One of the challenges with playing ukulele is that the guitarists seem to have all the cool toys. Thankfully, there are a few developers making apps that consider the needs of those who don’t choose to play 6 stringers. One of the best is GuitarToolkit. Here is a rundown of the features I find most useful to the practicing and composing ukester.
- Tuner – everybody needs a good tuner and this has everything you need and nothing you don’t – except perhaps direct input – and it might do that, but I always use it with the standard mic input on the iPhone or iPad. It’s chromatic, shows the octave so you don’t tune an octave too high (been there, done that 🙂 ), and has “analog” and digital readouts of your pitch.
- Alternate tunings – GT comes with several tunings including the standard high G and low G but you can easily create your own like cuatro, reentrant dGBE, or whatever. The fretboard, chord diagrams, and playback all adjust to the selected tuning.
- Chord finder – chords can be selected by name and position or by selecting notes on the fretboard. This is a great way to find different fingerings up the neck or unusual voicings without cramping your fingers on an actual uke.
- Chord sheets – chords can be added to sheets along with text, headers, renaming chords, etc. It isn’t full tab of course, but it’s a great way to work out progressions, again without aggravating carpal tunnel symptoms. Sheets can be imported/exported to be shared between devices or sent as PDF in a email.
- Playback – in the chord finder and chord sheet, you can hear your tinkerings in the selected tuning and with effects (or not).
There is a lot more to the app but those are the things I use “all the time”.
There are a couple of things I wish it would do better:
- Sound – Remember when I said guitarists have all the cool toys? Well, that’s true here. There are a lot of electric effects on tap but only one acoustic sound and that is a steel string. So it doesn’t sound like a uke. Even a nylon string would be better. This app isn’t for recording, so it’s a minor point, but it’s there.
- Capo – My biggest gripe. The capo feature is basically worthless for my purposes. It’s there and you can make and hear chords with a capo attached, even make chord sheets with the capo. But the chords are name in actual pitch, not relative to the capo. And you can’t move the capo later. I want to be able to write a chord sheet without the capo and then playback with one applied to hear what it would sound like in different keys. There are some performance-oriented apps like Guitarism that do this but not here. Bummer.
- Playback in a different tuning – this is really a restatement of the capo problem. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could make up a chord pattern in high G tuning and then see what it would sound like in low G? Or slack key. Or cuatro. Or – you get the idea. Yes, it would be very cool. But you can’t. If I could do this, I wouldn’t care about the capo.
Despite those “like to haves”, the pluses far outweigh the minuses here. This app truly is my ukulele toolkit.