When not testing Macs and Mac peripherals in the Macworld Lab, I’m a working musician. One of my bands, The Amazing Embarrassonic Human Karaoke Machine, is basically a cover band without a singer. With more than 500 songs in our repertoire, some have called us professional song learners. (Some have called us other things, but what do they know?) That’s why I was excited to see that SuperMegaUltraGroovy, which makes a Mac product called Capo, has come out with a version of its song-learning software for the iPhone and iPod touch.
Capo for iPhone helps you learn how to play the music stored on your iOS device. The $20 app allows users to import songs from their iTunes library and manipulate them in ways that save both time and effort in the learning process. Copy-protected songs aren’t supported, but iTunes Plus files are.
Once you’ve imported a file, you can pick sections of the song to loop. This simple-sounding feature can save a ton of time and effort when trying to learn a guitar solo or difficult passage. Prior to Capo, you’d find the section you’d want to learn, press play, grab your instrument and play along. When the section had passed, you’d have to put down your instrument, stop the play-back, navigate back to the beginning of the section and repeat. When looping a section, you spend more time learning and less time fussing around with the controls.
But wait, Capo’s got an even cooler trick—it allows you to slow down songs, or sections of songs, to one-quarter of the original speed without affecting pitch. There are labeled speeds at 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and 1X the original tempo; as you put your finger on one of them, a floating menu pops up letting you refine your tempo choice, by single percentage points, from 25 percent of full speed to 100 percent of full speed. Imaging how helpful it would be to have the solo from Crazy Train slowed down to a more manageable half-time tempo and then be able to slowly increase the playback speed as you master it.
If you’d like to adjust the pitch up or down, you can do that, too. You can even combine the speed and pitch adjustments—change the pitch up to a chipmunk-like +5 while slowing down the tempo to a sludgy 25 percent of the original. I can’t imagine how this could help anyone, but it does sound kind of awesome.
I ran into a bug with Capo when I tried to import a DRM-protected song file. The app started mistaking unprotected files as having DRM protection. I contacted SuperMegaUltraGroovy; the 1.0.2 version of the app with this bug fix included is now available at the App Store.
Capo for iPhone isn’t cheap. This is a premium application, and I’m not just talking about its $20 price tag. It’s easy to use, pleasing to look at, and as helpful as all get out. So why would you pay $20 for this product when other iOS apps, like AmpliTube 2.0, include tempo adjustment and looping abilities, along with recording, stompbox effects, a guitar tuner, metronome and more for the same price? Because an app like AmpliTube may be overkill for many users. Also, Capo’s song import process is much faster and its user interface is cleaner, more intuitive, and easier to navigate and learn. Sure, I wish the app cost a bit less, but if you believe that time is money, then Capo for iPhone will prove to be a bargain for professional song learners everywhere.
[James Galbraith is director of Macworld Lab.]