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Old 08-04-2018, 08:46 AM
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Methos1979 Methos1979 is offline
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Default Guitar app (Android) review: Ultimate Guitar: Chords & Tabs

While I'm a prolific reviewer of guitars and gear, I've never before reviewed a guitar app. That's because I've never been as excited about a guitar app as I am about this one! And since my reviews are long and detailed, I always try to provide a brief summary for those that are attention deficit impaired. So here's that:

Summary: Great app for learning and live performance! Search for chords & tabs, save to set lists, great options like chord diagrams, transposing and simplifying, autoscrolling and editing. Subscription based, $19.99 a year, 7-day free trial.

Now, for those that like detail, read on:

Full Review: Recently I was on the lookout for a setlist app for my Android phone which I could use live. iPhone has the very popular Onsong but that app does not make an Android version. Initially I was looking for something that I could just list my songs and have set lists but also have an option to list chords as a reference for newer songs or even just old songs that I used to do. Kind of like having the big binder of every song you've ever learned but without the need for a cumbersome music stand holding the huge three-ring binder notebook with well-worn 'eared' paper that you see people flipping through between songs at some performances.

I have a nice cell phone holder on my mic stand and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is the perfect size to show me what I need but is still small enough so as not be an annoying distraction. I already have a metronome app that I like (Metronome Beats Pro) which I have set up to display my set lists and also contains capo positions and any effects to activate. For tuning I have the awesome Pitchlab Pro app which is my all-time favorite tuner. But I thought it would be nice to have something that could be a quick reference for chords. At 57 my memory is not what it used to be and also now that we are playing full three-hour gigs we need to have enough music (45 songs) memorized.

I started searching Google Play and ended up finding something a bit different then I thought I wanted but instead turned out to be a learning and reference tool that is nothing short of awesome! And it turns out it was right in front of me the whole time! Whenever we decide to learn a new cover song that we think we might want to do the very first thing I do (as the guitar player) is to Google the song name along with the word 'chords'. What invariably pops up first is the website tabs.Ultimate-Guitar.com. This is a very-well laid out website that has just about any and every tab for any and every popular song out there. There are always multiple versions in chords, tabs and pro versions. I use it a lot.

After searching on set lists in the Play store and not finding too much that interested me I eventually came to an app called Ultimate Guitar: Chords & Tabs. I checked it out and it's the same people that run the regular website. I took a chance and downloaded it and what I found was an app that is extremely well laid out, powerful and easy to use. It is subscription based and costs $19.99 a year. Normally I don't mind paying a few dollars for a Pro version of a great app but I tend to balk at subscription apps. But I found this one to be so powerful and useful that I knew I had to have it. In fact, I gladly paid it. There is a free seven day trial so you can try it out and cancel if you don't like it.

There are some powerful features that make this app an incredible learning (and performance) tool for me. Like the website, you just search on a song or artist name and the options pop up. I always look only for the chords and those are rated on a 5-star basis for popularity. I look at the most popular ones and then save my favorite to a set list I created called Master Set List. Once you have the songs saved you can pull them up on your phone. The songs are generally laid out with the name of the song at the top, the difficulty, the tuning and a capo position if applicable. Then it lists the chords with drawings showing the finger positions for each chord - very helpful for learning new chords. If you tap a chord it pops up on the scree with arrows on either side that allow you do scroll to different ways to play that chord on the fretboard. For instance, the Em chord has 26 different ways you can play it. It also has a PLAY button to hear what the chord sounds like.

To the right of CHORDS is TRANSPOSE. This is my new favorite thing in the world! You can click on transpose and it gives you the option to RESET (to the original key) -1 (go down one key) or +1 (go up one key). Pressing either the -1 or +1 immediately changes all the chords in the song below to that new key. If you transpose a little number with a plus or minus will show up next to the word TRANSPOSE to show you that you have indeed transposed away from the original key and just how far. I have found this invaluable in finding new keys to play in when we just can't capo far enough for my wife's vocal range! It's also been a Godsend for finding new chord progressions to play a song to make it easier to play! There have already been a few songs that have been 'saved' from getting axed from the set list as I was able to find easier ways to play them. Sometimes there is a SIMPLIFY option displayed as well. Pressing this removes/replaces some of the more odd and/or difficult chords with a simpler version. Handy.

After that comes and handy strumming pattern diagram which some might find helpful. I generally figure out the strumming that works best for me and the song. Then comes the song itself with all the lyrics and the chord letters written over the words where the chord change occurs. There are three buttons at the bottom. LISTEN will take you to a YouTube version of the song. AUTOSCROLL allows you to have the song scroll down which is very handy if you are playing and want to see the whole song. SPEED allows you to set the scrolling speed, critical depending on the tempo of the song.

At the top there is an Edit button (shaped like a pencil) that allows you to make changes to the chords and words below. This is great to fix errors you find or to just make changes in the way YOU play the song. What I have taken to doing is to edit songs simply to add a section at the very bottom that has just the chord progression itself (no words) to the song. Since I'm not the singer, this allows me to have a quick reference to all the chords in the song in the correct order in a format that is compact so I don't have to worry about scrolling. This is handy as it keeps me from needing to stare at the phone during a song but rather just glance down from time to time for a quick check.

Previously, it would take us a good 2 to 3 weeks to add just one song to our set list unless it was an insanely easy 3 or 4 chord song. But with this new app we have been able to add 4 to 6 songs a week! I have my Master Set List and then I have a separate set list with the edited songs in it. Those are the new ones and as they get internalized they are removed from this list.

In summary, if you're a techy guy like me and are looking for a great learning and live performance tool to help you take your playing to the next level, check out the Ultimate Guitar: Chords & Tabs app for Android. You won't be sorry. I'm going to post some screen shots in the next post.
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Last edited by Methos1979; 08-04-2018 at 08:56 AM.
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Old 08-04-2018, 08:47 AM
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Screen captures from the app.

Here's a basic screen of the song Space Oddity by David Bowie. Note all those chords.



Here's the same screen as above after hitting the simplify option. Note the reduction in chords.



Here's a screen capture of Maneater by Hall & Oates. This is after pressing the Transpose option. Notice that I'm currently transposed down 5 from the original key.



Here's what happens after I pressed on the Em chord drawing.



Here I've scrolled over to the 9th way to play the Em chord.



Here's what my Master Set List looks like:



And here's my edited set list - the little person icon after each song indicates this is a personal edited version.



Here's the bottom of a song I edited where I just added the chord progression for easy, non-scrolling reference.

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Last edited by Methos1979; 08-04-2018 at 08:54 AM.
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Old 08-05-2018, 05:38 AM
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VJP5 VJP5 is offline
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Excellent review!

I've been using this App for about 4 yrs and love it (the Apple version first, then the Android). The two best updates they've made to this app IMO are:

* About 2 yrs ago they added the comments to the app. Before you could only read them on the PC version. You get many good variations, tips, and edits.

* About 8 months ago they added the "edit" feature. As you stated, it is really useful in making corrections or adding your own personal notes in the song.
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Old 08-05-2018, 06:36 AM
brancher brancher is offline
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Hmmm... I've been using UG for years, copying and pasting into my Lyric Pad app (takes several steps to do this w my IMAC to android txt. btw).

I like the UG site a lot, very helpful for players. I'll have to try the app.
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Old 08-05-2018, 06:54 AM
DownUpDave DownUpDave is offline
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I started my fretted instrument playing journey on ukulele about 4 years ago. I down loaded this app back then when it was free, they have ukulele arrangements for all songs as well. I have it on my phone and my tablet. I love the fact that you can quickly transpose to different keys. The auto scroll with adjustable speed is excellent as well.

They continue to improve the features and add new ones. I pay for it now but as you say it is money well spent. There is not a day that goes by that I dont use it. Easy to print off songs as well straight from the app with our Wifi enabled printer
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Old 08-05-2018, 07:08 AM
Rotary Rotary is offline
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Great review . . . thanks. Just yesterday I was thinking about pulling the trigger on this app.

Does the annual fee allow you to use it across multiple device?
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Old 08-06-2018, 02:42 PM
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Methos1979 Methos1979 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rotary View Post
Great review . . . thanks. Just yesterday I was thinking about pulling the trigger on this app.

Does the annual fee allow you to use it across multiple device?
Yes, the subscription is based on your login account so it works across multiple platforms.
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Old 08-06-2018, 02:45 PM
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I was set to sign up, but apparently if you want it for an Apple product itís $39.95 a year
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Old 08-06-2018, 02:51 PM
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Methos1979 Methos1979 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jaan View Post
I was set to sign up, but apparently if you want it for an Apple product itís $39.95 a year
Ouch! That's ridiculous. I wonder why double the price? That must be Apple's cut... You know, gotta keep that Trillion dollar company thing going. Just one of so very many reasons why I hate most things Apple.
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