Developer: Amidio Inc.
Price: $3.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★★
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

We’ve all had it happen. Even if you’re not a musician, you’ve probably been driving down the road and had an idea or an outline in your head for that presentation. By the time you get home or to the office, things seem flat. For a songwriter, being without an instrument presents the same scenario. While I won’t recommend playing with Star Guitar during your commute, it does provide an interesting musical solution if you don’t happen to have your guitar or keyboard.

img_00023Amidio Inc. should be a familiar name to musicians in the iPhone community. They created one of the most popular apps for serious musicians with After trying their hand at a dance application, Amidio make their return to the genre. Star Guitar is a sequencer and recorder that lets you easily select a variety of 144 chords when recording a song idea. In the default mode, pressing play begins playing a sample of a rhythm guitar pattern. When you choose a different chord, the application will switch on either the next measure or half-measure (which ever one comes first). You have your choice of all the root note chords, their sharps and flats, minors, sevenths (dominant, major and minor), sixths and sustained 4th chords. This provides all the variations one should need to track a song idea. If you need a F#minor7b13 chord it’d probably be better to make a note of where to insert it when you get back to your studio. Rhythm patterns can be changed by a slide gesture above that area and variations of the particular pattern can be selected with a simple tap. On the other side of the interface, beats per minute may be changed with a slide and the guitar type with a tap. When you get back home you can see the exact fingering of the chords by tapping the top blue display.

There’s also a manual “smart-strumming” mode that surprised me greatly by really working well. You simply tap on the root of the chord you want to play (instead of pressing play) and Star Guitar keeps up really nicely.

Once you’ve been familiarized with the guitar side of the app, you can begin recording. The app allows you to record your voice with an external mic (including the iphone headset). A metronome is provided for keeping time and a mute button allows you to pause patterns for dramatic effect. Once you’re done recording, Star Guitar allows you to export your song via wifi. The app is also compatible with Intua’s Beatmaker for even more extensive music creation without the need for a pc.

When musicians hear about a product like this, the first thing they ask about is sound. Even when things aren’t geared toward a final recording, you still want the aesthetics of your recording to be something you wouldn’t mind playing for a colleague. Star Guitar does a good job in this respect. More variation in sounds, especially on the electric guitar side would be welcome, as would a few more strumming patterns.

Star Guitar does what all the best productivity apps do for the iphone, they bring a dawning realization of mobile freedom. The main interface provides much more functionality than I possibly would have guessed from a screenshot. Even so, after just a little while playing around and reading the help screen and I was completely comfortable. The app was also very stable on my iPhone.

img_00015There are really only a few negatives that I feel are worth mentioning. First of all, interfaces are a very personal thing. My tastes don’t run toward marbled fretboards, but I don’t believe it significantly detracts from the application. Some people may not like the splash screen. While this is also not an issue for me, I understand that application load times can seem really long when you’re ready to show your wife a new song and all she can see is a sexy lady with a guitar. I will say that the main interface is very snug. Amidio kept the chord buttons just big enough for easy switching without fumbling and that means there’s not a lot of room for other things. Most things work really well, but I can’t help but think that a few things (like the playback button, mic, file manager button, metronome and help) might benefit from being on a separate screen that’s accessed via a sideways swipe. This might limit some power users, but it might also allow other areas to be bigger for those with larger fingers. I also encountered some occasional problems with the wi-fi server, but those may have been on my end.

The quality of musical applications on the App Store has really been a pleasant surprise. Star Guitar continues this trend by giving musicians a way to capture ideas at a moment’s notice. Taking the initiative to extend functionality by partnering with Beatmaker to make both apps that much more powerful shows Amidio’s dedication to the platform as a whole. All this is a boon to users with any musical aspirations. Whether music is a hobby or a full-time job, the next time the Muse comes calling, you can answer with your iPhone.

Posted in: iPhone Apps and Games, Music, Reviews

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