Who of us hasn’t picked up a musical instrument at least once in our lives? For many, it has been the guitar that has enjoyed pride of place in the household when children are young. It can be a relatively inexpensive introduction to music, and takes up much less space than a grand piano.
When I was a child, I got guitar lessons as a gift, and it wasn’t long before my “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” advanced into some picking techniques and a bit of the ol’ Johnny Cash. I didn’t particularly enjoy it at the beginning, as my fingertips became sore on strings that seemed to be 10 feet off the frets, but with some practice I got used to it, my fingertips toughened up, and I was able to accompany myself at the odd school recital. Unfortunately my uncontrollable stage fright at the time made my palms sweaty, so I made quite a few mistakes, but that’s a story for another time. Maybe when I find an app that will take the wobble out of your knees, we’ll discuss it.
Some people are lucky enough to have a great ear for music, and can learn favorite songs without having the chords or notes in front of them. On the other hand, there are those who plonk away for hours at a time, trying to find the right chords. Those are usually the ones with soundproofed bedrooms.
The Capo touch app, created by (I’m not kidding) SuperMegaUltraGroovy Inc., is an excellent app for the somewhat tone deaf, in that it takes any song in your iTunes library, analyses it, and gives you all the chords, along with the accompanying finger positions.
Watch out, Joe Satriani; I may challenge you yet.
How it works
Download it onto your device, and it will take you through a brief tutorial to help you get started. It will then discover all the songs you have in iTunes, and you’re off to the races.
Really the best way to approach this app and familiarize yourself with it, is to load up some songs and start tapping away at all the icons on the screen to see what it can do. For example, in the top right-hand corner you’ll see an image that resembles a graphic equalizer…kinda. Tap on that, and you can adjust the effects, beats, and notes. Saturday Night Live fans will no doubt be delighted to find the option of “Cowbell” in the list of metronome sounds under “Beats.”
The “Notes” menu allows you to change the instrument type. Who knew? I thought this was for a guitar only, but it turns out that “Capo touch” can also adjust itself to accommodate the 4-,5-, and 6-string bass, as well as the mandolin, ukulele and 5-string banjo. I wonder if this is how Steve Martin learns songs?
Under the same menu you can also change the tuning setting, and even set a capo from the 1st to the 18th fret.
As the song plays along, you’ll see the chords change at different intervals, and the app keeps track of where you are through a bar and beat count. Swipe the bottom of the screen from right to left, and you’ll see it marked in fractions of a second.
In the bottom left-hand corner is an “R” in a box. Tap it as the song plays, and you’ll highlight a region of the song that you can expand or contract in size, or move, by dragging its left and right borders. If you tap the “R” and hold it, above it pops up three other options: “V” for highlighting a verse; “C” for highlighting a chorus; and “B” for…(c’mon, guess)…a bridge!
The black dots on the diagrams are where you’ll be putting your fingertips, and a long black line indicates where one or more fingers are used to cover the strings for bar chords. Bar chords. Always hated ‘em.
Each time you work on a new song, it will appear under “Projects” on the main screen, which you can access by tapping “Projects” in the top left-hand corner. It will automatically save all your highlights and settings for each particular number. Whenever you choose a song, the app announces that it is “building a waveform,” “calculating beat locations,” “determining song key,” “calculating chromagram,” and finally, “detecting chords.” Once it gets past that last stage, you can start playing.
When I tried it
As I mentioned earlier, I have had some experience with a guitar, and therefore I know the frustration of trying to figure out chords for songs I like. So do, by association, my parents. I think they thought the worst it could get was my grappling with my six-string over a week when I was in my early teens, but my attempt at “Eleanor Rigby” on the piano a number of years later totally eclipsed that.
I can see so many applications for this app – it really is fantastic. To have it work out the chords for you takes all the guesswork out of it, and you can select difficult areas to revisit until you’ve mastered them.
I was also able to slow down the songs when I needed to, and it had no problem at all with anything I threw at it – from reggae to rock and everything in between.
A few reviews have said that they’ve not found every chord accurate, but I tested it with about ten songs and all of those seemed to be fine. Depending on how prominent the vocals are over the music of some songs, that may cause a chord mistake issue, but I didn’t encounter one.
This app is only $4.99 (at the moment) and, in my opinion, is worth every penny. There aren’t in-app purchases to deal with, so once you’ve invested that money, that’s it. If you were to put a price on the hours you’ve spent listening to a song and trying to work out the chords manually, $4.99 is nothing. It’s got recommendations from a couple of professional musicians that use it, so what have you got to lose? Bear in mind that right now it’s going for this special price, but I anticipate that it will increase soon, so now’s the time to pounce and start plucking.
- Pros: Can save you hours of working out chords. Inexpensive for what you get. Doesn’t need the Internet to work.
- Cons: You may spend a lot less time with your family.
- Capo touch
- Cost: $4.99 (introductory price)
- Seller: SuperMegaUltraGroovy, Inc.
- Devices: iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad
- Rating: E for Everyone