By Carolyn Heneghan
Calling any guitarists or pianists who want to take their jamming skills to the next level, any beginners wanting to learn the basics of chords and scales, or any seasoned professionals wanting to sharpen the knowledge of their instrument—there’s a new app for you. Among many other tab and fingering apps on the market, Jamn (iPhone, iPad, iPod – $.99) from MiQ Limited aims to make the chords, scales, and transpositions involved more accessible to musicians of all skill levels.
Jamn is both a guitar tabsmith and a music theory professor in one handy app. Its main purpose is to make the theory behind jamming with your buddies or soloing over a quartet easier to understand in terms of theoretical notes, scales, and transpositions. It’s a pocket-sized visual, textual, and audio music reference that stands to revolutionize guitar teaching.
The interface itself actually resembles a throwback, non-touchscreen black iPod with its rounded rectangular shape and prominent wheel in the lower half. The first time you open the app, popup boxes walk you through the interface’s features and abilities with a video-like tutorial, which can be accessed at any time in the Info section of the menu.
The two ways this app is most effective are the chord tabulations, or fingerings, for guitar and piano, and the visual and audio explanation of major and minor scales and all of their intricate components. The fret board or keyboard—between which you can swipe—along the top of the screen displays dots corresponding to its letter note located on the wheel.
Major chord notes are coded white at default, and all notes then selected are color-coded and appear on the fret board in any place that would fit the selected chord. Selected notes and chords will be played aloud so you can play around with the app until you find chords you like.
Spin the wheel for more transposition options regarding the base major scale displayed, the note for which will be denoted by a blue line over the letter, as well as a red line over the chord’s native minor note. As you select different combinations of notes, they will be tabbed on the fret board, and the name of the scale in the center box will change when certain combinations within the scale make up different chords.
You can use the chord finder for the current key you’ve selected. For example, if C is selected, dragging the chord to A will display options for both its minor and minor7 scales. When one of those scales is selected, the appropriate notes will be tabbed on the fret board. The scale selector shows you different scales to work with corresponding to genre, such as classic, rock, and blues.
In the Menu, there are various settings you can toggle between, but there is also a wealth of information to help you work through the interface itself. For example, you can choose between the default dots or Roman numerals—the way that music theory classes are generally taught.
You can also select to see chromatic tones in either sharps or flats depending on how you’re used to reading music. What’s important is choosing whichever is easiest for you to remember—that is the point of this app after all.
As simplified as this app attempts to be, the features and interface can still be a bit overwhelming, particularly for beginners. To help you out, Jamn offers a number of other tutorials and music theory texts to accompany their app and ingrain this information as you go along.
The menu’s help section also provides a mapped out interface in case you forget which dots, letters and words mean what. Again, with such an expansive set of features included all on one map, this is another tool to help you navigate, especially if you’re just starting out with theory or playing your instrument altogether.
Without these Help and Information sections, I could see this complex yet highly functional app becoming an enigma to those with little or no theory knowledge starting out. But once you get the hang of it and familiarize yourself with all its intricacies, this app can be a phenomenal teaching, transposing, and jamming tool.
The Jamn app is available for download ($0.99) on the iTunes store.