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Review: PocketGuitar

January 20, 2009
Overview PocketGuitar looks pretty simple if you just look at the main interface - some strings and a space at the bottom to strum. That by itself was enough to interest me in this app. I was surprised, though, to find a plethora of options and customizability that wouldn’t be out of place on a $5 or $10 app. PocketGuitar is $0.99! I was shocked, and after playing with it for a while, I’m willing to bet some crazy band will feature guitar via iPhone on a recording.


  • Tune It
In addition to a number of preset tunings, you’ll have the option to tune any string up to an octave in either direction. This leaves no limitations on your ability to work with the tuning you want, emulating a capo or your favorite band’s tuning. I was truly pleased when I discovered this feature. Big thumbs up.

  • Shape It
You can adjust the way the strings are set up on your virtual fretboard. My jaw dropped, I’m not going to lie - I just expected so little from a guitar app on the iPhone. You can get up to an octave’s worth of frets on-screen at once, though that understandably makes it pretty hard to fret accurately. You can also adjust the space between strings, and the size of the strumming area.

  • Six Instruments to Choose From
There are a few guitar sounds in here, but I was happy to see a bass in there - what’s better is the bass sounds decent! Obviously, the lower frequencies aren’t really there, given the size of the iPhone’s speakers. I was really surprised to see a Ukelele - complete with the smaller string on top.
  • Effects, String Bending, and More
With the ability to turn on two out of three effects (distortion, delay, and chorus), adjust the parameters of those effects, I was oversold. When I saw you could bend strings, do hammer-ons and pull-offs, and “lefty flip” the guitar... I’ll just say I’m pretty amazed at the amount of thought and care that went into the implementation of features with this app.


The Good: Reflecting, I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised. This app was clearly made by or under the watchful eye of a musician. The developer took most of the things you can do on a real guitar and figured out how to put it in. I’m just used to seeing apps on the iPhone that take the easy road and say “well, we COULD have put that in, but (insert excuse here)”. This app didn’t take shortcuts, and as far as I’m concerned did a damn fine job of implementing features that are not only essential, but innovative in terms of customizability.

PocketGuitar obviously doesn’t play like a real guitar - with no tactile surface to tell your fingers you’re on a certain string or fret, you’ve got to take it slow. Regardless of that, what you can do on the app sounds pretty good, and I can imagine it being decent for plunking out riffs on a road trip. I bet kids would go nuts with this app, too. Musicians with an iPhone don’t have much of an excuse not to get this, especially considering the price. The Bad: Chords are pretty tough to pull off here, because of the limited amount of screen space as well as no tactile feedback. I found myself playing some pretty ugly chords when my fingers slipped to an incorrect fret when I looked away for a second. It’s hard to get any authentic-sounding strumming going, too. The forte of the app is definitely single-note experimentation rather than actually playing it like a guitar.


PocketGuitar is a must have for musicians of all stripes. Whether you just mash the screen and see what comes out or use the app to craft riffs using all kinds of effects and alternate tunings, this app has tons of potential. Kids will be entertained and perhaps even drawn to music through this (that’s kinda idealistic, but hey, you never know...) What you should NOT expect from this app is a realistic guitar simulation - that will not exist on the iPhone until someone mods a set of strings across the face of the phone. For what the app is, though, and for the price it’s currently set at ... this app is an unbelievable deal.

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