Learning a new instrument can be an incredibly rewarding experience. That’s of course once you’ve gotten past the early frustration of realising that your fingers just don’t bend in the required directions, and that music is a form of ancient witchcraft devised to torture beginners. Thankfully things have come a long way since Bert Weedon’s Play in a Day (ask your grandpa) and budding musicians can reap the benefits of modern technology in their pursuit of mastering the melodic.
Nowadays an iPad and a few apps are all you need to get yourself playing in no time at all. Well, that and some dedication, thus it ever was. So if you’ve recently bought a guitar, or have a dusty one under the bed that you purchased long ago, try out some of the tips below and you could be tearing it up at an open mic night before you know it.
How to learn guitar on iPad: Yousician
One of the best tutorial apps available on the iPad is Yousician. The idea behind it is very simple. On screen you see a digital representation of the guitar fretboard and the notes you need to play are shown as coloured dots or blocks depending on how long they need to ring.
As each exercise progresses you follow a bouncing ball that tells you when and where to play. The iPad uses its built-in microphone to listen to you and at the end of the track you get feedback on how you did, where mistakes were made, and the chance to play again.
It might sound a little like Guitar Hero or Rock Band, and in some ways it is, but while the crowd in those games booed when you made mistakes, Yousician is a lot more encouraging. Lessons are structured to take you from a complete beginner up to a fully fledged widdler, and you can also learn the Ukulele, Bass, or Piano, although each instrument costs extra.
You can take advantage of a free trial to see if it’s the kind of thing for you, then if you want to access all of the features you’ll need a Premium account which currently goes for around £15 p/m or £89.99 for the whole year. Each instrument requires it’s own Premium account, so things can add up quite quickly, but when you consider the cost of private lessons it’s actually very reasonable. There’s also a combined package of all the instruments for £25 p/m.
How to learn guitar on iPad: YouTube
One of the best resources for any new (or seasoned) musician is the YouTube app on your iPad. There are literally thousands of free lessons and backing tracks available on the platform, many of which are provided by professional teachers advertising their own sites. This means you can explore hours of tuition before having to spend any money, plus once you find a tutor you like you can sign up to their lessons with confidence. If only this had been around when we started playing.
How to learn guitar on iPad: Guitar Toolkit
A very handy app to add to your collection is GuitarToolkit. It brings together a guitar tuner (using the iPad microphone), metronome, and comprehensive guide to chords. The latter includes where to put your fingers, which chords work together, and options for alternate tunings. It’s a simple, always useful tool that will take the mystery out of music while making sure you sound good.
Available for £2.29 on the App store.
How to learn guitar on iPad: Tabs & Chords HD
Once you’ve got a few chords under your belt you’ll want to play some actual songs. Tabs & Chords HD by Ultimate Guitar is perfect for this as it gives you over a million pages of sheet music for famous tunes. Don’t worry though, you won’t need to actually read music as these charts all feature chord boxes to make things easier for beginners.
The app also offers a few paid upgrades such as Tab Pro which plays the song to you so you can learn by jamming along. Subscriptions start at around £5 p/m or there’s a one-off lifetime membership for £30.
How to learn guitar on iPad: OnSong
Another very useful app for sheet music is OnSong. This allows you to create your own charts or import existing ones from Dropbox or any online services you might be signed up to. Once in OnSong you can transpose chords into other keys just by tapping a button, arrange songs into playlists, and even share the music with other OnSong users via wifi or Bluetooth.
It’s a perfect accompaniment for any modern gigging musician. The app costs around £15 and there area number of additional features you can buy later on if you need them.
So there you go, a fine collection of apps that will turn an iPad into your own personal guitar tutor. Be sure to practise every day and it won't be long until you're able to don a top hat and strut your stuff on the big stage. Just remember, leather trousers are entirely optional.