DriveNet’s Mac App Picks: Favorite Open Source/Free Guitar Apps for the practicing musician (2010)

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Undoubtedly, one of the bigger benefits of going to grad school is the large amount of time that one can invest in constructive procrastination. As panamanian PhD Comics author Jorge Cham puts it:

So get out there and procrastinate. Procrastinate with purpose and with pride.

And this is exactly what I do when “I am suposed to be doing research”, I test Open Source/freeware mac applications compulsively until I find something that I like and I can make good use of… In other words, I just download and test pretty much everything I see and whatever sticks, stays, and whatever doesn’t , to the trash. Now the time has come to start sharing with the world my experience with the apps that have stuck.

In this first release of DriveNet’s Mac App Picks I have selected the audio apps that have progressed and stayed in my repertoire of applications over the past couple of years. Hope you find it useful!

TuxGuitar [app]

Cross-Platform Tuxguitar. Source: Google Images.

For years, I dreamed of an app like this. If you are into guitar playing and don’t want to bother buying expensive applications to create, read and document your guitar playing, Tuxguitar comes to the rescue as a full-featured tablature/score editor.

Tuxguitar allows the creation of multiple-track music scores not only for guitar but for several instruments, reproducing them in synthetic/midi format, it can export midi files, it can translate your Guitar Tab notation into standard music score notation, it has a built in guitar chords dictionary (give it the note and it displays all the possible chord combinations within specified frets), it allows you to export guitar tabs in standard ascii notation or pdf, it can open Guitar Pro and PowerTab (.ptb) files, etc. etc. etc.

The Mac OS X release has 32 and 16 bit versions, and it is also available for Windows and a spectrum of Unix-based systems.

Tuna Pitch [app, widget]

Tuna Pitch
Tuna Pitch App and Widget Package. Source: Google Images.

Care for playing the right note  at the right pitch? Tunapitch is by far the best free guitar tuner application I have tested until now. Yes, I know you can use Garage Band’s tuner, but gee, who wants to open such a resource-hungry monster when you just want to make a quick tuning? Well, Tuna Pitch is a lightweight application that has awesome visuals and enought technology so that you tune your guitar to perfection.

The preset tuning is the “EADGBE” standard guitar tuning but Tuna Pitch also  has a built-in  “library” that has Drop D, Drop C, Open G, and Open D tunings. It will also play reference tones so that you can make your first tunning approximations by ear and then do the fine tuning graphically with a gauge-like visualization.  Tuna Pitch is a very handy, slick and sexy looking app that you don’t want to miss if you are in the guitar playing business!

Metronome [App, iPhone]


Equipped with a full load of “traditional” tempos and with an acurate tempo finder, this small app is a powerful tool for the practicing musician.

You can set up different bell sounds at arbitrary measures, program an automatic beat accelerator to recurrently increment de beat after a given number of measures, and even setup a timer which will stop the metronome after a definded time interval or after a number of measures. Mac Metronome is a good alternative to musicians on a budget that do not feel the need yet to buy pricier metronome devices, and it is powerful enough to make the musician play on beat and with rhythm.

Oscillating Rythms [app]

In the same line of Metronome but with a little more spice to it, Oscillating rhythms is a four-track beat generator that can be fully integrated with impromptu.

You can create wicked beats by super imposing each channel and automate a range of effects to modulate the equalizer, delay and pitch shifter for each channel separately. I haven’t had the time to fully discover all of its features, but so far it’s been fun to accompany  psychedelic beats with an electric guitar. You can record the beat for as long as you can (hard drive space forbid) to later import your recording into other software like garage band for instance.

Vox Audio Player [app]

You may be wondering why use Vox as an audio player when the almigthy iTunes does everything you need… The answer is because iTunes does not do everything a practicing musician needs!

Vox is a super lightweight app and it is probably one of the handiest audio players that I have found so far. After overcoming the sad fact that there is no Winamp for Mac OS (being Winamp the ONLY application that makes MS Windows worth using), Vox came to the rescue to say things like ” hey! you do not need to open your entire music collection to listen to just one song” or like “I will let you try this song and you may erase it from your hard drive without making a playlist mess!”. I liked Vox so much to the point that I configured Vox to be my default audio player for all music formats using “default apps“, i.e. when I double click a given music file in my system, Vox pops up instead of iTunes. If I really  really like the song, I then import it to my iTunes library.

At this point you might be thinking, “Ok, ok, I get it Vox is lightwieght and awesome, but what does that have to do with me practicing music?…” Well besides quickly playing a broad range of music files –which could range from mp3, wav, OGG Vorbis, FLAC, etc. etc. etc., Vox can aid you while you practice your instrument by doing thins like: play the song at a lower tempo without altering the pitch (so you can hear the notes played and the rhythm in painful detail) , or add funky effects like reverb, flanger, echo and more if you feel like experimenting, letting you record your creation afterwards…


One thought on “DriveNet’s Mac App Picks: Favorite Open Source/Free Guitar Apps for the practicing musician (2010)

    lessonsthatrock said:
    2011.01.31 at 12:39

    Wow. A real nice selection of apps!!

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