Developer: Tom Hoddes
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

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

There are many music productivity apps in the App Store, especially when it comes to the guitar. Most, if not all, of these are committed to teaching users how to play and serving as a reference guide for scales, chords, etc. Some (one of which I own) have a built-in tuner, which is very handy if you’re a weekend guitar warrior like me or have to review a guitar/music app and haven’t tuned your guitar since you first bought it years ago. But tomChord does something I’ve yet to see in a guitar app: It’s primary function is to help users learn songs by detecting chords and chord keys in realtime, then displaying the results in graphical form on the iPhone’s screen. In addition, tomChord contains a chord library users can use as a reference tool when learning songs.

TomChord’s menu interface contains three options at the top of the screen: About, which explains the app and its functions, Detector, and a Chord Library containing 24 total chords, ranging from C-Major to B-Minor. Using the app consists of tapping the Start Detection button and either playing your guitar or holding your phone next to your computer/stereo, etc. As the app detects notes, they will ticker along the top of the screen. The app shows you what key you’re/your song is in and a color-coded graphical display of the notes contained within each chord are displayed at the bottom, with the root note colored in blue: a very nice feature.

I tested this app using my iTunes library and songs I already know how (or thought) to play: Acoustical versions of Yellow Ledbetter by Pearl Jam, Mr. Jones by Counting Crows and Sister by The Nixons, as well as a studio version of Nothingman by Pearl Jam. The results were a mixed bag. While tomChorder was able to detect the key chords in each song, it threw in a lot of chords that weren’t in the song, possibly due to the ambient environment or recording quality. The bottom line is that it successfully identified the right chords. I thought the chord progression in Nothingman, by Pearl Jam, was E-Major-C#Minor-B-Major-C#Minor-B-Major-AMajor, but tomChord served me, showing me the right chords are actually F-Major-D-Major-C-Major-D-Major-C-Major-A#Major. I then served tomChord by verbally berating it for not having a more comprehensive chord library. If you’re looking for complex or obscure chords, like Ebdim, you won’t find them here.

All said, the simpler, more acoustic, noise free the song, the better the results, i.e. don’t expect to play Don’t Fear the Reaper and get an accurate chord progression. This app really shines when you play a chord and want to know what it is or for playing chords you don’t know to find out what they are. Unfortunately, running tomChord on the iPhone 3G lacks animation and may result in lag, so be forewarned.

TomChord has its share of flaws and it’s not perfect, but considering what it’s capable of, it’s a very good start and a useful tool for budding musicians/people like me.

Posted in: iPhone Apps and Games, Music, Reviews

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,