Category Archives: Guitar Software

Jamstar Acoustics – Give Away

There has never been a better time to pick up the guitar, no more excuses people, tablets are revolutionising the way we learn how to play.

A pretty pitiful score but the tablature mode was inverted!

Jamstar Acoustics is an application for iOS and Android which monitors and corrects your playing in real time. I have tested it on an iPad 2 using my Maton EC225 acoustic. Note that nothing is preventing you from using the application with an electric guitar really, but the microphone built in your tablet or your phone must be able to pick up the sound of your instrument in order to analyze it.

The application itself is free but most of the lessons aren’t. The good guys at Jamstar have been kind enough to organise a  give away for the readers of guitar Tone Overload, go to the end of this post to enter the contest. Yay!

Getting started to Rock

When you start the app, a tuner screen pops up in order to make sure your instrument is in tune, an important condition for the application to work properly and actually a pretty important thing if you intend to actually play some music.

Content Galore

Once your instrument is in tune, a screen detailing the content available to you pops up, free stuff and paying stuff alike. There are two axis to the content: a “style axis” (rock/pop, jazz/blues, lessons about techniques) and a difficulty level, from beginner to intermediate to advanced.

After chosing a lesson, the fun starts!

A Very Patient Teacher

Once the lesson begins, you are confronted to a screen which resembles a guitar tab, with all six strings of the guitar and notes dancing on them. On this subject, the app had the low E string on top of the screen by default, which I promptly changed in the preferences to have the low E string on the bottom of the screen, like a regular tab. It confused the hell out of me for a minute.

The notes appear on the strings and you have to play them at the right moment otherwise the “playback” stops. These can be single notes or chords, for which the names will be displayed. It is pretty simple in principle but it is actually quite powerful. This kind of technology would have been unimaginable 10 years ago on a portable device.

Jamstar gives you a score based on how well you hit each note (or chord) which is really a percentage I think.

How does it perform?

In my testing with a (now) old iPad 2, I found the app to perform extremely well. It definitely picks up single notes and chords accurately and quickly. I can see it being a powerful learning tool wether you want to learn well known songs, scales, chords or various guitar techniques. There are lessons for every taste and since the application itself is free, and there are some free content, I encourage you to download it and give it a try!

Give away !

mySongBook by Arobas Music

Cooked up by Arobas Music, known for the ubiquitous GuitarPro tab software, here is  mySongBook, a software program and an Internet score/tab service rolled into one.

The first thing to do to use it is to sign up on and download the software (for free). It is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Internet TAB/Score Service

The software allows you to browse an extensive collection of scores and tabs, each available for a small fee: from Eur/USD 0.99 for a guitar only partition to Eur/USD 1.99 or 2.99 for a multitrack arrangement. The currency depends on your country of residence. Note that these tabs are made by professional musicians that Arobas music comission so, in theory, these are pretty high quality. You are not paying for tabs that Joe Bloke transcribed 15 years ago and that are normally available for free. Talking about free, there is a ‘free tab of the day’ that you can download by clicking in the upper right hand corner of the welcome screen.


There are also song books, a collection of tabs/scores of the same artist that you can buy for a reduced price. For instance, the AC/DC song book contains 8 songs and can be downloaded for Euros/USD 9.99. Compared to buying individual songs, songbooks offer discounts going from 20 to 40%. The search function allows you to zero in on a tab quickly but if you feel more like browsing, you can do so by genres (Rock, Pop, Jazz, etc.). The catalog seems to lean heavily on ‘classic rock’ for now but all styles are represented.

Last but not least, there is a rating system where customers can give a 1 to 5 star (well, they look more like little guitar picks) to a particular tab.

Playing along

Now you might ask, what do I do with a tab once I have downloaded it? This is where mySongBook borrows heavily from GuitarPro: you can load up your tab/score into a full fledge player that will play all the parts (not only the guitar) while showing you the current position in the tab.


Each part can be muted or soloed in order to play along or just isolate the part you are the most interested in. There is a keyboard/guitar neck/drum view that shows you each note on the relevant instrument. So really, this is not only for guitarists. There is also a ‘bass view’ appearing when you click on the bass track. The tempo can be lowered or increased. Lowering it allows for ‘zooming in’ on those fast licks.

All the parts are played by a synthesizer so don’t expect the guitars to sound exactly like the original although this is not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Most guitar specific articulations are rendered pretty well although it sounds a bit mechanical. It is more than enough to get a good idea of the song and learn it.

The player has other goodies: display of tho pages of the score on one screen for those with big screens and a metronome. You can also display all instruments on the score instead of having separate scores.


Learning an instrument is getting more fun by the minute, I think the integration in mySongBook of the tab/score download service and the GuitarPro like player is excellent. I don’t want to sound like an old fart but I would have loved to have something like ‘mySongBook’ back when I was young and crazy. Granted, there is a lot of free tabs on the net (and I used them heavily in the 90s as I was part of a cover band) but the quality is very variable. Sometimes, you wonder if the transcription is actually for the song it is supposed to be! Compared to actual printed songbooks, mySongBook offers an excellent alternative, the “player” being a big plus. I would encourage you guys to try it as there is some free content and the software itself is free. Happy learning!



Riffstation is a piece of software for Mac and PC aimed at practicing guitarists – as in guitarists who actually spend time practicing their instrument instead of wasting their time collecting various pieces of gear in an endless quest for “the tone” ™.

Learning and jamming along your favorite songs is a very effective way to practice new licks or techniques, and Riffstation is a toolbox enabling you to make this process more effective. It is composed of three main screens which I will detail in this post.

Chord Detection

The first screen is dedicated to chord detection. You load up an MP3 – it works with M4As as well – in Riffstation, it thinks for a little while and displays the chords alongside the waveform of the song! It sounds a bit miraculous – and it is – but it is limited to basic chords, no seventh, ninth or B7sus2#4Aug9.

It works pretty well I must say, and saves a lot of time in case you need to quickly learn a new song and you don’t have access to the tab or the score. In case of complex chords, it will try to find the nearest “basic” one. With that in mind, it is understandable that I had better results with simpler rock songs than lydian-locrian Steve Vai-esque stuff.

Riffstation’s “chord center” – click to zoom

A nice addition to the chord viewer is the chord finder which will show you the fingering for a number of common (and not so common) chords. It does not cover everything but it’s nice to have:

The chord finder
Jam Master

The Jam Master screen is dedicated to audio manipulations to help you jam along the song currently loaded in Riffstation’s memory: you can “mask” the lead guitar to replace it with your own performance, or on the contrary “isolate” the lead guitar to better work out those tricky licks.

I guess it works like Karaoke software and uses a combination of spatial placement and frequencies to extract the lead guitar out the mix. You can tweak the width of the “cancellation” or “isolation” as well as use a filter (hi-pass ou low-pass) in order to zone in on the exact frequency of the guitar. Furthermore, since the instrument you are trying to cancel or isolate might not be mixed in the center of the stereo image, Riffstation lets you choose where in the stereo space you want to isolate or cancel.

Isolate or cancel the guitar in the currently loaded song in order to jam and practice more effectively – click to zoom

You can also alter the tempo (as in the “speed” of the song) without changing the pitch. Combined with the “isolation” function, it helps analyzing fast licks: now you have no excuse not to play like Yngwie! If you want to change the pitch without changing the tempo (transpose), it is also possible which is very handy if you need to play a song in a different key from the original. It often happens if the singer in your band has a different register to the original. On a side note, I could not resist loading Roxane and make Sting sounds like he had a whiff of Helium, it never gets old.

Finally, Riffstation detects the tempo and the “bars”, which allows for efficient looping in case you want to practice and practice… and practice just a few bars.

Riff Builder

Riffstations’s third and last screen, Riff Builder, is a bit “out there”. The idea is that you can cut the song currently loaded in memory into splices and rearrange them to create new “arrangements” on the fly.

The process starts with building a “riff” bank which can contain up to 16 riffs. Each of these riffs consists of one or several bars cut out from the current song.

The riff builder lets you crate new arrangements – click to zoom

You can then create a song made up by a selection of those riffs. I think it’s actually useful if you want to jam to certain parts of a song but not all of the parts, or if you want to try out new arrangements for an existing song. Although I think it could have a little more features and be a bit more intuitive, the Riff Builder is a worthy addition to Riffstation.

Note that the riffs and songs built with the Riff Builder can be exported to wave files for use in other software or machines.


Riffstation has a sleek look and is easy and fast to operate. As such, its competition is rather found in hardware “jam companions”, such as those produced by a famous Japanese company, than in other pieces of software. Tested on an old-ish Macbook pro, I found it to be fast and stable. It only costs Eur 39.99 which is very reasonable, especially in comparison to the amount of dough we drop on gear. A small price to pay to become a better guitarist – even advanced guitarists can benefit from it. I suggest you go and download your 30 day trial version to get an idea of what it can do for you.

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