Developer: Agile Partners
Price: $9.99
Version: 1.2.2

Design Rating: ★★★★★
Features Rating: ★★★★★
Integration Rating: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★★

One thing that has taken the world by surprise with regards to the iPad is its favourability amongst musicians and learners. The music section of the App Store now hosts over 13000 applications, and contains the application that Apple declared winner of the 2010 Apple Design Awards – TabToolkit by Agile Partners.

Agile Partners are established developers, having released a number of applications including Guitar Toolkit and Lick of the Day. Most recently, they are recognized for their work on AmpKit, an application that – through hooking up your guitar with AmpKit LiNK hardware – turns your iPad or iPhone into a fully-fledged amplifier. TabToolkit is the playing compliment.

Described as “an incredibly powerful music notation viewer with multi-track audio playback”, TabToolkit provides a way to access music sheets right from your iPad. Format dependent, the application supports not only tablature and standard music notation, but includes a fretboard along the bottom of the screen to show you exactly what needs played where and when.

TabToolkit’s opening library looks similar to that of the iPod application, with options to browse your songs by alphabetical and artist order, as well as providing a list of recently added, recently opened and ‘favourited’ items. The application comes with a number of pieces pre-installed, but its real uses come in through the import / download feature, allowing you to add your own Guitar Pro, Power Tab, PDF and text/ASCII tab files. The application supports the former two beautifully, presenting music in tablature and musical notation format, with a fretboard underneath. It is within these two file formats that the application shines, and where all of its main features can be explained.

For example, TabToolkit is not just a reader, but a player in itself: the application plays along, with adjustable speed, so that you can get a feel for the piece and play along accurately. The aforementioned fretboard shows you where your fingers need to be if you don’t read tablature or are just starting off. In addition, if the Guitar Pro or Power Tab file contains other instruments in a piece, TabToolkit provides the ability to turn these off/on and see their respective music parts as well. Everything from direction of guitar bend to vocals is on screen in a cleanly formatted, sleek looking document.

Settings include Pause-on-Touch mode, a count in, metronome, adjustable speed, ability to display or hide tablature / standard notation, reverse fretboard for left-handed guitars, display a guitar fretboard or keyboard underneath, change the display size, and whether you want to scroll vertically or horizontally (on the iPhone, it’s horizontal only).

I can see – and agree why – Apple announced TabToolkit as the winner of the 2010 Apple Design Awards. It’s one of the most beautiful, integrated applications I’ve seen. Its flaws are hard to come by, with my only real gripe being that you can’t start playing a piece from the middle of a line in vertical format. Although this might not sound like much, when learning a new piece, it can be a nuisance having to start at the beginning of the line you want to play – particularly if you’ve chosen not to play the piece at 100%. Text / ASCII tabs feel incredibly bare after you use Guitar Pro / Power Tab files (TabToolkit does nothing to them), but on the plus side it does detect tablature on websites, offering you the ability to save it to your library. Impressively, if you open a direct download link to a Guitar Pro / Power Tab file in Safari, TabToolkit intervenes and allows you to download it.

TabToolkit is an excellently designed and highly functional application, and though it may be $9.99, is worth every penny if you make use of Guitar Pro / Power Tab files. The good news is, with such file formats being widely popular, it’s usually a painless Google search to find what you’re looking for. And with TabToolkit’s in-built browser, you don’t even need your mac or PC for that either.

Posted in: iPad Apps and Games, iPad Productivity, iPhone Apps and Games, Music, Reviews

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