It is a decent app. It’s free, of course; like the first page they expect it will entice you to buy more sheet music. For that purpose—replacing sheet music—it works fine. It lets you keep a library of sheet music in your iPad. It doesn’t yet, however, take much advantage of being on a computer.

The most annoying result of this being that you still have to turn the page! There is some sort of “conductor” mode that appears to let a conductor take control of a roomful of sheets. But there is no way for me to have the sheet music automatically turn at the right moment; there is no way to turn on a metronome and have a dot follow along with the music; no way to have the computer play along with me, with or without a metronome.

It isn’t bad. It basically takes all the things you can do with paper and makes sure you can still do them with your digital collection. You can create set lists and store your music in them, like folders. You can even mark up your sheets with a highlighter and write text or drawn notes.

One feature it does have over paper, which is really nice is that if there are multiple keys of the same song, you can have all of the transpositions for the price of one. You can have the app automatically download all available keys, or you can go back at any time to get the keys you need.

And of course if you are a professional and better at sheet reading than I, there is another advantage: you can buy music as you need it, as long as the bar has wifi or you have a cell connection.

The Guitar World app is lightning in comparison. They take full advantage of what a multimedia computer can do. Like MusicNotes, the app is free and there are free licks that come with it. And a lot more that you can buy.

Each lick comes not just with the tablature but with video of someone playing the lick, both at full speed and at half speed. That someone is usually a member of the Guitar World staff, but also includes people like Zakk Wylde and Joe Satriani.

While the guitarist is playing, the computer also displays where they are on the tablature. But when you are ready to really get down and practice you can switch from video instruction to practice mode. In practice mode you have full control over the tempo. You can start slow and increase speed as you gain mastery.

This is very cool, because it means people whose skills don’t tend toward speed licks can still try our hand at dropping the tempo to 20% and slowly ratcheting up. The tempo can range from 10% to 200%. Even their intro lick, which they rate as hard, becomes easy to learn. Because as difficult as it is to play at full speed, it is a snap at 30%.

The only problem I’ve seen with the app is that it sometimes forgets what your previously chosen tempo was, forcing you to remember and reset—or go through trial and error.

Lick of the Day is a lot of fun. I’ve taken to leaving my iPad on its stand so that I can quickly turn it on and play a couple of licks whenever I have a minute or two of free time. It’s a real world Guitar Hero.

  1. <- Pioneer 3200BT
  2. Mercy more than life ->