August 10, 2010 | by Lars Aronsson
As a fan of technological convergence, I love when I can find a new use for my Android phone that makes it replace yet another device that I once carried separately. In fact, a while ago I tried to list all the gadgets an Android handset can be used instead of, and I came up with no less than 36 contraptions with a combined weight that was 106 times heavier than my phone.
You may wonder why I’m telling you this. Well, an app for musicians that you may already have heard of is gStrings. What does it do? It basically renders standalone instrument tuners pointless and obsolete. The app is a chromatic tuner, and it not only lets you tune guitars, but any musical instrument: bass guitars, pianos, violins… – the list goes on.
The better part of gString’s interface is occupied by a frequency meter. In the top of the screen is a chromatic scale listing the 12 notes that are employed in western music. When you tap on a note, its frequency is shown. gString also has buttons for playing the currently selected note (if you want to tune your instrument by ear) and for tuning the selected note. In addition, the app has a mode that automatically figures out which note you’re tuning.
In the settings you can set the microphone sensitivity, optimize the app for a specific instrument and select the playback octave. There are also a few options that I frankly have no idea what they entail (“integer arithmetic rounding in the fourier transform”, anyone?). I did a quick check with another digital tuner to verify that gStrings tunes my guitars correctly, and yes, it does indeed. gStrings is very accurate, almost too accurate, since it can be rather difficult to hit the exact sweet spot.
It’s hard to find anything negative to say about the app, really. If the developer did an interface overhaul and brought an old-school, analog vibe to gStrings, in the same vein as Retro Camera and Recordoid, it would probably give a much better first impression. This would naturally only be useful for guitarists, but another great addition to the app would be built-in support for various alternate guitar tunings, such as open C (used by Jimmy Page in many Led Zeppelin songs) and open G, which was a favorite of Keith Richards. Yet another fine extension would be some sort of web integration.
One more thing: unless you make sure there is a moment of silence before you move on to the next string, the tune auto option will lag a bit, as it takes a while for it to realize which string you’re currently tuning. Other than that, the tuner performs admirably. If you play an instrument and rock an Android device, gStrings definitely belongs in your app drawer. There’s a Plus version as well with a couple of additional options that will set you back $1.49.
- Can basically tune any instrument
- Very accurate
- When you’re using the tuner, the app keeps the screen awake
- Several options
- Slightly dull interface
- Would benefit from built-in support for various alternate guitar tunings
- Functionality could be extended with some effort
App: Tuner – gStrings