Bluegrass Banjo ($3.99) by Eugene Khmelevsky Inc. is an iPad-only simulation of a five-string banjo that lets you play like a pro, even if you are not. With a classy design and five different picking styles, this app is fun for the whole family and doesn’t require any musical talent.
The neck of the banjo covers the screen while the pot rests quietly behind it. You begin in the key of G, but can change to one of 12 different keys, each containing the seven common chords for that key. You can pick the strings individually, or set the banjo to roll and try out the five common bluegrass picking rolls: Forward/Backward, Backward/Forward, Alternate, Box and Claw Hammer Strum. Each string offers a different roll to choose from. You can also change the speed at which the rolls are picked, anywhere from the slow pace of 80 beats per minute (BPM) all the way to the crazy ho-down sound of 300 BPM.
Once you have spent some time getting to know the rolls and matching up compatible chords, you can record a song and play it back. Show your new creation to someone unfamiliar with this app and they will think you are a veritable bluegrass superstar. You can’t save your song, so be sure to play it for as many people as possible before your little brother decides to record over it.
Overall, while the design is sleek and the sound is fairly smooth, my problem with this app is that it costs $3.99. With the limited features, it seems more like a two dollar app. Hopefully, the developers will reduce the price and open it up to a larger audience. At the current price, I would image that only banjo players would be willing to part with so much money, and they might be disappointed to find that it is just a fun toy.