I bought a guitar recently. I don’t know how to play it, but that’s not the point. The point is that I want to know how to play it, and not owning a guitar directly impacted my progress in that direction.
So, I bought one. A cheap one. Cost me every bit of $80. A friend of mine, John, who is an accomplished guitarist, tuned it for me and deemed it, “a decent instrument.” I think John was being kind. Nonetheless I am now the owner (notice that I didn’t say “proud”) of a guitar. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the first step on my journey to learn to play an instrument. Any instrument.
The second step, of course, is to actually pick it up and use it. I’ve only done this once in the three weeks I’ve had it.
Not very encouraging, is it?
In my defense, there is a lot going on in my life at the moment and finding time to devote to the finer things is tough. However, I anticipate that I’ll get through this rough patch soon and I’ll have adequate time to learn to strum, pluck, pick, and otherwise play at my guitar.
But that’s now. The present. What about before now? I’ve had plenty of opportunities to learn to play an instrument. Why haven’t I?
Like so many things in life, anything more than picking out a tune on a recorder or harmonica was all I seemed to find time for. Now I want to do more than pick out a tune. I want to play, and play well enough that I can actually recognize what it is I’m playing.
To do that requires practice. Lots of practice. Practice requires time and even when I have more of it what I have may not be enough. And I may also want to play something else just to get the feel of playing…um, something else.
Luckily I have an iPhone and an iPad, and free iOS apps at my disposal. I now have no excuse.
One reason I delayed buying a guitar is that to make music, or even practice making music, you have to have the guitar with you. Let’s face it, a guitar is hardly pocketable. Still, I occasionally get a hankering to peck out a tune. This is where the iPhone comes in.
Smule has been a big player in the iOS music making world for one very good reason; they make making music easy. Take the latest iteration of their cool Ocarina app, called appropriately enough, Ocarina 2.
Song list for Ocarina 2
If you have the original Ocarina app then you already know how much fun it is to use your iPhone as a wind instrument that lets your efforts be heard around the world. Ocarina 2 retains all of the features of the original, but adds ‘Whistle Mode,’ an innovative note and tempo matching interface, and new songs.
You still use your breath to make music and it does take a bit of practice to make the song sound close to something people will recognize, but it gets you playing, and that’s the key.
Play by matching patterns
It’s not a guitar, but when the mood strikes you to play a tune it’s more likely to happen with Ocarina 2 installed on your iPhone than it would with a guitar in your back pocket.
I’ll admit that playing the guitar proficiently is a daunting task. Why? Because I need to know chords, and the only chords I know I can tie in knots. So, it would help if I understood and recognized a musical chord when I see and hear one.
Enter Simple Music.
Here’s an app that turns your iPhone or iPad into a new kind of musical instrument, one that allows you to play chord-based music simply. Yes, there is still some learning involved, but what you learn about chords and music in general is instrument agnostic.
Simple Music’s tab interface works well
You play by tapping the onscreen tabs that are labeled with the notes they represent. In this way you can peck out some fairly sophisticated tunes without much ado. The app comes with a basic piano voice, but you can buy more voices with in-app purchases.
What really makes this app stand out is the tutorial, which gives you a bit of music theory and shows you how to get started making music quickly. It’s a fun app that any music buff will enjoy regardless of how good you are.
What good is owning a guitar if you never learn how to play it?
I’ve bought a few books to learn how, but I’m more of a hands-on, visual learner. Also, I’d like to practice what I’ve learned, but, as I mentioned earlier, it’s more than inconvenient to carry my guitar with me everywhere I go. That’s where Guitar Free comes in handy.
On my iPhone or iPad, I can now practice what I’ve learned and with headsets I can do so without annoying (strike) entertaining others. Guitar Free is packed full of features too, including a great sliding fret board, 2 learning modes that include songs to practice with, decent simulated strumming and picking, and lots more. You can upgrade, of course, and get 500 song to pluck around with.
Pick out song easy with Guitar Free
What’s cool is that after messing with this app I could easily transfer what I learned to my real guitar. I’d say that’s definitely worth the price.
Wanna learn to play a guitar or just have one around to pick out a song? Guitar Free is for thee.
And that’s a warp for this week. More free music apps below with direct links.