iOS Guitar App Takes Page from Apple's own Playbook with Smart Chords

in Music (E)

[] Cambridge, Massachusetts - ChordBankPro, the popular guitar chord-finder app for iPhone and iPod touch, takes serious cues on design from big-brother Apple in its latest release, which adds support for left-handed guitarists, and what it calls 'Smart Chords.'

Like the Genius button in Apple's own iTunes and iPod apps, 'Smart Chords' suggests chords that go well together. The app draws on popular chord changes to generate dozens of chord progressions for each of the thousands of chords in ChordBankPro.

"I think it's hard not to be inspired by Apple if you're an iOS developer these days, especially with some of the awesome music apps they've been doing lately," says Chris Ladd, the developer behind ChordBankPro. "In taking something fairly complex like chord theory and making it dead simple, 'Smart Chords' absolutely owes a lot to Cupertino. It's one of those features that crosses the line from 'Oh, that's kind of cool," to 'How the @#$* did they do that?', and it does it in this way that's just completely intuitive."

The 'Smart Chords' feature swings the app's virtual fretboard back like a door on hinges, exposing dozens of progressions ready to be popped into a hit song, each organized by the target chord's 'alias' in a scale. The G major chord, for example, is shown in progressions as I of G major, IV of D major, or V of C major. For each progression, chords pop over the screen, with diagrams for left and right-handed guitarists, each playable with a tap.

"The theory's all there and complete, but you don't need to understand it to get the most out of the app," Ladd says. "Even someone playing guitar for the first time can use Smart Chords to understand how these chords fit together, and that's a lot more valuable than just dumping thousands of diagrams in someone's lap and saying, 'OK, good luck!' For the first time, an app will tell you not just how to play a chord, but why you should play this chord instead of that one."

Making that understanding accessible to all players, especially left-handed guitarists, was a key design decision that impacted every aspect of the latest release, much of which was rewritten from scratch, Ladd says.

"Smart Chords are the big, flashy new thing - that's what everyone's going to notice. But honestly, the thing I'm most excited about is supporting lefties," Ladd says. "If you're left handed, you string your guitar exactly opposite from a right-handed person, and so all the chords need to be flipped around, too."

"A lot of what sets ChordBankPro apart from other chord-finder apps is paying attention to the little things - how the strings buzz, how it shows the right enharmonic note spellings for all the strings for every chord. So paying attention to how left-handed players want to see chords represented was a big deal, and I spent a lot of time making sure every feature just worked perfectly for lefties," Ladd says.

"With this release, I'm hoping ChordBankPro will raise the bar for chord apps beyond just translating the kinds of diagrams we all grew up with in books to a little screen in your pocket. WIth this release, I'm hoping to change what people expect from this type of app. For the first time, an app will tell you not just how to play a chord, but why you should play that chord. It's really a huge step forward in translating some of the great things we can figure out on an iPhone to some of the great things users want to do in real life on their guitars."

Device Requirements:
* iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad
* Requires iOS 4.0 or later
* 9.9 MB

Pricing and Availability:
ChordBankPro 1.1 is $4.99 USD (or equivalent amount in other currencies) and available worldwide exclusively through the App Store in the Music category.

ChordBankPro is part of a growing family of iOS apps by Chris Ladd that aim to bring musicians closer to music, including ChordBank, ChordBankPro, UkeBank, and Trumpeteer. Copyright (C) 2011 Chris Ladd. All Rights Reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, iPhone, iPod and iPad are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries.


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