News from Hypercompact, the software company whose logo has inspired designer Evgeny Skidanov to create one of the most beautiful 3D animations I’ve ever seen. If they had published their app Guitar Pitch Pipe just one week earlier, I definitely would’ve integrated it in my story about the current state of music-making on the iPad — filed in the “small tools” sections. This guitar tuner is a perfect example for a small, reliable companion for guitarists on the road.
The App Store is flooded with guitar tuners. Apps like the UltimateGuitar tuner or Gibson’s effort are very prominent and elaborate apps — why considering this one then? Well, because it has one thing these other apps most of the time do not have: an innovative and simple UI. Guitar tuner apps are generally cluttered with features just a few percent of guitar players need like alternative tunings or the ability to change the tuning frequency; unfortunately, they are placed as prominently in the app as the standard tuning. This makes many tuner apps unnecessarily complex.
Guitar Pitch Pipe is different from that. Using a single main window, it plays back the six notes of the basic, 440Hz EADGBE guitar tuning with two different sounds: pipes (being the more unusual sound, and therefore integrated in the app name) and “classic” strings. The selected one is displayed in a visual interface, including tappable strings or pipes with the note characters on them. The currently playing pipes or strings are indicated by a closed pipe illustration or a cool 3D movement respectively. You can switch between these two layouts using the button in the top right corner.
You can either let Guitar Pitch Pipe play a note twice with a little pause in between for tuning, and then move on to the next one, or manually choose a string using the on/off switch at the bottom. The app then plays it until you move to the next one by tapping the respective string or pipe. The app constantly plays a note, there is no way, you could make it silent. Because of this you are more or less forced to only open it up when you really want to tune a guitar, otherwise it quickly becomes pretty annoying. This ensures a quick and focused use of the tuner, and makes it unobtrusive and functional.
The output sounds are very accurate, fitting to tuning both electric and acoustic guitars, and therefore make the app a very useful tool. The second reason for me using the Guitar Pitch Pipe guitar tuner from now on is its UI. We recently covered WTHR, a Dieter Rams inspired, minimalist weather forecast app for the iPhone. Guitar Pitch Pipe is quite similar to it. The app features no instructions or settings (because it doesn’t need any in its current state), it is colored beige, and uses skeuomorphed, plastic switches. The fretboard with strings and the pipes are crafted with love for detail; they are gloomy and very polished. It also features a cool icon but has a confusing description: “Super Quick”. The user could believe that the app is super quick, but without remembering which kind of app is behind the icon, it is very confusing.
However, while using the app for the first time, I immediately thought “Man, you could do much more with this design”. Retrospectively, this is still totally true: this app has potential to be enhanced with many new features while still maintaining its usability and simplicity. You could just add a second button, let’s say in the top left corner, make it trigger a pop down menu (which obviously needs to correspond with the rest of the app’s design), and let the user switch to alternate tunings like Drop D or C, or maybe even let them change the frequency. You wouldn’t need to change anything in the main screen design, just the sounds and the letters on the pipes or next to the strings to indicate different notes. This would make the app an even more complete and functional guitar tuner, suited for every type of guitarist — traditional (using standard tunings), metal and rock (dropped tunings) and progressive and experimental players (open and alternate).
But don’t get me wrong — Guitar Pitch Pipe already is a very good guitar tuner for the iPhone. Its output quality is outstanding, it’s fast and reliable, perfect for quick access, and does everything you need for tuning your guitar in standard tuning. There is just one thing that really annoyed me in its current version: sometimes, for instance when you use dropped tunings (which I personally use very often), you need some time to get back to standard tuning, especially on the lower E string. When you’re using Guitar Pitch Pipe’s automatic mode for that, the app plays each string just twice and then moves on to the next one, which is way too short in such situations. Users definitely must have the option to adjust how often single notes should be played back in auto mode. Otherwise, I absolutely recommend Guitar Pitch Pipe for any guitarist who is still searching for a good guitar tuner for his iPhone. Get Guitar Pitch Pipe for $0.99 on the App Store.
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