I've been playing the guitar for most of my life. So, when guitar apps started appearing in the App Store, I was like the proverbial kid in a candy store. Sadly, I quickly developed a love/hate relationship with most of the App Store offerings that turn your iPhone or iPod touch into a virtual guitar. I love the idea of being able to play the guitar no matter where I happen to be, but I hate the limitations imposed by the size of the iPhone's screen and the lack of tactile feedback.
Luckily, it seems like QNG, the developer of Acoustic Guitar, has realized these limitations and attempted to work around them with its $1 app for the iPhone and iPod touch.
Since it's nearly impossible to finger chords on the iPhone, Acoustic Guitar provides an area at the top of the screen where you can place up to eight different chord "buttons." The remainder of the screen is devoted to strumming. To play, you press a chord button with one finger and strum with another. In this regard, the app is more like an autoharp than a guitar.
You can select from many built-in chord patterns or you can create your own. Most chords provide multiple fingerings and positions and, while you're selecting your chords, you can listen to a sample of each one, which is nice.
The acoustic guitar sound is pretty good--understandably, it sounds better through headphones. What I liked best was the variety of chords and positions available, which, if nothing else, makes the app useful as a chord finder. What I didn't like, however, is the app's inability to let you do much more than very simple strumming. Picking individual notes is difficult, and forget about playing arpeggios or doing hammer-ons and pull-offs. Also, the chord buttons weren't always responsive, and sometimes the app just freaked out and stopped playing any sound until I restarted it.
I found Acoustic Guitar amusing for a short while but I didn't find it particularly satisfying. Being an experienced guitar player probably makes me a more demanding judge, so I'm betting that non-guitarists would enjoy this app the most. A word of advice, though... If you really want to play the guitar, go get a real instrument. There's no substitute for the real thing.
[Brian Beam is guitar player, Robin Trower fan and partner with BOLD Internet Solutions, living somewhere near Kansas City.]
This story, "Acoustic Guitar for IPhone" was originally published by Macworld.