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iPhone App Review: Planet Waves Guitar Tools

iPhone App Review: Planet Waves Guitar Tools

December 9th, 2010 by

Learning to play guitar is one of those things that I’ve always wanted to do, but have never devoted the proper time and attention to. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there just like me, but I feel like no less of a failure because of it.

If you have an iOS device you can at least toss out a few reference books and electronic devices that may be taking up space somewhere in the house, because the Planet Waves Guitar Tools app packs in tons of features to help you keep your guitar skills sharp.


  • A library of over 7,000 chords, that you can listen to on the device by “strumming” the touch screen.
  • A chord finder, so you can find the name of a chord by selecting the fret and finger positions in the app.
  • Thousands of scales, modes, and arpeggios to practice.
  • A tuner of course, with two modes: strobe or needle interface. Each has dozens of presets.
  • A metronome, with tempos set numerically or by tapping the touch screen.
  • A function to find teachers and stores near your current location.

How It Works

Each section of the app is accessible from the main launch screen.

The chord section shows the guitar strings and fretboard taking up most of the screen, with finger positions indicated and the name of the chord displayed prominently at the top. Tapping on the chord name brings up a picker, where you can choose other chord combinations. Strumming the screen plays the selected chord.

The chord finder is nice: you tap finger locations on the fretboard, and the app shows you what chord you’ve built. You can scroll up and down the fretboard freely.

Practicing scales is as simple as choosing a ch0rd scale (and scrolling through the fretboard to one of several locations). If you strum the frets you can hear the scales played, forwards or backwards.

The tuner is a great feature to have, and works in two modes: strobe or needle. The tuner is just like your typical low-cost electronic guitar tuner, and works very well. For iOS devices without a built-in microphone, you will need to use an external mic in order to use the tuner (obviously).

The metronome is a nice little feature that works two ways. You can select a speed (adagio, etc.), or you can tap the screen and the app will select a speed based on the frequency of your taps.

Finding teachers and music shops are two separate functions, but they work similarly. The device reads you location and shows a list of either service nearby. The list is arranged closest to farthest, with the distance in miles shown by the name.

Pro and Con

Planet Waves Guitar Tools is a stellar guitar app, definitely among the top of the heap. The amount of the features they’ve managed to pack into this app is truly mind boggling, but more important than quantity is quality, and this app has that too.

There are a few areas to improve, to be sure. Showing the nearby teachers and stores would be nicer on an in-app map with pins showing relative locations, rather than just a list. And although the app has support for tuning and detuning variations, plus right- and left-handed arrangement of the strings, there doesn’t seem to be support for anything but a six-string guitar.


Planet Waves Guitar Tools is a great guitar app for anyone that would like to have almost any guitar resource they could possible need, at their fingertips. At a list price of $8.99 it’s the same or cheaper than App Store competitors, and definitely cheaper than your average electronic guitar tuner (plus you get so much more).

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