The 25 Best Guitar and Music Apps
Guitar World presents everything you need to turn your smartphone or tablet into an extension of your guitar, including apps that will advance your playing, improve your tone, record your songs and maybe teach you something along the way.
Everything you need to get playing is already on your phone or tablet. You just need the app to get it going. GuitarToolKit is that app.
It offers a tuner, an interactive and extensive chord chart, a drum-machine-like metronome and other features to get you on the right track.
It can be customized for seven- and 12-string instruments, basses, banjos, mandolins and more, making it a go-to resource for the building blocks of metal, country, jazz or beyond. It was even designed with lefties in mind.
You’ve diligently learned Dimebag Darrell’s solo to “Cemetery Gates,” but a day before the big gig your singer finally admits he can’t actually reach the really, really high note Phil Anselmo sings toward the end of the song.
No worries. TabToolKit lets you upload and download tab files and transpose them to any key to suit the rest of your bandmates.
The beautifully designed app also offers standard and tab notation, MIDI multitrack playback for full scores, instrument guides (for learning fretboard placement) and more. No matter where you, you can be a Cowboy from Hell.
The recently released Guitar World Lessons app provides downloadable video guitar lessons—for purchase—in a host of genres—from blues to metal to bluegrass and jazz (and let's not forget shred!)—at the click of a button.
Guitar World Lessons offers immediate delivery of hundreds of lessons from the massive and impressive Guitar World catalog. The app is available at the iTunes store for the iPhone and iPad. Note that the app download itself is free; instructional guitar and bass lessons can be purchased and downloaded by individual lesson or full download of the instructional product.
The search function allows guitarists to search lessons and products by artist, song, genre or instructor. Some of Guitar World’s best-selling lesson products are featured, including Guitar World Senior Music Editor Jimmy Brown’s Mastering Fretboard Harmony and more.
You can learn from Brown, Paul Gilbert, Dale Turner, Michael Angelo Batio or Guitar World Associate Editor Andy Aledort—and go In Deep with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Play Rock Bass!, Learn Slide Guitar and much more.
Guitar Tabs are an essential part of learning, so it would only make sense that guitarists would want to access every single one of Ultimate-Guitar’s more than 600,000 tabs on a whim.
Better yet, the app can play the music to the site’s 150,000-plus Tab Pro offerings with loop and tempo control, and it offers a tuner, metronome and chord library.
If you regularly visit JamPlay online for its video guitar lessons, you’ll love JamPlay, which brings hundreds of guitar lessons for beginning and experienced players of acoustic and electric guitar to your mobile device.
The app provides access to instructional videos and backing tracks, as well as utilities like chord and scale libraries, a metronome and a tuner. The chord library features thousands of chord voices with audio playback, while the scale library provides scales in all 12 keys, also with audio playback. Best of all, new lessons and backing tracks are added frequently, with no app updates or fees required.
Despite what your guitar teacher might have told you, your whammy bar will never let you sound exactly like Johnny & Santo playing “Sleepwalk” on a steel guitar (unless you happen to be Jeff Beck). But Steel Guitar will.
This fun app lets you simulate the experience with its easy-to-operate emulations of lap, eight-string, Nashville- and Texas-style steel guitars, as well as a number of distortion and effects options.
Although pricey by basic app standards, Chord! offers a comprehensive interactive chord encyclopedia based on interval relationships, giving users many different inversions and fingerings.
It also offers interactive scales with alternate fingering and optional piano displays. Next time your jazz-bo keyboard player starts jamming on a C major 13 chord, you can find the perfect scale in which to improvise.
When it comes to practice, nothing beats playing with a full ensemble.
The Guitar Jam Tracks series of apps provide full-band backing tracks for rock, reggae, jazz, “humbucker blues” and acoustic blues, delivering the ultimate experience in woodshedding. App developer Ninebuzz also offers a Scale Trainer & Practice Buddy app for $4.99.
In addition to the five previously mentioned styles, it includes an in-app purchase option for Garage Rock and the ability to float in tracks you’ve written in GarageBand and other apps.
Amps, Effects, Recording and Tools
Since inspiration often strikes at inconvenient times, GarageBand can be a songwriter’s most invaluable tool, especially if you’re far away from your instrument.
With realistic-sounding virtual-guitar tones that can be strummed as chords, regimented into scales (including exotic-sounding Klezmer and “South-East Asian” scales) or played as standard fretted notes, GarageBand makes it easy to sketch out song ideas. It also offers amps and effects to suit practically any kind of music.
And because it offers simulated bass, drums, keyboards, strings, a sampler and even a virtual amp that you can plug into using an audio interface, you can write full demos and even smartly produced and mixed songs.
Recording enthusiasts know the power of the “bus” on a console: it’s what keeps everything connected.
Now a recording-obsessed app developer has created a program that works like a bussing system between music apps, allowing users ostensibly to rout the signals from numerous apps—including AmpKit, Amplitube, StompBox and Animoog (see all below)—into GarageBand or other recording apps. Finally, your tone is always at your fingertips.
Guitarist Alex Skolnick told Guitar World that he uses AmpKit+ almost religiously for warm-ups, whether he’s running through the blazing solos and riffs that he’s co-written with Testament or the jazzy chordings and improv ideas he plays in his eponymous trio.
That’s because AmpKit+ replicates the sounds of four amps—the Peavey ValveKing and 3120, as well as vintage “British” and “Colonel” amps—and the effects of 10 stomp boxes, plus mic and cabinet options. In-app purchases include more options, such as the Peavey 6505+, but those on a budget can check out the free version of AmpKit, which offers the ValveKing and a pared-down selection of effects.
Either way, you’ll need Peavey’s AmpKit LiNK, which ranges from $19.99 to $99.99, depending on the model. Like other apps mentioned here, AmpKit+ has Audiobus support.
Like the PC and Mac programs of the same name, IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube offers digital stomp boxes and selectable head, cab and mic options.
App users can mix and match 11 stomp boxes, five amps, five cabs and two mics in the full version and a more basic rig in the free edition of the app.
In-app purchase options include a handy four-track recorder and a few more effects for writing on the go. Also available are branded versions of AmpliTube that offer the unique sounds of Slash, Jimi Hendrix and Fender amps for $14.99. Like AmpKit, AmpliTube requires its own endemic interface, the iRig, which retails for $39.99, and it has Audiobus support
The DigiTech Stomp Shop app is the perfect companion to DigiTech’s iStomp stomp box.
The iStomp is a standard-size pedal that can be completely reconfigured by loading in any of DigiTech’s growing list of e-pedals, which include reverbs, choruses, delays, various DigiTech and DOD effects, and much more. The iStomp performs all of the effect processing internally and comes with 10 free e-pedals.
Of course, you’ll want to add more, which is where the Stomp Shop app comes in. Once you have it on your iPod, iPhone or iPad, simply connect the device to the iStomp with the DigiTech Smart Cable, and start buying and downloading new effects from the e-pedal store in about as long as it takes to purchase a song.
This iPad-only app’s name is a bit deceptive.
While its graphics resemble a multi-effect pedal, they can also can replicate the look of rack-mountable gear, giving guitarists several approaches to dialing in the perfect tone and experimenting with the signal chain.
StompBox contains 17 effects, including seven types of distortion and a Whammy-style pedal, as well as tools like a four-track loop recorder, a metronome and a tuner.
You can chain up to 12 simultaneous effects, save 12 banks of six patches and do much more. Plus, StompBox works with various connectors, including the iRig and AmpKit LiNK, and has AudioBus support.
Taylor EQ lets you enhance the sound of any Taylor guitar to get the most out of it.
Select from a range of EQ presets designed by Taylor Guitars engineers to optimize the tone of Taylor’s signature body shapes, including the GA, GS, GC, dreadnought, T5 and GS Mini.
The app is also customizable with a six-band parametric EQ and a useful compressor-limiter. It’s versatile, too, since it will work with many iOS guitar adapters, but developer Sonoma Wire Works offers its own GuitarJack for $149.
Why should keyboard players have all the fun? With Shredder, any guitarist can turn his ax into a synth, with no special pickup required.
The app boasts a true analog synth engine that’s fully programmable, with two oscillators, a three-pass resonant filter, dual individually configurable LFOs and much more.
Shredder includes several signature effect stomp boxes, a harmonizer that builds up to three intervals and, with the right connector, MIDI compatibility.
FourTrack offers a portable recording studio on your iPad for less than what a block of cassettes would have cost you at the peak of four-track fever.
Better yet, it sounds better than your dad’s old Portastudio, since it records at CD quality, and offers a metronome as well as drum beats by Death Cab for Cutie’s Jason McGerr.
And since it’s made by the same developers who created Taylor EQ (see above), it offers that app’s functions (as well as those of GuitarTone, another amp and effects modeling app) and it interfaces with the company’s GuitarJack port.
For those who enjoy multitracking at its most primal, Overdub lets you record sounds and get that fuzzy, vintage quality when overdubbing with them. It’s great for artists who work with loops and for indie-rockers who like a little grit in their recordings.
The app even feels like a recording relic, thanks to cassette imagery (with a Memorex tape on display!) and groovy fast-forward, eject and tracking sounds.
Savageapps made a splash with iAmBeatBox, an app that lets you create loop-oriented tunes with an innovative “magic gem” interface.
iAmGuitar is a different sort of creature but no less interesting, turning your iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad into a virtual guitar that you can pick and strum. Choose between an electric guitar or six- and 12-string acoustic variations, select the key in which you want to play and press the chord “buttons” on the virtual fretboard.
Strumming at the edges of the screen produces quieter tones, and velocity strumming allows for realistic playing dynamics. For on-the-go fun or songwriting, iAmGuitar is a player’s perfect companion.
Admit it: You love playing guitar, but some part of you wishes you could add some killer back-up vocals to your band.
Or maybe even just kick your singer out altogether and take the reins.
For those of us still building confidence, vocal coaches Susan and Wolf Carr—whose client list has included members of Alice in Chains, Mastodon, Modest Mouse and Grizzly Bear—have developed an iPhone-only app that offers vocal warm-ups for practically every singing style that will set you on your path to the mic stand.
Drum machines have a long lineage in rock, having filled the drum stool at some point for artists like the Jesus and Mary Chain, Smashing Pumpkins, Big Black and Godflesh.
And while many guitarists might recoil from the idea of learning how a drum kit works, a drum machine, like the one replicated in the DM-1 app, makes for a workable alternative for people who cannot (or will not) work with a drummer.
This intuitive app is MIDI friendly and offers samples from 86 electronic kits, 21 vintage sets and 65 in-house-produced sounds, each with customizable effects for making full song sequences.
Developed by Moog—the company that revolutionized sound in the Sixties with its commercially successful modular synthesizers—Animoog mimics the functions of a real Moog synthesizer.
You can create sounds from scratch using the graphical XY screen and sync what you play to MIDI (using an in-app purchase) and record right in the program. AudioBus support means you can direct Animoog’s sounds to other apps for even more mind-blowing sonic fun.
Developed in association with Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess, Tachyon lets you blend the timbres of any two instruments—piano, electric guitar, industrial buzz-saw sounds and so on—in any octave range and then play the resulting hybrid.
Ever wanted to play a guitar-violin? Here’s your chance.
Even cooler, as you slide your fingers over the screen, a field of twinkling stars morphs into the shape of the instrument you’ve selected to play.
Developed for the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Guitar Heroes exhibit in 2011, Met Guitars is a multimedia treasure trove of information on the history of our favorite instrument.
Video features focus on early guitars from Northern Italy and New York and go in-depth on the accomplishments of luthiers John D’Angelico, James D’Aquisto and John Monteleone. The app includes demonstrations that include audio of Chet Atkins playing a 1950 D’Angelico, and interviews with Monteleone.
Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the Quiet Beatle’s gear gets a thorough examination in this app, licensed by the Harrison Estate.
Full 360-degree imaging allows you to see the Gretsch, Rickenbacker, Fender and other guitars Harrison used, as well as the dings and scratches.
Beatles enthusiasts will also marvel at audio introductions to the guitars by Harrison himself and at the nerdy, in-depth histories the developers included for each instrument and witty commentary by Conan O’Brien and insightful memories by George’s son, Dhani.
There’s nothing like a little Jimi Hendrix to inspire you. Now you can get a regular dose of his genius right on your phone, courtesy of The Complete Experience. The app provides succinct overviews of the six-string revolutionary’s biography, discography, studio life and more, and it plays some of his greatest recorded moments to give you the motivation you need.