The core idea of Guitar Studio is that you can play a song by pressing buttons that represent chords, and then strum your finger across virtual strings to create the sound of the instrument. By arranging chord buttons however you want them, you can make it possible to play a variety of recognizable songs.
The engine behind this app is very powerful. You’re not limited to basic chords – in fact, you can tell it to play pretty much anything, and label it however you want. So if the song you want includes a tricky chord (one of my favorite songs includes an FMaj7add9) you’re not out of luck, you can just program it in, assign it to a button, and voila! And since you can select chords based on what frets to push down on what strings, you’re not limited by your knowledge (or lack thereof) of complex chord construction.
The application ships with several recognizable songs, and they do a good job demonstrating the power of this application. I was able to bash out a halfway decent rendition of “House of the Rising Sun” using their chords, and even strumming the chords to “Stairway to Heaven” sounded right.
With Guitar Studio, you can create and save your own songs easily, as well. The process is very intuitive, allowing you to focus your energy on creating music rather than battling the limitations inherent in an iPhone application.
The creators of Guitar Studio deserve a lot of credit, furthermore, for recognizing that virtual fretboards, where you hold your fingers down over the fret to get the note, just don’t work on an iPhone because of the lack of tactile feedback. The customizable-button approach used by this app is much stronger, and makes this one of the few – perhaps the only – virtual guitar applications I’ve seen which could actually be used to create music.
There are limitations, of course. You’re limited to 10 chords per song. And it really doesn’t have much to do with the experience of playing a guitar, which is why Guitar Studio ends up feeling a little gimmicky. Nevertheless, this guitar iPhone app is, on a certain level, the real deal: it’s a tool you can use to create guitar-like music on your iPhone, and that easily makes it worth $4.99 price tag.