Guitar BTX Review

Guitar BTX Review

Nov 17, 2011

Ask anyone who’s ever tried to learn an instrument and they’ll likely tell you that the part they hate most is practicing scales. It’s boring! Up and down, up and down… repeating the same notes, over and over. It’s tedious, mind-numbing and seems to go on for hours. But, if you want to learn the basic fundamentals of music while building dexterity and muscle memory, practicing scales is the only way it’ll come to you.

Part of what makes practicing scales so dull is that it doesn’t seem practical when taken out of context. You want to learn an instrument so you can play music and have fun, but scales aren’t fun; they’re just a bunch of notes! That’s where Guitar BTX comes in. Guitar BTX turns practice time into fun time by laying down a groove and getting you into a rhythm. But that’s not the only benefit.

Practicing scales with a backing track also makes sure you’re learning correctly. When you’re playing the notes by themselves, it’s not always easy to hear where they fit in. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the right note from a wrong note, and it’s easy to learn incorrectly. But if you have some context to guide you, it’s much easier to hear where the notes go.

To use the app, you simply tap on the scale and key you want to practice. After a moment, a rocking guitar strums out appropriate chords while bass and drums lay down the rhythm. For reference, the app includes an image of the scale and neck position so that you can look up any notes you’re unsure of. Guitar BTX works exactly as it should, but there is room for improvement.

To save on space, none of the 35 mp3 backing tracks are included with the app — they stream to you when you choose a scale. This means that Guitar BTX will not work without an internet connection. While this may not be a huge problem, it would certainly be an inconvenience if the server went down or a connection wasn’t available. Would it have been wiser, or even possible, to use General MIDI tracks, instead? They would sound a lot different, but the tiny size of MIDI files means that they wouldn’t take up a lot of space and could be included with the app — no internet connection required.

There’s a much worse problem, however. I really don’t like that the app stops playing the backing track when you tap on the tablature to see the notes in the scale. It stops the learning process and adds frustration to have to go back and forth to hear the music and see the notes. I’m sure there’s a simple solution, but as is, it’s a major annoyance.

As for the rest of app, I think Guitar BTX is incredibly useful. Even as someone who’s been playing guitar for 16 years, it’s always helpful to go back and brush up on those scales. Guitar BTX does a great job of turning a dull, tedious chore into a fun way to learn.

Guitar BTX Review Rundown

6
User Interface - Guitar BTX features a simple, easy to use interface. However, it's not the nicest looking interface around. There's plenty of room for a stylish AND clean interface that has a more professional look to it. It's also unusual that the blue background doesn't fill the entire screen on some of the menus. It's a nice interface, but could use a lot of sprucing up.
7
Functionality - While the feature set for an app like this is understandably slim, the abundance of scales and keys available is remarkable. One thing I'd like to see in a later update is a section that provides some information on each scale and key. How many sharps or flats each has, for example, and maybe an explanation of just what an "E Mixolydian b2" is for beginners to gain a better understanding of music.
9
Performance - Noting that the app is contacting a server to stream an mp3 each time you select a particular scale, there is a short loading period, and it depends on how fast your internet connection is. Aside from this, the app performs extremely well. It seemed very stable to me and didn't give me any problems.
8
Usefulness - Whether you're just starting out or are a pro who'd like to do some brushing up, I think Guitar BTX is a convenient, quick way to get exactly what you need to know. Just plug your Android device into a external amplifier and you should have no problem rocking out with the backing tracks.
7.5
Overall - Guitar BTX should be the perfect little companion to anyone eager to learn how to play guitar. With a few small improvements here and there, this could be a top-notch app that looks great, is easy to use and provides a beginner with all of the information he or she would need.

App available on the Google Play Store »

Dale Culp
Dale Culp has been writing about video games in print and on the web for the better part of the last 10 years. From the Atari 2600 to the Xbox 360 and beyond, he's covered just about everything. You'll find his work in places such as TheWeekender.com, GoLackawanna.com, Gamesylvania.com, EscapistMagazine.com and even IGN.com
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