7 Essential iPhone Apps for Guitarists

With most of us spending a lot of time away from the home studio there’s a lot that can be accomplished musically with the great apps available. Here’s my suggestion for a musicians portfolio of apps on iPhone and iPad:

1. Amp Sim

With a good amp sim and a guitar interface you can record and practice with headphones, while the kids are sleeping or at work (everyone needs an office guitar!).

My pick: AmpKit – excellent amp models and best of all, dry recording with built-in reamping

Alternatives: JamUp, Amplitube

2. Tuner

The built-in microphone on the iPhone is surprisingly sensitive, and when the guitar is connected with an interface like Apogee Jam, GuitarJack or iRig tuning is very precise.

My pick: Poly Tune – the app version of one of the most popular tuning pedals, let’s you tune all strings at once.

Alternatives: There are lots of free tuner apps, and most amp sims and Guitar Toolkit have built-in tuners.

3. Chord and Scale Library

Chord variations and scale boxes displayed on a graphic fretboard are always useful.

My pick: Guitar Toolkit – very comprehensive library that also handles different tunings.

Alternatives: There are free chord library apps but I haven’t tried any of them since I’m very happy with GuitarToolkit.

4. Metronome

There’s nothing more valuable than a metronome when you try and learn difficult songs and licks. Remember, if you can’t play it slowly you can’t play it fast.

My pick: I never was good with a regular metronome, I find it too artificial and it’s difficult sometimes to hear the clicks over your own playing. Instead, I’m picking Back Beats. It’s a small drums-in-a-box app where you select genre, tempo and time signature and get a nice backing pattern.

Alternatives: Guitar Toolkit – tap tempo metronome with different sound themes. You can also get an in-app purchase upgrade with weird time signatures and advanced options. Also, since I usually play with the guitar plugged into the phone, I use AmpKit’s built-in metronome a lot.

5. Tab App

I almost never use tabs on my computer anymore, it’s much more convenient to have them on the phone when learning new songs.

My pick: TabToolkit – great visualization of multitrack tabs in Guitar Pro and Powertab formats. You can either upload tabs from your computer or get them directly from sites like Ultimate Guitar. TabToolkit also has a tab store where you can buy official tabs.

Alternatives: Guitar Pro’s own app is also really good and has editing capabilities so you can tab down new ideas on the go.

6. Songwriting

Another type of useful app that’s not guitar specific is one that can play and record simple chord playing. I use an app like this to try out chord progressions and sometimes to record ideas.

My pick: ThumbJam – lots of instruments, recording and audio copy/paste and great support for scales.

Alternatives: Simple Songwriter – easy selection of chords within a key and has recording functionality.

7. Recording

I mostly use a recording app to hum new riffs before I forget them, almost never to record actual guitar playing.

My pick: SoundCloud – just punch record and then instantly upload to you SC account (privately or publicly), what could be easier?

Alternatives: Built-in Voice Memos app in iOS.

Any great one’s I’ve missed? Post your best tips in the comments!