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This article was originally published in issue #27
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Is there nothing you can't do with an app? Well, not much it seems. Now GI's very own vocal coach supreme Jaime Vendera has come up with one that... well, we think it's rather good. We asked Tom Quayle to be critical. Here's what he thinks.
If you’ve been following Guitar Interactive for a while now you’ll be very familiar with Jamie Vendera from his superb Vocal Bootcamp column in the magazine. Jamie is not just a great singer and teacher but also an app designer, creating his first release, ‘Tuned XD’ as a complete tuning and workout solution for vocalists and all manner of instrumentalists. It’s certainly bulging with features, including a precise instrument tuner, scale generator, decibel & frequency readouts, metronome, stopwatch, workout timer, two-track recorder, frequency audio waveform scanner & more.
Upon opening the app the first thing that strikes you is just how beautifully designed the interface is. Every element, from the opening screen, to the tiniest icon, is great to look at with a modern, classy look that is both exciting but functional. The lower half of the screen is occupied by a pitch wheel that covers seven octaves and functions both as an endless sustain tone generator and a highly accurate pitch detection tool for tuning and intonation practice. The wheel is incredibly accurate and a very useful tool for singers and instrumentalists to both tune and work on their pitch accuracy.
For tuning purposes, Jamie has included a keyboard for playing pitches for reference at the top of the screen. A quick swipe across the keyboard will switch it out for a set of guitar strings which can be played individually for guitar based pitch reference. The app goes further by providing an incredible number of other stringed instruments, each with multiple tuning options and string numbers for a superb pitch reference tool, covering almost any stringed instrument and tuning you could ever need. A quick swipe up on the pitch wheel and it goes into full screen mode with a frequency and decibel meter at the top and a piano keyboard at the bottom for precise pitch selection.
The next section, selected by tapping on the small icons in the middle of the screen, is a breath control and vocal power tool. Jamie is known for breaking a glass on the TV show ‘Mythbusters’, using only his voice and has designed the tool to mimic this effect by allowing the user to set a vocal decibel level and pitch duration at which the glass will smash! Next up is a very fully featured scale generator, allowing the user to set up a whole host of scales for instrument and vocal practice. There are over 45 practice scales that can be customised in specific ascending and descending patterns for developing finger dexterity and over 30 vocal scales for developing control and tone for vocalists. This is a fantastic resource for guitar players wanting to work on their scales, although bear in mind that the app is not designed to teach you the scale and includes no specific fingerings or shapes for any stringed instruments, rather just the notes involved.
The next section is a two track recorder with two independent tracks that can be armed separately and recorded with the onboard mic or with any iOS compatible audio interface. Recording quality is superb and Jamie has even included a reverb effect and the ability to load tracks from your iTunes library for jamming and practice, leaving one track free to record your vocals or instrument performance. Tracks can be emailed directly from the app, a great feature for students to send teachers their practice session or to record and send new ideas to band mates quickly and easily.
For practice sessions, Jamie has also included a very fully featured stop watch with standard timing features and a Tabata Timer. The former functions just as you’d expect, allowing you to easily time practice sessions. The latter allows you to divide you time into specific ‘Preparation’, ‘Work’ and ‘Rest’ times that can be set individually. You can set a specific number of reps for each session making your practice as effective as possible, especially for those who prefer some discipline in their routine. This is a fantastic addition to the product and should really help a lot of people divide their precious practice time up more effectively.
The final section is a metronome that has an impressive range from 30bpm all the way up to 360bpm. Setting the tempo is easy using the slide wheel and finer adjustments can be made using the plus and minus buttons either side of the wheel. The time signature can be set to all common time signatures, including odd and even divisions of the bar. Usefully, the metronome can be left on whilst using any of the other features of the app, allowing the user to practice scales or record tracks with a click for reference.
Tuned XD is one of the most fully featured apps for musicians available and features a superb interface that is both great to look at and easy to use. For the asking price there’s no real reason to not get it and for instrumentalists who double as vocalists it’s a total no-brainer. Great stuff! We have hardly ever awarded a product 5 stars but when you get all this for a ridiculously cheap $6.99 how could we award it anything less?