The best apps for guitar players

By , Apr 17, 2013

electric guitar

If you are a musician, you may not think of the iPhone or iPad as an accessory for your instrument. It may seem difficult to imagine, but your iOS device has the potential to be a better companion to your creative endeavors than your band mates.

I’ve been playing music for almost two decades now and for years I’ve have actively sought out iOS apps to help me practice my licks, record my band, and make my guitar sing like a Siren.

We’ve got a list of our favorite apps for the guitar. Whether you are a beginner looking for a cheap music tutor, or an old pro trying out new guitar sounds, this list has something for musicians of all capabilities.

The best guitar apps for iPhone and iPad

Tab Toolkit IconTabToolkit

This musical notation/sheet music app lets you download hundreds of songs from the company’s online Tab Store. Plus, you can add your own sheet music PDFs or connect to the Internet and download tab from different websites. The songs from the Tab Store are all transcribed to specifically work with the app. You can playback individual instrument tracks or the full band so you can play along on whatever instrument you play. Loop a particularly difficult section of a song so you can replay it over and over until you get it right. The app will follow along with the note that is being currently played. This is a great way for you to learn cover songs, classical tunes, and even keep track of your own tablature. Available for $3.99.

PolyTune IconPolyTune

This polyphonic tuner is perfect for the guitarist who needs to get in tune at the speed of light. The visual tuner is perfect for on-stage tuning when you don’t have the ability to hear the pitch. With a single strum, you can see the pitch of all six strings, each with its own color-coordinated indicator light. The app also features a bass tuner so you can switch between instruments. This app is actually a virtual representation of the guitar tuner of the same name by TC Electronics. You can drop tune, adjust pitch, and change display modes between needle turner or stream tuner. Available for $4.99.

Songsterr IconSongsterr Guitar Tabs

This app is a simple tablature download app with access to 500,000 high-quality guitar and bass musical notations. It also includes a playback feature that will let you play tracks from the downloaded tablature while you play along. Single out specific tracks and change instruments depending on what you prefer. You can also slow down the playback so you can practice at your own pace. You can download songs for offline listening and practicing. You’ll never be without access to hundreds of thousands of songs. Available for $19.99.

AmpliTube Slash IconAmpliTube Slash

IK Multimedia makes some of the best musician’s apps in the App Store. They are constantly coming up with new instrument simulations that feature high-quality sounds. The AmpliTube line of apps is one of their best and my personal favorite is Slash. This app features a digital effects processor that is based on the former Guns ‘N Roses guitarist’s favorite amps, including the Marshall JCM Silver Jubilee, the Marshal AFD100, And a vintage 1960 Marshall cabinet. It also includes six different virtual guitar pedals, like the OctoBlue, WahDist, and X-Chours. Plus, each pedal is preset to Slash’s own preferences. Need I say more? Available for $14.99.

Circle of Fun IconCircle of Fun

You may not think you need to learn music theory, but if you want to understand your instrument better and be able to create good music and complimenting melodies, you must learn music theory. One important aspect is the Circle of Fifths, which will help you understand which notes sound good together and how to get back to the root. This app makes learning boring old music theory fun. It explains scales, chords, and dominant or subdominant notes. You can record the notes that you play in the circle, which can be helpful for creating songs. This app is only available on the iPad. Available for free.

AnyTune Pro IconAnyTune Pro + – Music Practice Perfected

If you want to learn cover songs for your band, but are having trouble figuring out certain complex solos, this “slow-downer” app will playback your music at a slower BPM (beat per minute) without changing the pitch. You can also loop certain sections and replay them over and over again, and then increase the speed until you are playing along at the correct speed. Any guitarist who has ever tried to recreate a solo will know how useful this feature is. You can import any song from your music library, so you don’t have to worry about not being able to find that obscure jazz artist from the 1940s. One additional feature is that you can plug your guitar into your device using a connector like the iRig and play along inside the app with EQ adjustments. Available for $14.99.

Guitar Toolkit IconGuitarToolkit

This comprehensive app is from the makers of Tab Toolkit. It supports Guitar Pro and Power Tab formats, as well as PDF and text files. In addition to being a full-featured musical notation app, it features a metronome, a guitar chord finger placement reference with more than 200,000 chords, scales and arpeggios, and a tuner. It supports a number of instruments, including six, seven, and 12 string guitars, four, five, and six string basses, ukuleles and more. Tune your instrument using standard tuning or a variety of alternate note tunings. Basically, everything you normally cram into your gig bag can be replaced with this convenient app. Available for $9.99.

Guitar Suite HD IconGuitar Suite HD

O.K., so you’ve been playing guitar for a few years now and you think you are pretty dang good at chords and scales. Well, this app will put your knowledge to the test by asking you to play on a virtual fret board. You won’t be playing songs on a pretend guitar, but you will be practicing your chords. You’ll be tested on 50 scales and more than 25,000 chords with a variable tempo metronome and support for bass, guitar, ukulele, banjo, and lute. It also comes with a guitar tuner and a tune-by-ear option so you can learn how to get your axe in order without needing a tuner. This app is only available on the iPad. Available for $2.99.

Subdivide Metronome IconSubdivide Metronome

This powerful metronome includes multiple tempos ranging from simple four-four beats to complex patterns like the Clave. It also includes a strobe tuner to allow you to tune your guitar right from within the app. There is a tempo and subdivision indicator, volume adjustment, sound variations, and more. Those familiar with Dr. Beats will be able to easily understand the rotation interface of this app.  You can also drag the slider up and down for different subdivisions. It is an all-in-one time keeper to help you keep the beat like a machine. Available for $4.99.

JamUp Pro XT app iconJamUp Pro XT – Amp Effects Processor

If you are looking for a virtual stomp box, look no further than JamUp Pro. It comes with a huge collection of stomp box effects, various simulated cabinet sounds, and presets from some of the industry’s greats. Through in-app purchases, you can add up to 36 amp simulations, 30 different stomp box effects, and an 8-track recorder. There is a built-in tuner, a metronome, and iTunes playback from your device’s music library. It is also Audiobus compatible so you can add your JamUp Pro guitar licks to Loopy, or some other sampling app for a seriously good time. Available for $19.99.

Do you have a favorite guitar-related app? Please make sure to share your feedback in the comments section below.

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  • Max Katzmann

    Tab Toolkit is my favorite! So useful!

  • http://www.carloborja.com/ Carlo Borja

    On our live gigs, I’ve used OnSong too. Very useful especially for the iPad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DefJamz Andre Kingpin

    GuitarToolkit for me for it’s the only one with a 12-string tuner.

  • http://twitter.com/digitalfeind Dani Hayes

    Songster takes advantage of what you can find for free online and better correct tabs. It’s a ripoff. For tuners Pro Tuner or Instatuner are extremely accurate.

  • twited21

    I just use garage band the effects are tidy and for recording its perfect for me
    But I’m going to look at some of these they look pretty good

    Great feature it’s nice to see something different on here

  • Adrian12369

    Where’s tab pro!!?? That’s the app I use it’s pretty great.

    • bananamana

      See my mail above. I agree it was great but doesn’t work with iOS7 for the moment.

  • http://twitter.com/reloadedhead Tom García

    Ain’t nobody have money for that

  • http://anton.zujev.eu/ Anton Zujev

    As Carlo Borja mentioned in his comment, OnSong is great. I never leave the house with the instrument, but without OnSong. I have all my song library there and I constantly update it with new songs. It understands chordpro format and all songs can be synced with a folder on Dropbox (or on an FTP/WebDAV/S3) as simple text files. It has autoscroll, supports tags, is extremely customizable, can be controlled with Bluetooth foot pedals and is simply the best out there.

  • Antony Andreev

    What about GarageBand? I record my songs via iRig and its pretty high quality is obtained

  • H5ire

    Where the F**k is Ultimate Guitar Tabs/Tools.? o.O

    • http://twitter.com/burlow burlow

      this. best $2 I’ve spent, especially compared to the ones on this list.

  • http://twitter.com/graubart Barry Graubart

    Some good choices here but missing me of my absolute favorites – the Amazing Slow Downer app – extremely helpful in deciphering songs.

  • http://twitter.com/watchlearnmusic FreeGuitarVideos.com

    You can also get a lot of guitar lesson video apps. Check out the “Free Guitar Videos” app

  • http://www.goodbeginnerguitar.net/ Beginner Guitar

    PolyTune a great tool for me

  • Mike O’Neill

    Jam up pro. Beats all others hands down for recording and effects, I’ve tried all of ‘em, and I have been playing for over 35 years, trust me, it’s all you need

  • bananamana

    Tab Pro (not mentioned, but previously a good app in this category) doesn’t work with iOS7 as of today (20 September 2013), so avoid until they fix it.