5 best guitar apps (2022 update)

27.04.2022 Ben Maloney Guitar

According to most studies, guitar comes in behind only the piano as the most-played musical instrument in the world. That means that there are a lot of guitarists out there, and many of them will be looking to digital services to enhance their practice.

This demand is reflected in the enormous quantity of options that you can find on the Apple App Store and Google Play. It's a hugely diverse pool of resources, too, demonstrating the versatility of the instrument and its players, and moreover the breadth of the aspects of guitar-playing that apps have the potential to help with.

It'll take time to wade through this vast array to find the apps that are right for you. So let this 2022 countdown of the five best guitar apps on the market do the legwork. The selection aims to be as wide-ranging as possible, to boost the chance that one of the apps under review is able to meet your unique needs as a guitarist.

 

Five must-have guitar apps
 

nkoda 

Best app for guitar sheet music

 

For all but the keenest improvisers, tracking down and interacting with materials makes up a major part of the guitar-playing experience. And that applies for players across the board. Classical guitarists need scores, jazzers need charts, pop/rock players need tabs. 

nkoda has the potential to revolutionise the relationship that you have with your music, through the world’s greatest digital sheet music library on the one hand, and cutting-edge score-reading technology on the other. The former is accessed through the nkoda library and the latter through the nkoda reader - two separate apps.

The library offers instant access to the digitised copyrighted catalogues of nkoda’s 140 content partners - including major publishers of guitar music like Faber Music and Union Musical Ediciones. Signing up brings everything from Bach lute suites to Radiohead transcriptions immediately within your grasp. 

The reader, meanwhile, is your means of viewing this content. It’s a brand-new interface that makes interaction with digital material intuitive and effortless. Here you can organise, annotate, and share your collection with any other nkoda user - bandmates, students, instructors. All in your very own digital music hub.

This is a completely new way to find, store, manage and play your guitar music. You can start a free trial now - the library can be downloaded from the App Store, Google Play Store and the Microsoft Store. Click here to download the reader, which requires no subscription to use.

 

Features

 

Here’s a lowdown of the features that both apps offer. Bullet-point lists of app features are also provided for the other four apps listed. Use them to quickly find out the unique selling points of each app.

  • Instant access to 140 publishers’ sales and hire catalogues, comprising 100,000+ editions and parts
  • Material available for guitarists of all skill levels and styles 
  • Innovative score-reading facilities suitable for practice and performance, including annotation toolkits and widgets  
  • Manage and share personal materials through playlists, offline storage and unlimited uploads
  • Access to a thriving global community of pianists and other musicians, as well as publishers, educational institutions and performing institutions 

 

nkoda library

 

Let’s go into a bit more detail on how nkoda can enrich your guitar-playing specifically. The first thing to emphasise is that, among over 100,000 titles that the library contains, there is probably more guitar music there than you'll ever need.

This music spans a range of genres, styles and skill levels. You’ll find playbooks and studies for beginners as well as concertos and solos for virtuosos - and plenty for intermediate players, too. No matter what level you’re at, and no matter what you like to play, you will find plenty here that aligns with your personal preferences. 

Most guitarists out there don’t need premium editions of the great compositions for guitar - they just need tabs, quickly and and easily. nkoda covers that base as well. ClearTabs is a publishing partner, from which nkoda has licensed a massive number of guitar tabs to the app. These aren’t amateurish versions either, but official transcriptions, which makes nkoda one of the best guitar tab apps. The real deal.

Moreover, curated instrumental playlists offer new content to discover. Check out Guitar Highlights as well as Guitar Essentials. See if this is the kind of stuff you could see yourself playing. And by personalising your nkoda experience - i.e. letting the app know what you like to play and to what standard - bespoke content will be delivered right to your homepage. 

Whatever you find, you can then save it to your personal library space, where you can organise your materials, create playlists and store unlimited PDF files. So even if something you’re looking for can’t be found in the library, you can still bring it in from elsewhere. 

 

nkoda reader

 

Once you click on any title, you’ll be seamlessly rerouted to the nkoda reader app. This is how you actually engage with the content. It’s here that you view, study, annotate, play and perform your guitar music - whether that’s library material or one of your own uploads. 

An ergonomic user interface, easy (and Bluetooth-friendly) page-turning, pioneering new annotation tools that can be layered and shared, a specialised performance mode, offline storage - through all these features and more, the nkoda reader strives to both simplify and improve every facet of engagement with your guitar music.

nkoda has placed a great deal of emphasis on customisation with their reader. Not only can you annotate freely with the help of a variety of specialised toolboxes and widgets, you can also add them to and remove them from your personal kit. In short, you can add guitar-specific presets to your music - string bends, chord markings and so on.

There’s even an option to configure the right screen orientation for your needs as well, so you can view your materials in the way that's best for you. 

As well as the optimisation of these features that an independent e-reader app enables, a reason for the split between library and reader is so that users can utilise nkoda’s reader without a subscription to the catalogue. In other words, this tech is complimentary. 

The library may be the heart of the offering, but the reader’s the tool of empowerment. This is what will play the most active part in your guitar-playing. So don’t be put off by the library subscription - nkoda can still help you. Download the reader, get a feel for what the app can give you, and see if this is a digital space that you and your guitar just might be comfortable in. 

GuitarTuna

Best app for tuning up

 

A substantial corner of the music app market is reserved for digital tuners. It’s an essential piece of gear if you play guitar, or in fact any instrument that needs tuning. And this far into the digital era, chunky old box tuners come up short on the convenience scale for most musicians. 

You need a tuner that you won’t forget to bring to rehearsal, to the practice room, or even to your gigs - because it’s right there on your phone, at all times. 

Among the countless options that populate app stores, which stands out from the crowd? In the best apps for musicians article, Cleartune was put forward as the best all-purpose tuner on the market. But where guitar-players specifically are concerned, the one to go for is GuitarTuna. Download it from the App Store or Google Play.  

Developed by Yousician, which has produced several quality app services, GuitarTuna is far and away the best tuning choice for guitarists who are looking for the right supplier of this essential piece of kit. It is the ultimate guitar tuner.

 

Features

 

  • High-quality chromatic tuner that tunes your acoustic or electric guitar swiftly and accurately through your device’s microphone 
  • Variety of guitar tunings available - standard, drop D, open chords and more
  • Also functions as a chromatic tuner and has preloaded and adjustable temperaments for a range of popular string instruments  
  • Offers ear-training, song lyrics and chords, chord dictionary, games and metronome 
  • Clear and customisable interface

 

First-class technology

 

The clue’s in the name: a tuner has to tune. GuitarTuna’s refined tuning software enables the most accurate frequency detection that you can find among free downloadable tuners for your standard mobile device. 

This will get your guitar sounding as crisp and polished as possible, every time you pick it up to play. Excellent noise-cancellation technology is a major reason why the app is able to achieve such precision. 

And courtesy of a wide variety of preset and customisable tunings, whichever mode that you need your guitar to be in, GuitarTuna will get it there swiftly. Preloaded temperaments for other instruments such as ukulele and violin, as well as a chromatic setting, means the service isn’t restricted to guitar, either. 

 

More than a tuner

 

GuitarTuna’s great because it does the basics well and without a fuss. However, if you’re the kind of guitarist that could do with greater digital support, it can boast a few further assets that make it something of a guitar-player’s utility belt. 

It contains a chord library, as well as lyrics and chords for a variety of popular songs. It’s got impressive ear-training facilities and a metronome, and a few games - like fun guitar lessons - that should keep you entertained. 

The GuitarTuna website, which expands the app’s functionality beyond your mobile device alone, also sustains something of a guitar-playing community. Yousician also keeps an informative blog, which we can’t help but approve of.

But as much as this enhances GuitarTuna’s package, such features pit it head-to-head in various remits with the apps below, and in those battles the app doesn’t necessarily come out on top.

GuitarToolkit

Best app for learning guitar chords


 

Chords are without a doubt the most important weapons in a guitarist’s arsenal, no matter the style of music they prefer to play. The language of harmony is fundamental to all but every genre of music out there, and the guitar is usually expected to supply it.

It’s on you, as a guitarist, to know your chords. Learning all of them in all their voicings is one of the most significant journeys in guitar-playing. For all but the finest rhythm players in the world, that journey never ends, and it’s always good to have company on long journeys. On this one, GuitarToolkit provides the best. It’s the finest digital chord dictionary out there, and one of the top learning apps for guitarists.  

With scales and arpeggios to boot, the app’s dictionary of chords amounts to over two million. That will make it - and has made it - an enormously valuable resource for so many players. It also supports 7- and 12-string guitarists, 4-, 5- and 6-string bassists, and players of ukulele, banjo and mandolin - as well as all left-handers. 

Available from the App Store for just 2.99.

 

Features

 

  • Library of 2,000,000+ chord voicings, scales and arpeggio, for guitars and basses of various string setups, as well as uke, mandolin and banjo
  • Digital tuner with a range of preset and customisable tunings 
  • Find and create interactive chord sheets 
  • Metronome that beats out rhythms and drum patterns in adjustable time signatures

 

Dictionary

 

So, two million chords. That’s a serious tally, and that is 100% GuitarToolkit’s unique selling point. For any given chord type and key, the app displays approximately 24 shapes up and down the fretboard, and in all inversions - they have to hit that two-mil somehow. 

Helping them with that is the expanded applicability of GuitarToolkit. This is a reference tool for bassists, ukulelians and mandolinists, too. It also sports a chord calculator, which helps you to identify the name of all the nice-sounding harmonies you stumble across.

Finally, there are the scales and arpeggios, which are also important to learn, especially if you’ve always fancied yourself as a lead as opposed to rhythm guitarist. These can be displayed as either notes or intervals - tap any pitch and the tone will be produced, using guitar, bass, banjo or mandolin samples. The choice is yours. 

 

All-rounder

 

As with GuitarTuna, there are extras beyond the impressive flagship feature that boost the app's service, even if they don’t top the rankings in their respective departments.

The app offers a tuner with settings for all the stringed instruments named above, which can be customised. You can also search a library of chord sheets for various pieces of music, and create your own, so you can record your creations in a sleek format on the fly. 

There’s also a really nifty metronome and drum machine, which leads us nicely to app #4. Finally it should be emphasised that the app has a truly outstanding interface. GuitarToolkit may well cost a bit, but for what you get, you will not regret parting ways with that cash. 

As we said, it contends for the title of best guitar learning app in general. With its help, you’ll be a guitar pro in no time.

Drum Beats+

Best app for rhythmic accompaniment

 

In the review of GuitarToolkit, the app’s versatile digital metronome and drum machine was discussed. A lot of apps have incorporated this feature, as many guitarists like to practise to rhythmic accompaniment in order to improve their time-keeping skills. 

It’s also just a lot more fun to practise to some lively beats - it makes the song feel fresh and enlivens your practice generally. Worth trying out if you’ve not already done so. 

So it’s only proper that the best app in this department gets included. And that app is unquestionably Drum Beats+ Rhythm Machine, whose developers have made this facility the essence of the service, and crafted unrivalled technology to provide it. 

Alas, the app is only available on iOS devices - iPhone and iPad - so if you own an Android phone or tablet then you’ll have to search elsewhere. We recommend Loopz as a worthy alternative. 

 

Features

 

  • Basic design and interface gets you to playing in no time
  • Standard library contains 100+ beats spanning a diversity of genres and time signatures - add over 250 more with the Pro library 
  • Beat tempo can be adjusted between 45 and 200 bpm without pitch alteration 
  • Connect to other music apps such as GarageBand through inter-app audio

 

Comprehensive, authentic beats

 

Drum Beats+ is one of those apps that isn’t overly complicated, it just does what it’s supposed to do, very well. Its mission: to be a rhythm machine, to produce a huge and quality variety of rhythmic backing tracks for you to jam along to. 

It achieves that spectacularly through its collection of 300+ drumming patterns that were recorded by a living, breathing drummer, and not generated by a digital kit, as is the case with the majority of apps of this type. The core 100 or so in the library are broken down by genre into a range of categories: break beats, rock patterns, R&B grooves and so on.

This gives it unmatched authenticity. When you connect it to your loudspeakers, select and loop one of these 300 physically recorded beats, you will feel the almost tangible presence of an actual drummer in the room. The feeling that gives you alone can inspire all kinds of spontaneous guitar tricks, taking your playing to a whole new level.

 

Drum Beats+ Pro

 

You’ll need to upgrade to Pro to unlock the full 300. The basic app is 7.99, while the Pro subscription costs 19.99 per year, but they do offer a free trial. Pro basically delivers the full gamut of sounds and features to you - not only more beats but more drum sounds to construct them with.

The broader palette that this brings within reach is incredible, but the beats offered by the standard version are still of an exceptional quality - better than what many full digital audio workstations offer, and they can cost hundreds. If all you need is a boost to your practice, then don’t worry too much about the Pro price tag. Even the basic version has the power to redefine your practice. 

Functional Ear Trainer

Best app for ear-training

 

Ear-training refers to the process of learning to recognise pitches, intervals, harmonies and chord progressions by ear. 

If you’re not the kind of player that reads music but rather the kind that jams, you’ll have doubtless found yourself in the position where you had to work out what other musicians were playing in order to play along yourself. That can be quite a difficult thing to do.

It’s an invaluable skill in a range of musical settings, particularly for guitarists whose role often involves spontaneous music-making. If this is an ability that you want to develop, Functional Ear Trainer will best help you to do it. 

Through a range of imaginative and effective graded exercises, Functional Ear Trainer will develop your ability to recognise notes and patterns, not just in isolation but in the context of a fully fledged piece of music - which is of course where it matters most. Download it here from the App Store or from Google Play

 

Features 

 

  • Systematically organised listening exercises that will develop your aural musical awareness
  • Statistics track various aspects of your performance and development, helping you to identify what to focus on
  • Introductory game to give you a taste of what the app offers and how it works 
  • Reminders that prompt you to practise regularly and stimulate your progress

 

Scale degrees

 

Again, there are a few apps out there in this region of the market. But what sets FET apart from these is its resolute focus on scale degrees as opposed to intervals. 

Teaching intervals, the approach taken by most apps, is not useless, but it will only really help you when it comes to identifying intervals, the gap between a note and its immediate neighbour. By focusing ear-training around scale degrees - a note’s position relative to the major or minor scale that it’s a part of - you’ll develop a more rounded aural ability.

Spend just ten minutes or so a day on these exercises and you’ll soon begin to intuitively grasp the placement of any given pitch within its melodic context, and likewise chords in their harmonic context. You won’t simply be able to gauge the distance between two pure and isolated tones on a digital keyboard. 

The goal is to be able to ‘audiate’ - to identify and ‘hear’ pitches mentally. For centuries, the do-re-mi method has sought to nurture this ability, and it’s based on the exact same principle by which Functional Ear Training works, by centralising scale degrees. This is an age-old system, and it works.

 

Self-analysis

 

As you practise, develop and achieve, Functional Ear Training is continuously keeping track of various parameters pertaining to your personal progress. 

You can consult these useful statistics, which are essentially real-time feedback, at any time. They're not there just so you can pat yourself on the back - though we all can do with that once in a while. Their real purpose is to help you figure out where there’s room for improvement, so you can focus on your weaknesses and better direct your practice.

Aural identification really is a vital skill. Honing it will enhance your guitar-playing ability as well as your musical instinct and understanding more generally. If it’s something you’ve always wanted to improve at, then FET is definitely the way to go. It boasts a 4.9 rating on the App Store and 4.8 on Google Play - these numbers speak for themselves. 

Getting started with nkoda app for guitarists

 

It would be an achievement among such quality company, but if nkoda stood out to you as a service that can meet your guitar-playing needs, then visit the What is nkoda music page to find out more about the service. 

If you’re already convinced, you can start your free trial now via the sign-up page before adding nkoda to your personal music app studio. 

You might also find some of the guitar-related blog articles interesting. For more on guitar sheet music, check out how to read and how to write it. Our top ten articles also list some of nkoda’s best guitar content in a range of categories. Have a read of the best, hardest and easiest guitar songs - whatever you like to play, nkoda’s got you covered.

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