One of the great things about the proliferation of iDevices is the sheer amount of creativity they’re capable of. With media moving further away from large corporations and into the hands of the consumer—and their mobile devices— iPhone apps like Blues Backing Tracks, by Vievace, set the stage for a whole new frontier of music that features iOS.
Without so much as looking at the App Store for guidance, I loaded Blues Backing Tracks onto my iPhone, jammed it into my PA, grabbed a nearby Fender, and started pressing buttons. The first thing I noticed about the app is its brilliant design. Similar in shape and layout to a guitar effects pedal, Blues Backing Tracks is both easy to navigate and easy to understand.
A track list at the top identifies the style of blues being played. To change tracks, simply push the arrow buttons at the bottom. Likewise, keys can be selected using the row of letters in the middle, with options for major and minor modes found above and below respectively. Similarly, a tempo slider rests above the ample play button. All in all, the simplistic, intuitive design makes help documentation unnecessary, as all of Blues Backing Track’s functions are on display for immediate use.
Functionality and Usefulness:
All four of the included tracks—Acoustic Blues, Organ Blues, Chicago Blues, and Minor Blues—are available in fourteen keys and three tempos for a grand total of 168 possible combinations. To my surprise, each of the offered tracks is pleasingly complex, rather than a simple twelve-bar blues pattern as I expected. My favorite was the Chicago Blues track, which at a medium tempo provided a comfortable back-beat for warm-up improvisation. Some of the tracks—especially the Acoustic Blues—can sound a beat tinny (I’m assuming they were created on synthesizers) but as Blues Backing Tracks is intended for solo practice, I don’t consider this a downside. Also a pleasant surprise, the developers have opted to include chord and scale charts for each track in each key, lending a great amount of educational value to the app. This would be particularly handy for both guitar instructors and students alike. All in all, I found all four tracks very fun to solo to, and I don’t doubt that I’ll be adding the app to my pre-gig warmup in the near future.
Priced at a particularly modest $2.99, Blues Backing Tracks has a lot to offer for a very low price. The simplistic—and tasteful—design makes the app extremely easy to use, and the quality of the provided tracks makes it a viable option for warming up, teaching students, or learning to play the blues in any key. If you are a musician of any caliber looking to play this deep, emotional style of music, Blues Backing Tracks has a lot to offer.
Blues Backing Tracks [ iTunes Link ] requires iOS 4.2 or later and is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. A small expedite fee was paid by the developer to speed up the publication of this review.
The iPhone app review rating:
Blues Backing Tracks iPhone Video Demo