Harmony is a difficult and complex part of music theory with chord spelling and construction at its very basis. What is a chord? Is it C - E - G# or C - E - Ab? You like the sound of those four notes on your guitar, but is it a chord? And if so, what is it called? These are typical issues facing the creative musician when trying to bring a new song to paper. Music theory is often complex and correctly spelling a chord that may have sharps and flats, double flats or double sharps is not always easy. This is where the traditional chord books and apps become useless and ChordLab steps in. ChordLab involves the ear and showcases the finer shades of harmony available with each alteration, voicing and inversion based on the concepts of music theory. It is a great aid where chord spelling and voice leading are concerned but also delivers when a fingering for an unknown chord is needed.
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- Chord spelling for all common chords found in fake books (i.e. Real Book)
- Music notation and textual representation of chord tones
- Chord finder finds correct chord descriptions for triads and seventh chords
- Alto, bass, tenor, treble clefs, TAB and grand staff
- All possible inversions
- All standard voicings
- Virtual piano and guitar instruments
- Chord tone labelling in instrument views
- All common open and alternate tunings presets (guitar)
- Alternate fingerings (guitar)
- Chord rating
- Automatic reduction to 3 or 4 voices
- Automatic root and fifth substitution
- Key signatures for all major modes (circle of fifths)
- Degree structure in Roman numerals for all major modes (circle of fifths)
- Support for left-handed players
- High quality guitar and piano samples
- European and American chord notation
- Arpeggiated and block chord playback
- MIDI support
- Support for sound libraries
- High resolution graphics for Retina®
- Academic discounts available
- Localized into Chinese, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swedish
ChordLab differs in its top to bottom approach that begins with a basic chord form which can then be put through permutations like inversions and different voicings. It features all the standard voicings commonly used in Jazz, Rock, Pop, and elsewhere. In that sense it serves as a color palette or sounding board that automatically generates valid fingerings for the piano and guitar in addition to the correct music notation. The result is a much deeper and better understanding of the underlying principles of harmony.
The Circle of Fifths
Another essential tool found in ChordLab is the Circle of Fifths which is implemented in a manner that allows to use it interactively. It not only allows to look up key signatures for major and minor scales, but all modes derived of the major scale, like dorian, phrygian. So it is possible to display key signatures for all mixolydian scales for example and simultaneously highlight the other degrees for that mode. Additionally ChordLab displays degree structures for a key in standard Roman numerals. This is extremely useful when putting together chord progressions.
The chord finder feature in ChordLab allows you to input 3 or 4 notes to determine their harmomic quality. ChordLab will always find the enharmonically simplest solution and does not require you do know whether a note is called G# or an Ab. C-Gb-Bb-D for example will resolve to a D aug7 chord with a correct spelling of C-F#-A#-D. This is especially useful for guitarists that seldomly encounter chords in root position due to the tuning of the instrument. In addition to the note picker interface for the chord finder there are also interfaces for guitar and piano. That makes it easier to input chords when one is not entirely sure about the name of the notes included.
The guitar instrument has a tunings window. All common standard and open tunings as well as a custom setting are available from the tunings picker at the top of the window. Using any of the slider will override the current tuning and generate a custom tuning. Strings can be tuned by 7 semitones higher or lower than the standard tuning. Experimenting with tunings is a great way to find chord voicings that are not available in the standard tuning and thus expanding one's vocabulary.
Alternate Fingerings Popup
A button to display the alternate fingering table is located centrally in the application's toolbar when in guitar mode. Alternate fingerings make the guitar a difficult but on the other hand also much more capable instrument. For many chords there are 3, 4 or even more alternate locations to play the exact same voicing. Where prior versions of ChordLab merely indicated the existence of alternate fingerings with semi-transparent arrows, ChordLab HD 3.0 adds a toolbar button that shows exactly how many alternates there are. When tapped the button reveals a table with Roman numerals indicating the exact positions of these fingerings and tapping a row updates the instrument display to that location.
ChordLab comes with built-in guitar and piano instrument sound libraries that can be assigned to either virtual instrument. In addition ChordLab also supports sound libraries as In App modules that can be purchased separately. There are currently 21 sound libraries available divided into 7 instrument packs. The guitar instrument features a tuning window to facilitate open and custom tunings.
Tapping the chord's title at the very top left of the application brings up the history window. Every time a chord is picked ChordLab takes note and updates its history. Tapping any row in the history brings up the selected chord. Selecting a chord in the history window does not create history. As everywhere in ChordLab the rating display is live and dragging on the stars will change the rating accordingly.
There are several settings available in ChordLab. Some affect the chord playback and allow arpeggiated playback vs block chords or enable Auto Play to have chords sounded automatically when inversions or voicings are changed. A show all notes setting highlights chord tones in instrument range that are not currently in the selected voicing. Other settings allow to switch between a variety of clefs, grand staff and TAB or switch the virtual instrument. A setting for handedness affects the guitar instrument and switches between left-handed and right-handed views. The chord notation switch toggles between European and American chord notation.
ChordLab addresses the needs of a somewhat advanced audience with a sharp focus on elementary areas like chord spelling, voice leading, four-part reduction and similar topics that are so essential to many modern music styles. By simultaneously addressing both main harmony instruments in modern music it also becomes an invaluable tool to the composer/arranger of today that needs to evaluate the playability of certain voicings. In short, ChordLab goes far beyond the generic chord app that only aims to show a diagram or two. While providing valuable fingering information - albeit in a context firmly based in theory - with its included interactive circle of fifths, chord finder, rating system, history, tunings adaptation and so many other features, ChordLab is the one harmony tool one finds oneself coming back to again and again.