Ukulele Chord iPhone/iPod Apps Review

There have been quite a few ukulele apps released since my last app review. So time for a new round-up comparing the various ukulele chord apps that are out there (plus a quick review of one non-chord app).

Ukuchords

Price: Free

What is it?

Chord diagrams. Major, minor, 7 m7, 7M, dim, 6 m6, aug, 9, 7b5, 7#5. gCEA tuning only.

What’s good about it?

– Dead simple. There’s no faffing about with pictures of the fretboard. You just get chord diagrams. Easy to use – no unnecessary options.
– A range of inversions at various points on the neck.
– It actually has Em as 0432 as the default (most of the other apps here go for 4432). Which suggests the chord diagrams were looked over by a human who knows how to play ukulele.

What’s wrong with it?

– No sound.
– Not visually stunning.
– gCEA tuning only.
– No fingering suggestions.

Worth it?

I’d say definitely worth a download. This app should be all that most people will need.

Ukuchords on iTunes

Ukulele ChordKuma

Price: $1.99

What is it?

Chord diagrams for major, 7, minor, m7, dim, aug, 9. gCEA tuning only. With fingering suggestions. There are also tuning notes (gCEA only).

What’s good about it?

– Pleasent, simple layout.
– Nothing to confuse beginners. So no inversions, different tunings.
– It has an option for left-handers. The only app I’ve found that option on.

What’s wrong with it?

– No sound.
– Some of the chord names aren’t fully displayed: e.g. Ebm is shown as E…
– No suspended chords (which crop up more often than augmented or 9 chords).
– All listed as flats (so no indication that C# is the same as Db).
– Some questionable fingering. It seems to be particularly fond of barring. As you saw in the Ebm example, it used the 3rd finger for g and C strings rather than including the pinkie.
– There’s a link labeled ‘History of the Ukulele’ which just goes to the Wikipedia page for ukulele. Thanks, but I think I can find Wikipedia when I need it.

Worth it?

Not so obviously better than Ukuchords that it’s worth paying for. Might be worth the extra for left-handers.

Ukulele Chord Kuma on iTunes

UkeBank

Price: $2.99 (full disclosure: Chris, the app’s developer, sent me a copy for free)

What is it?

Chord diagrams with fingerings for major, minor, 7, m7 , maj7 6, 9, diminished and sus4 in gCEA, aDF#B and DGBE. With fingering suggestions. Sound of both chords and individual notes. Translation of various phrases into Hawaiian.

What’s good about it?

– Very beginner friendly and easy to use.
– Sound. Full chords or individual notes (but not the constant strumming you hear in the video).
– Multiple tunings but…

What’s wrong with it?

– The chords for both ADF#B and DGBE tuning are wrong. The ADF#B chords are written as if the tuning was FBbDG (i.e. a step down from standard rather than a step up) so a C chord is displayed like this. DGBE tuning is a step too low so a C chord looks like this. To confuse matters further, the sound for ADF#B matches neither the correct pitch or the chord shape.
– It doesn’t always show the easiest chord shape. So D is 2225 rather than 2220 and Em is 4432 rather than 0432.
– There are also some smaller niggles: I don’t know what the Hawaiian language bits are on there for. It would be better to get rid of that and replace it with a nut so you can see you’re at the bottom of the fretboard and so that open strings can be displayed.

Is it worth getting?

Not at the moment. The main advantage it has over ChordKuma is the multiple tunings so it needs fixing (Chris is working on it).

UkeBank on iTunes

UkeMaster

Price: $3.99

What is it?

Chord diagrams for major, 6, 7, M7, m, m6, m7, mM7, aug, dim, dim7, sus2. In high-G, low-G, D, G (baritone), Eb, A and Bb tunings. Made by the sheep entertainment people.

What’s good about it?

– Lots of chord options and inversions.
– Plenty of different tunings (although some weird options).
– Reverse looked up: you can punch in the chord you’re playing and it will tell you the name.

What’s wrong with it?

– The layout isn’t so easy to use (and it looks a bit ugly). And having the
– The chord options aren’t laid out in the order they’re most used. So the minor button is the 5th on the list.
– Lots of chords options but no sus4?
– Another app that doesn’t like open strings. So again Em is 4432 rather than 0432

Worth it?

It’s a bit pricey but might be worth a look if you’re expecting to be assaulted with some jazzy chords (or if you decide to play in a bizarre tuning).

UkeMaster on iTunes

UkuFingers Free

Price: Free ($3.99 for full app)

What is it?

Chord and scale diagrams. Chords: major, minor and 7. Scales: major and natural minor.

What’s good about it?

– You can see more than one chord at once. The app is in landscape mode and easily accommodates three chord diagrams side by side.
– Option to have note name, relative note (R, 3, 5 etc.) or just a blank circle for the dots.
– Chords and scales on the same fretboard. It’s an interesting idea.

What’s wrong with it?

– Difficult to use. Took me a bit of playing around before I figured out how to do things.
– Very limited chord options (more on the paid version).
– Very confusing for newbies. It tries to show all the possible inversions over five frets or so at once. They’re colour-coded but not in a way that I intuitively grasped. Unless you’ve got a good idea what you’re doing, you’ll be lost.

Worth it?

If you’re a beginner, stay away. But there are a number of ideas in this app that are worth exploring. It’s not a ‘me too’ chord app, so it’s very different to the other apps (for better and worse). But it wasn’t enough for me to shell out for the full version.

UkuFingers Free on iTunes

miSonata

Price: $1.99

What is it?

Not a chord app! A sort of Rock Band type game. You play along to a song as the notes scroll down the screen. Songs include Sakura, Aloha Oe, Canon in D and Fur Elise. There’s also a mode where you can widdle away playing whatever you like. They’re partnered with KoAloha.

What’s good about it?

– Fun little game.
– Nicely laid out.

What’s wrong with it?

– It’s not going to improve your playing anywhere near as much as actually playing a ukulele would.
– It’s quite fiddly to use.
– It’s not a game I’ve kept going back to.
– The ‘About KoAloha Ukuleles’ link takes you to a 404 page.

Is it worth getting? Not really. Get Rock Band instead.

miSonata on iTunes

One More Thing

I’m thinking about doing a few reviews of more general musical education apps (ear training, rhythm training etc). If you think it’d be worth it, let me know in the comments.

View Comments

22 Comments

  1. Paul November 17th, 2010 6:36 pm

    I quite like UkeChords, it even has Em as 0432!

  2. Emily November 17th, 2010 7:51 pm

    I’m a fan of UkeMaster despite it’s less-than-pleasant look. Use it all the time despite some funky fingerings. Thanks for taking the time to write up some reviews!

  3. Ron Hale November 17th, 2010 10:40 pm

    4432 is a superior fingering as far as I’m concerned. Sounds better/fuller to my ears (more so on a bari), is a movable form, and gives more
    control over the sound with all strings fretted.

  4. Hello Jodi November 17th, 2010 10:51 pm

    I wish I woulda read this last week! I bought Ukemaster. I figure it’s worth the price for the work that went into it. Right?
    I usually just figure out how to make the chords by the note in the scale, but last week I was playing uke and I was kind of drunk and couldn’t put that much thought into it.

  5. Alan November 18th, 2010 2:54 am

    I use Guitar Toolkit (I won’t link to it this time – it looks like links in comments trip the comment-spam filters), which despite the name has very comprehensive chords for Ukes (and almost any other guitar-like instrument you’re likely to come across). It’s visually very nice; it covers the different tunings; and it also includes a tuner and a metronome. Yes, it’s expensive for an iPhone app ($9.99 US) but you’re not likely to need another app for the job.

    The sister app, Tab Toolkit, is a handy beast as well.

  6. alec November 18th, 2010 5:18 am

    The ukuchords free one is all I’ve needed, super easy, and I like the way it looks.

    I agreee about ukufingers free. I gave up, even though it would be really useful, especially the R35 option, etc.

    I wonder why no one ever puts 2403 for E. It’s a little tricky at first, but a good option, and the smoothest once you get used to it if you’re switching between open chords. Definitely 0432 for Em; leaves your pinkie free, leaves the G ringing out, and still movable with the first and middle fingers in place.

    Absolutely other theory / ear training app reviews please!

  7. muz November 18th, 2010 6:40 am

    Seriously guys just splash out and get guitar toolkit. Has support for uke, every type of guitar, bass, mandolin and banjo. Supports custom tunings and has full chord charts with variatons of every type of chord. (yes chords for custom tunings!)

    Also has a good built in metronome.

    Its a little on the expensive side but the polish and the fact it actually used a graphic designer is worth it.

  8. Jokeyjon November 18th, 2010 9:48 am

    Interesting reviews – very helpful.

    Would welcome a stroll around some of the other apps – functional ear training would seem a no brainer.

    For those of us who lust after a Boss GT10 but are skint, the amplitube app is brilliant too – made me smile when i used it with my Risa solid!

  9. Marcelo November 18th, 2010 7:15 pm

    More reviews of musical education apps, please!

  10. Mike Woodhouse November 18th, 2010 8:46 pm

    I don’t have an iPhone but I would be interested in a round up of Uke software for the PC. I do have a windows (6.x) phone though I guess I’ll check out uke apps for that unless someone will save me the trouble.

  11. Shoshanna November 18th, 2010 9:13 pm

    As a left-handed person, I don’t see the advantage of having a left-handed option when I’ve been reading the right-handed chords the entire time I’ve been playing the ukulele. It just makes it more confusing.

    Thanks for the reviews!

  12. Alec November 19th, 2010 4:26 am

    The E I mentioned should be 1402.

  13. Woodshed November 19th, 2010 4:38 pm

    Paul: Yep, that’s a rarity.

    Emily: Pleasure is all mine.

    Ron: I don’t think there’s a huge amount of difference in sound on a re-entrant uke.

    Jodi: Working out chords is the honest way to do it. And you get a much better insight into what you’re doing.

    Alec: I can’t get to grips with that inversion. Way too tricky for me to use smoothly.

    muz: I might have done only after putting this post up I got a bunch of comments from people flogging Guitar Toolkit pretty heavily.

    Jokeyjon: Thanks for the heads up on the amplitube app.

    Marcelo: I’ll see how it goes!

    Mike: I did do a PC software round-up ages ago but might be time for a new one.

    Shoshanna: I did wonder if would be useful. I’ve had a few people complain about right-hand chord charts though.

  14. HarryInk November 20th, 2010 9:52 am

    Ta for the review

  15. Woodshed November 20th, 2010 11:45 am

    HarryInk: You’re welcome.

    Muz: I bought Guitar Toolkit (the lite version since I have an iPod) and it is impressive. I’ll include it if I do a follow up review.

  16. plink freud November 22nd, 2010 8:37 am

    Another plug for guitar toolkit – I often need to find out the name of a chord I’ve ended up playing and GTK does that way up to the 22nd fret! Mind you, some of the chord names it comes up with are way beyond my understanding of music theory.

    Another sensational (and expensive) app is iRealbook – apart from the 900 chord charts, it now has a player, which allows you to type in a chord sequence and play it back as a piano, bass and drum combo (like Band in a Box). Sounds brilliant through a set of reasonable speakers and great for accompanying lead breaks. Limited rhythm patterns so far but presumably will develop.

  17. zym November 29th, 2010 10:20 pm

    i am the only one with an Android phone?;)

  18. Mike Woodhouse November 30th, 2010 12:06 pm

    I guess so Zym, Uke players are ‘plastic rebels’ with Apple kit…

  19. Woodshed December 3rd, 2010 10:38 pm

    zym: Yes.

    Mike: I have no intention of rebelling. I love consuming.

  20. Maggie May 6th, 2011 1:43 pm

    I wanted to get ukuchords but it’s not on the iTunes store anymore. Is there any chance any of you guys can send me a copy?

  21. Gazzamm February 9th, 2013 1:01 am

    For chords I use Basichords which is awesome. Shows all the range of chords (augs, 9ths, sus) and their various different versions up the fretboard.

  22. Woodshed February 10th, 2013 12:37 pm

    Gazzamm: Thanks for the tip. I’ll give it a look.

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