Welcome back to the Musician’s Corner, where we tell you about our favorite apps and accessories for musicians and music lovers. Last time, we had a hands-on review of Pioneer’s A3 XW-SMA3-K Wireless Speaker. We did a lot of speaker reviews last month. My favorite ended up being the Logitech UE Boombox. It had just the right amount of sound quality and portability for my needs.
Like I promised, we are going back to the basics this week with apps that are for dedicated musicians, instead of just music lovers. At the suggestion of one of our readers, I decided to check out Tab Toolkit (to the rest of you who commented; don’t worry, I’ve downloaded the apps you’ve suggested and will review them in future columns). We reviewed this app back in 2010, but Agile Partners has since updated it to include a lot of new features. The added features include iPad compatibility, support for rich tab format files, the Tab Store, looping, visual drum tracks, and more.
Tab Toolkit is a musical notation/sheet music app for musicians trying to learn pre-existing songs. Not only can you choose from hundreds of songs in their Tab Store, but you can also upload your own documents, and even find tab online and automatically download it.
The app includes about 30 free songs. These basics include holiday songs, classical pieces, practice and beginner notation, and more. Songs that are transcribed specifically for Tab Toolkit include standard notation, as well as tablature. At the bottom of the screen, a virtual fret board, keyboard or drum kit is displayed. The notes that are being played in real-time will be highlighted in red on the virtual instrument so you can see where the notes are on the fret board, keyboard or drum head.
Users can purchase additional transcribed songs from the Tab Store for $0.99 each. Most songs include notation for guitar, bass, drums, and any other instrument that the song features. There is even tablature for the vocal arrangements, including lyrics and lead and backing vocal tracks.
Songs in the Tab Store range in genre from country to classic rock to pop to metal. You can download “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin, or Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” New songs are added regularly.
The Tab Toolkit songs include a playback feature that lets you hear one or more of the instruments being played. You can isolate tracks and even change the sound of the instrument being played. For example, if you wanted to read the sheet music for Bach’s Lute Suite #2, you could change the instrument sound from a lute to a harpsichord or even an electric guitar. The notation will remain the same, but the instrument will change.
You can also loop certain sections of the sheet music if you are having trouble with a particular solo. You can even slow the song down to help with the learning process.
If you don’t like the idea of spending money on sheet music, or if you already have your own digital collection of songs, you can easily add them to the app. To add your own PDFs, plain text documents, and even multi track rich format songs like Guitar Pro and Power Tab, visit the webpage that is designated for the app from your desktop computer (the link will be included with the app) and add them by dragging and dropping into the browser window.
You can also add music by visiting websites from within Tab Toolkit and downloading tabs directly. The app will automatically recognize tab text and ask if you want to download the information.
For $3.99, you get a sheet music app that lets you store all of your own songs, plus easily download tablature from the Internet. However, the transcribed songs are what make Tab Toolkit so fantastic. Even though it costs money to download the individual songs, it is worth it to have so many options available for learning your favorite songs. Download it from the App Store today.
Thanks for reading Musician’s corner this week. As usual, I’m always looking for suggestions. If the app or accessory you recommend looks good to me, chances are you’ll see a review of it in the future. Feel free to leave a comment below, or send me an email at [email protected] with your suggestions.