Though bassoon is my main instrument, like most musicians, I love playing and learning others. One instrument that I’d really like to get better on is guitar. To that end, I bought David Mead’s book 10 Minute Acoustic Guitar Workout. If you are familiar with playing guitar already, this book might be helpful. If you are a beginner like me, having the book in conjunction with his apps will give you the best platform to start getting better at guitar.
There are currently three apps based on Mead’s approach to guitar. The first is Guitar Gym. This app is a new combination from all of his 10 minute book exercises in one spot. The book does come with a CD but I love being able to slow down the exercises easily with the metronome included while at the same time, hearing the exercises that I’m working on in the app. He advocates playing each exercise for two minutes a day and the app will keep the time for you.
There is one thing that I hope they eventually make more like the book. Right now, the app only shows guitar tabs. Since I read music, this is actually harder for me to deal with since instead of symbols that I know, the exercises are presented with fret numbers on a guitar fretboard layout with the fingerings being listed below with whether it should be an upstroke or a downstroke. This is a lot of info to keep track of at first. In the book, the information is presented in both tabs and music staff. I’d love to have that option here as well. There are five exercise sections in Guitar Gym, Warm up, Coordination, Ear Training, Stamina, and Rhythm. The included metronome has a range from 20 BPM to 220. There are a couple of exercises that are incredibly difficult for a beginner. (At least this one. Small hands don’t help here.) The first rhythm exercise has you playing the same note while using different fingerings.
Ouch! And the first Stamina exercise is suddenly in sixteenth notes where everything else is in eighth notes. The Ear Training exercises are not appreciably different than the Coordination exercises but there are lesson hints included with each exercises.
Next is the Chord Coach app. Chord Coach has lessons on building chords from scales. It includes a Chord Reference section. Nice because you can hear each chord as well as see it’s notes, intervals from the scale and its fingering.
The Chord Constructor helps you build your own version of a chord. This would be more helpful if you could save these somewhere but once you leave this section, the chord you built is gone. Then there is another section with five exercise types and a quiz that randomly picks questions from each of the sections. If you are at all familiar with theory, most of these exercises are not going to be very helpful to you unless you need a review.
You have to create or convert various chords…pick out the notes of a G7 chord or change that G7 into a G Major 7 chord. Some of the exercises use the fretboard and some are just written out.
However, even if you are familiar with theory, the Chord Families exercises will probably be helpful. You have to recognize a chord from just the fingering on the fretboard. I’m really slooowwww on this exercise. This same exercise is included in the CAGED app so if you are getting that app, you won’t need this one unless you don’t know chord theory.
The Caged guitar system basically breaks up the chords so that you can recognize them and use them in any key by using them in barre chords. Cool idea but the execution is not really there for me with my wimpy-can’t-hold-down-all-the-notes-with-one-finger hands. However, learning these chord shapes and making the notes on the fretboard come to me instantly is definitely going to be helpful to me.
This app has the same basic approach that the Chord Coach does. Written lessons followed by exercises. There is also a CAGED reference section and you can see the keyboard laid out for you based on various notes. A chord reference just like the one in the Chord Coach app and an additional scale reference section is also included here. The exercises in this app include finding notes on the fretboard,
recognizing chord shapes, building CAGED chord versions on a fretboard, identifying chords from their shape,
identifying chord families (this is the same exercise from the Chord Coach.), and interval finder within chords. There is also a section where you can see your progress on the exercises.
I already feel more comfortable after working through the exercises from the Guitar Gym app on a regular basis. So far, that has been the most helpful for me as the beginner that I am. Once I get good enough, there are other guitar-centric apps from Leaf Cutter Studios that look interesting. Among them, Gypsy Jazz Guitar with Tim Robinson, and David Mead Twelve Bar Blues.
There is no difference between the iPhone and the iPad versions on any of these apps. They are plus apps and so will work on both devices but I’d like to see an option to have the exercises in a landscape view as well as the portrait. All of the apps require at least iOS 4.3 and are $2.99 each on the iTunes store.
From Leaf Cutter Studios and David Mead