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.