I don't review enough ukulele apps, but was intrigued by this one that I was sent to test - Learning The Ukulele In 7 Days on the iTunes store.
Learning Ukulele In 7 Days is a simple, yet stylish app created by Peter Ristow and available on the Apple store (sorry Android users). The concept is simple - a seven day course for ukulele beginners, that aims to have you complete each one of the seven simple lessons one day at a time - hence you learn in a week.
I do stress 'simple' here - even if I don't mean that to be a complaint - this is not a full ukulele course. Day one starts with how to tune the uke (including a nice headstock image that you can click and hear sample tones for the notes). That said, perhaps it would have been nice to include an actual tuner that makes use of the microphone here. We move on to a nicely drawn chalkboard lesson on how to hold the uke and how to strum and then on to learning the first chord. I really do like the design and the style here - and the chord learning is pretty cleverly done - with a representation of a ukulele neck that allows you to switch between the usual 'dots on the fretboard' symbols to a representation of an actual hand - a nice idea very well pulled off. We end day one with the first song to learn - an extremely simple rhythm exercise aimed at getting your strumming going. Backed by a (rather cheesy sounding) backing track, we have bouncing ball keeping time and a flashing arrow on the ukulele neck image showing when to strum - all nicely animated, simple and keeping good time. In the first lesson this is about one chord only.
The following days proceed in a similar fashion, starting with a refresher on day two on tuning and holding, then introducing the next chord, an introduction to another strumming pattern (this time bringing in an up down strum), and another song. Days 3-7 follow the same pattern, introducing more songs and more chords along the way.
And on the face of it that is it. It is extremely simple, but then for an absolute total beginner I can see how this app would be very helpful if you don't have access to other forms of tuition. Not only is it teaching you the basic chords, but it is also giving you images of how the hand best holds them, and animated images to follow in your strumming. As basic lessons go, this is pretty much spot on, all for a couple of bucks.
And I suppose that is a gripe I have though - this is so nicely presented - nice clear bold diagrams and lovely animation, that it is crying out for more songs and more lessons. There are just seven very basic songs in here, and nothing really that popular (think Aloha 'Oe, I Shall Not Be Moved, La Bamba) with extremely basic strumming, but then, yet again, I am perhaps missing the point - this is aimed at absolute beginners and as such differs little in that respect from the many music books out there that insist on teaching beginners how to play Happy Birthday or The Runaway Train. The song choice is not the point, it is how the teaching is delivered, and as I say I love the style. It would just lend itself to more songs!
All is not lost however and this is not necessarily a throwaway app once you have done the seven lessons. In the menu is a very handy chord finder feature that the app really doesn't shout about nearly enough. Using the same clear graphics of a ukulele neck looking like a neck does from your eyes when you actually play, you get two selector wheels where you can change the root note and the variant. Sure, there isn't every chord in here, but when you have a hidden feature that lets you move up to F#9 and E Aug, then I think you really have most chords an absolute beginner would need. The app also provides ready access back to the practice songs, the strumming patterns and the basic history and how to's learned earlier in the lessons.
So all in all - I love the style and look of it, and it seems to have been very well thought through, if a little short. The hand images on the chord diagrams is a really clever idea and I love the chord finder feature. Add a real tuner and a selection of further lessons and songs to download and this could be a killer app. As it stands though, at only $1.99, it's surely worth any beginners cash to give it a go - absolute beginners, of course.
You can get the download below
Learning Ukulele In 7 Days