A TUTOR IN YOUR PHONE Here’s a handy way to learn and/or improve your music sight-reading skills: the Guitar Sight Reading Trainer from Rolf’s Apps, for iOS devices. The app supports several key signatures and scales, and is designed to help you find notes on every part of the fretboard based on notes in a staff, on note name and pitch, and notes as they would appear on the fretboard. Also included are many exercises and tests in a graphically pleasing, easy-to-read format. After a while, reading music should become second nature! $1.99 through the iTunes store. Another app, the Guitar Sight Reading Workshop from 5 Diamond Music Services for Android devices, is available through Google Play for $2.99.
SLOW GOING Roni Music’s Amazing Slow Downer is a helpful app (for iOS and Android devices and Mac and Windows computers) that some guitarists have found to be an excellent practice tool for learning pieces. As its name implies, the app will take a piece of music, or just a phrase, and play it at any speed between 25 percent (one-quarter speed) and 200 percent (double-speed) without changing the pitch, as many times as you’d like. It can be used to assist in changing the tuning or musical key of a piece, and it is also a great tool for the sometimes tedious job of transcribing. $9.95–$49.95, depending on platform. ronimusic.com
ZOOM EVOLUTION The Zoom H1 has long been one of the most popular inexpensive handheld recorders on the market. Now the Japan-based Zoom Corporation has redesigned and improved the device, recently introducing the H1n Handy Recorder, which is a perfect tool to record your practices, take verbal “notes,” or carry with you discreetly wherever you might want to capture some audio. New to this H1 upgrade is a more intuitive recording interface that allows for simple thumb navigation and greater flexibility in accessing other features. The unit has a built-in 90-degree X/Y stereo microphone configuration that is effective for single-source recording (of a guitar!) in WAV audio rates up to 24-bit/96 kHz and MP3 audio up to 320 Kbps. It has many possible music-related (and other) uses, and it’s a true bargain at around $120 at many American and European online sellers. zoom-na.com
A RADICAL TURNER
The new Roadie 2 Standalone Automatic Smart Guitar Tuner, designed for use with guitars, mandolins, banjos, and ukuleles, is a different sort of tuner. The product bills itself as an all-in-one “tuner, string-winder, and the easiest way to explore alternate tunings.” Indeed it is simple to use: You fit it over each tuning peg and then, within seconds, it automatically turns the peg until the pitch is perfect. It has all sorts of preprogrammed alternate tunings and you can also store your own custom tunings. There’s also a free Bluetooth companion mobile app (not required) which allows for further customization and refinement of the Roadie 2’s features. It’s a bit more obtrusive than a clip-on tuner, but we’ve had one in the office and can attest that it works! $129. roadietuner.com
Not new, but a classic! Respected musician and Latin American guitar scholar Richard “Rico” Stover (author of definitive works on Barrios, among many writings) is also the inventor of what remains one of the most popular nail care and nail augmentation systems for classical, flamenco, and jazz guitarists, Riconails. Stover’s approach is simple: understand ways to maximize fingernail health (he even has a whole book about the subject); use only high-quality ABS plastic nails; and employ a nontoxic adhesive that is efficient and removable. Not only are ABS nails effective in performance situations and for covering split and broken nails, but Stover recommends using them for practice, too, to preserve the natural nails underneath in conjunction with learning how to strengthen your nails. Emergency Nail Kit: $21.95 ricoguitarnails.com
It’s just a simple piece of Canadian suede, but Bluedog Guitars’ Classical Belly Bodyguard could be a savior to the finish of your guitar’s top. It’s specifically designed to protect the area directly under the bridge during string changes, when snapping/breaking strings can create little “wounds,” which over time can become quite unsightly (and lower the value of the instrument).bluedogguitars.com/products