There are a lot of good intentions in TouchChords Premium. Its creators have put some good thought into what sorts of chords a young player needs to learn, they’ve organized them into lessons that make sense, and they’ve gone through the effort to make videos of the lessons so you can see and hear what they’re actually supposed to sound like.
There are two problems, however. One is minor. The other is, unfortunately fatal.
The minor problem is a simple one of organization. You get a lesson list, but if you want to see the video, or hear what it’s supposed to sound like, you don’t click on the “lesson” – rather, you click on the little “info” tab next to the lesson. This is a rather significant annoyance as you end up navigating back and forth to the home screen for a single lesson.
Ultimately, though, that would be forgivable if the concept of TouchChords wasn’t fundamentally flawed. And that fundamental flaw is so deeply wedded to the functionality of this app that, ultimately, it’s not fixable. It’s a flaw in concept.
You see, the way this app works is by asking you to put your fingers over a virtual fretboard on the assigned spots, making a chord. Then it plays the sound of that chord. The idea is that you will learn the finger positions for chords, which you can then transfer to a real guitar.
However, it really doesn’t work that way. Ultimately, playing a guitar is a tactile thing. Yes, when you are learning you will be peering over the edge of the fretboard, trying to line your fingers up right. At the same time, you are getting constant feedback from the pressure of your fingers on the strings. You know if you’re slightly off-center because you won’t be able to hold the string down. You’ll be able to align your fingers with the frets, getting more tactile feedback.
But with TouchChords, relying on a touch screen, provides zero tactile feedback. WIthout the actual need to press strings down, you’re not developing the muscle memory required to be able to play chords smoothly. Furthermore, since you’re not strumming, you’re not working on the coordination between your right and left hands, bringing it all together.
I’m sure the creators of this app would say that most of that is irrelevant – this is about just learning the chord shapes. But ultimately, that’s missing the point because you’re not learning the chord shapes if you’re not feeling them.
Furthermore, you could easily be developing bad habits, since the chord sounds regardless of how your fingers press on the virtual strings. The real challenge for most beginners isn’t learning the chord shapes – you’ll learn them in a few minutes – it’s the coordination of getting your hand into the chord shape quickly, while putting the appropriate amount of pressure on the strings in the right direction. TouchChords Premium does nothing to help you with that.
At $2.99, it’s inexpensive, but despite the programmer’s obvious good intentions, not worth it.