Learn The Guitar While Taming Wild Beasts On Your iPad

WildChords, a new guitar training app from Ovelin, is truly a remarkable little thing. It presents a charming, well-put-together guitar trainer that is both simpler and more effective at teaching the guitar than pricy music games like the not-so-fun Rocksmith and the fun-but-complicated Rock Band 3.

This is a music game with a story—the basic setup being that a huge number of animals have escaped from the zoo. In order to get them back in their cages, players must soothe them with smooth sounds from their acoustic guitar. (This story is demonstrated and expounded upon in Oveline's hysterically goofy trailer.)

The game must be played with an acoustic guitar, as it uses the iPad's built-in microphone to detect the chord or note being played, and judges success accordingly. It's fairly forgiving, and doesn't offer much by way of feedback—if you make a mistake, it'll just tell you you made a mistake before moving along.

There are a number of different exercises. In the most common kind, a guitar-wielding gent moseys along in rhythm, with the player having to play a certain chord in time as he passes a new animal. Each correct chord causes the animal to follow him, pied-piper style, until he is leading an entire menagerie back to the zoo. Another type of game focuses on single-note patterns, with six telephone lines denoting the six strings of the guitar, and birds denoting where players should place notes.

It's cute and charming, but it's also an effective guitar teacher. Certainly, this game isn't going to make you a master overnight, but it makes a great supplement to beginning guitar lessons, is surprisingly addictive, as well. As I mentioned, the feedback isn't very detailed, so it can't tell you what you're doing wrong. (This is why a teacher will always be better than a game.) But, it's laid back and forgiving enough that I could easily see it becoming part of a relaxed beginning practice regimen.

Another great thing about WildChords is that it's completely free. Well, not completely—players get the first 24 lessons and the guitar tuner for free, though the more advanced lesson-packs are $2.99 as an in-app purchase. However, the free stuff will get you through basic chords and single-note patterns, so it's worth downloading and giving a shot even if you're not sure you'll want to pay for more advanced exercises.

The included guitar tuner is very good—it's responsive and easy to use, and is actually one of the best free tuners I've used on the iPad (discounting the expensive but terrific Strobosoft Tuner, which will be overkill for most). It galls me to say that the tuner on a free iPad app is far more useful and responsive than the tuner in the $60 Rocksmith, but there you go. It is.

WildChords is cute as a button and compulsive to play, but its real strength is that it's a darn good little guitar tutor. Coupled with weekly or bi-weekly private lessons, it could be just the thing to get you into a regular practice groove, and the simple chords imparted in its free lessons would give you the ability to play hundreds of famous songs. And did I mention that it's free?

WildChords [Free, iTunes App Store]