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Count the beats: Tuning and more with Guitar Toolkit for iPhone / iPod touch

Any musician worth his/her credit knows that accurate tuning is a given. It's a crucial starting point to playing any instrument at home, on the job, in the studio, or on the road, and an embarrassment when it isn't.

Some time ago I was doing an unplugged acoustic gig when my regular stomp box tuner broke down mid-rehearsal. I was in desperate need of a reliable tuner, without a music store in sight. Roll on Agile Partners Guitar Toolkit [iTunes link] for the iPhone/iPod Touch at £5.99

I had heard about various tuner apps on the App Store, but I was reluctant to try any of them. I could not believe that a tuner on my phone would provide the same accurate and reliable tuning that my current (expensive) tuners could. However, I was desperate, so I took the plunge.

Utilizing the iPhone's built in microphone (or the iPod Touch with a microphone headset), Guitar Toolkit's chromatic tuner performed just like using any other quality tuner. It was simple, effective and to my delight, it got the job done.

After the gig, upon further inspection, I soon realized that there was much more than just a common guitar tuner in this app.

Guitar Toolkit comprises a chromatic tuner, a metronome, a chord section, and a scale section too (practice your scales!!).

The chromatic tuner can be used to tune a variety of stringed instruments. By changing the 'mode' selector on the tuner, from standard 6-string EADGBE guitar tuning to 'all notes' tuning, you'll be able to tune almost any musical instrument. Or, you can preselect a particular stringed instrument, from a custom list, for that instruments specific tuning arrangement (guitar, bass, banjo, mandolin, etcetera).

If you're feeling creative, why not come up with your own custom tuning arrangement and input it into the tuner for later reference, or choose one from the alternate guitar tuning selection. DADGAD anyone?

For advanced tuning, you can alter the standard reference pitch from 440.0 Hz to whatever you'd like (some orchestras play at varying reference pitches). I've used it to tune a violin perfectly, and for all you bass players Guitar Toolkit, using the iPhone's microphone, picks up those low notes as well.

There are a few noticeable nice touches here and there. On the tuner, there is the option to alter the display to a 'high contrast mode' for tuning in low ambient light conditions. Also, when the app is open, the power saving/auto-lock features of the iPhone are disabled so the tuner remains usable until you're finished.

Short of being able to plug an instrument line directly in, I can't find a fault with the the Guitar Toolkit tuner.
Drummers, don't feel left out, there's something here for you too.

The metronome (timing, timing, timing) has all the features you'd expect: 13 various click effects, 12 time signatures, a BPM tap-tempo and a visible flashing click for when you can't hear it (although realistically, I'm dubious as to how practicable this feature will be, but then again, I'm not a drummer).

My music teacher always said to me, "Practice your scales!!!" and I'm glad that she did, but I wish I had my iPhone and Guitar Toolkit to help me along way back then.

You can find more scales in Guitar Toolkit than you could learn in a year (major, blues, the modal scales, Javaneese...). It's actually quite scary.

The interactive fretboard allows you to tap out and hear the individual scale notes as you view the scale pattern. It's a bit tricky to decipher at first, but a very useful feature indeed.

With over 500,000 chords, the 'Chords' section is much along the same lines as the scales 'Fretboard' section, it's slightly overwhelming. You'll have flashy new chords coming out of your ears and your muso buddies will be very impressed that you know the names of all of them too.

Again, you can tap out the sounds of each note in the chord, on the interactive fretboard, to make sure you're playing the right chord, the right way. It's a great way to learn and explore.

If you've ever come up with some crazy concoction of a chord, but you have no idea what it is, the 'chord finder' mode allows you to tap-in where your fingers are placed on the fret board, hear the notes, and then tell you exactly what chord it is you're playing.

It's not like I don't use my other tuners, in fact, I did get my broken stomp box tuner repaired because I need a line-in tuner, but Guitar Toolkit has become one of my most used and returned to apps on my iPhone. The reason for this is simple. Whenever I need a tuner, I reach for what's nearest.

There are many music productivity apps on the App Store, but it's apps like Guitar Toolkit that will make the iPhone practical and common-place in musicians rigs, studios and set-ups. TUAW likes Guitar Toolkit for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Any musician worth his/her credit knows that accurate tuning is a given. It's a crucial starting point to playing any instrument at home,...