April 10th, 2015 | by VoiceCouncil
A very straight forward app, with only a small learning curve. Scoring well on the trainer feature can be hard, since you don’t necessarily get a reference beat while you play.
You can't switch on the metronome while in the trainer mode. Once you mess around with one of the preset rhythms, there is no way to go back to the original, which means you lose that pattern from the library.
You can customise tempos, beat subdivision, instrument sounds and swing feel. You can’t save or replay your performance or keep track of your progress, which is key to a good training app.
People like having a way to practise difficult rhythms while away from their instrument. People like that the app supports polyrhythms and unusual time signatures.
If you are like me, you will need to take a little time to study and hear each rhythm in the step view, before being ready to play it in the trainer view (especially for the longer patterns!). You may have to go back and forth a few times from the step view to the trainer view to figure out which instruments you are supposed to copy. You can adjust the tempo at any time, so you can seriously put your skills to the test – I rediscovered how difficult it can be to play a rhythm slowly.
I found that using my thumbs to tap out rhythms was a great way to focus purely on the rhythm since there is no singing or other instrument that requires my mental energy to play. I also found this app works best if your device is oriented to landscape mode and if you find the step graphics are too small, just use the two-finger-reverse-pinch motion on the screen to enlarge them.
Just having a reference for all these rhythms in your pocket is really handy, even if you don’t use the training feature. If you were looking for a new groove one day, you could just browse through this app like you would pre-sets on a drum machine to get ideas.
A few small things frustrated me with this app. When you tap the icon that takes you to the trainer/Guitar Hero-like game, you don’t get a count in or, in some cases, any beat reference. Furthermore, I can’t get as motivated to commit to any sort of training app, unless I can keep a record of my practising and the skills I’ve mastered. The app doesn’t let you track your work in any way. That might not matter to everyone. I was impressed to see so many Afro-Cuban rhythms and Hindustani patterns, although the number of rhythms under the ‘popular’ category is not especially extensive: there is a rock, a medium swing, a gospel and only a handful of others.
You can clearly see the beats and how they are divided, which means you are not limited to playing a rhythm by rote only – you can understand how the rhythm is constructed. Just like a step sequencer, you see a grid where each beat can be divided into two, three, four or 32 (!) subdivisions/steps. You can tap on any square to put a sound there or erase a sound. Many of the preset patterns have multiple instruments, which are differentiated by colors.
This app really challenged me in the brain-splitting department. I am pretty good at tapping quarter notes with one hand while tapping a syncopated rhythm with my right (a skill called limb independence, which drummers and piano players must have), but I was not able to tap out some of the more complicated rhythms, and certainly not the poly rhythms! That made my brain explode. Being able to split your brain is what allows a singer to accompany themselves effectively on an instrument while they sing.