Scale Variator: An I Wish App

When I started this blog, I decided to only cover apps that I really loved and actually used often. I’m breaking that rule a little bit with the Scale Variator. This app could be so good and useful. Alas, it suffers from some real limitations. There are some very good things about this app though so I’ll cover it. It may be just the practice tool that some are looking for. Also, note that this app has not been updated since about 2011 so waiting for it to get better is probably in vain.

Well, why should you even consider this app then?
This app is great for making scale and arpeggio studies on the fly. Especially if you play the guitar, the instrument that the app is actually directed towards. Nothing helps an instrumentalist become more comfortable with the basics of their instrument than scales and arpeggios. I tell my students that these are like pre-practicing. Spend the time now and get a handle on a good portion of most of the music that you will ever play without ever seeing the piece. I always start my practice sessions with some type of scale study.

The great thing about Scale Variator is that you can make yourself a scale study that can emphasize an arpeggio that you are having difficulty with or just practice your scale in a variety of ways.

Scale Variator Scale only on iPad.

Scale Variator Scale only on iPad.

Scale Variator Root-4th-2nd-3rd down on iPad.

Scale Variator Root-4th-2nd-3rd down on iPad.

Scale Variator Root-third-fifth on iPad

Scale Variator Root-third-fifth on iPad

At the bottom of the app, you can choose what scale degrees you want to have in your arpeggio. You can also choose the step from the root. (This can get a little confusing depending on what scale degrees you also choose.) If you tap the right hand side of the app, you can hear what your study sounds like. On the left hand side, you can go to a different page to move to the next scale degree but use the same pattern. You can also choose up or down for your scale by selecting the arrow at the bottom of the screen. A handy metronome is also included.

Help screen on iPad:  Scale Variator

Help screen on iPad: Scale Variator

If you are a guitarist that doesn’t read music, you can show the etude that you’ve made in tab.

Scale Variator screen cut off on iPad

Scale Variator screen cut off on iPad

In the settings, you can choose your highest fret, whether there is an octave displacement and how much of one, and whether the scales should be modal or parallel. Modal lists the mode you are in if you were to start on that particular note. Helpful for learning improvisation. You can also choose your scale here, what root note and one of 9 scale possibilities to work on.

  • Major
  • Minor Pentatonic
  • Natural Minor
  • Japanese Pentatonic
  • Harmonic Major
  • Jazz Melodic Minor
  • Harmonic Minor
  • Whole Tone
  • Diminished

I would use Scale Variator much more often if it was a more universal app and not just geared towards guitar.
My wishes for Scale Variator:

  • An updated screen. It is an iPhone app, not a plus app. It has portions strangely cut off in the iPad 2x mode but it is not easy to see well on the iPhone.
  • A clef option. Even bass guitarists, and bassoonists, need love.
  • Rather than just frets, I’d love to be able to choose by a note range.
  • More of the scale fit onto one screen to avoid having to switch screens so often.

So here’s your warning before you go and get this app. You’ll like it a lot but you’ll wish for more. I’m still on the lookout for something better unless they choose to finally update this app.

Scale Variator is from Berklee College of Music. There is a free version to try that only shows you A Major. Get that here Or you can buy the full version for $4.99 here. I would recommend that you try the free version first due to the frustrations outlined above.


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