Whether you’re just learning to play guitar or you’re an experienced musician, it’s always helpful to have some music theory resources lying around. Chord books are especially useful for guitarists, they can help you find variations for playing known chords as well as new ones to play around with. But wouldn’t it be nice to have an interactive chord book on your computer?
ChordMate is just that, and much more. It’s a Mac app that can help you find new chords, new voicings, and even string together chord progressions right on your computer. Sounds interesting?
ChordMate is the ultimate app for any guitarist who would like to dwell deeper into chord theory: it can help you do everything from finding and hearing wild and obscure chord voicings, to putting together chord progressions.
The first thing that stands out about ChordMate is how antiquate and loaded its interface looks. It’s kind of overwhelming to look at: it has no color, a lot of sidebars, buttons, and overall looks pretty bland. It does a good job at letting you navigate through the app, but it doesn’t do it in an intuitive way, and it will take you more than a few minutes figuring out what the app does or how you’re supposed to do it.
But, that’s not to say that we expected some kind of amazing innate interface, most music apps tend to be quite complex and hard on the eyes. After all, what this kind of apps provide is content. So how does ChordMate fare in that regard?
Finding Your Chord
The main feature of ChordMate is of course helping you find obscure chords and new ways to play the ones you already know. Finding the chord you are looking for is pretty easy, you just have to type it in the search box, which will automatically suggest dozens of matching chords, even giving you a preview of the notes and formula for each chord.
Alternatively, there’s a “Symbol Lookup”, which will essentially show you all the known chords for any root note given, arranged with their name, notes used, symbol and formula. If you don’t know exactly the name of the chord you’re looking for, this is quite handy.
Once you’ve selected the chord you were looking for, a number of different voicings for it will be shown in the main area of the app. You can filter these through the preset filters on the sidebar of the app, which include “Open Chords”, “No Barre”, “First Inversion”, “All Chords”, among others.
You can set your own filters as well, tweaking a huge number of conditions, such as the top note or where the silent strings are located. The chords shown can also be automatically filtered by ease of playing, quality of the chord, or the fret at which they are played.
Finding different ways to play your chords is just the tip of the iceberg for this app. Once you’ve found a voicing that sounds good or is convenient to play in your progression, you can drag it to the area found in the bottom of the app, where it’ll be added to your chord progression.
Having all your chords arranged in a progression here makes it easy to play them together in the app, rewind or forward between them and even finding more appropriate voicings for playing them in succession. Going back to the voicings finder for each chord is as easy as right-cliking them and choosing the “Find Other Voicings” option. You can start a song just by dragging the basic chords for a song that you’re working on, and from there start finding more interesting voicings for each of them.
Another cool feature that ChordMate offers are the diagrams. A diagram essentially allows you to select a number of notes that form a chord, after which the app will suggest a name for it or allow you to name it however you want. Diagrams are useful for finding out the name of a chord you’re playing, or for saving new chords that you’ve created.
Tuning, Capo, and Other Things
ChordMate will also work with a number of alternative tunings. You just have to tell the app which tuning you’d like to use, and all the chords will be shown relative to that tuning. The same goes with capos, just select a position for it and all chords will be shown relative to it. And if you’re not quite sure how to tune your guitar with your newfound tuning, there’s a “Play Strings” button that’ll let you hear how each of them is supposed to sound.
There are also a few extra details that are pretty cool. For example, you can export any chord diagram as an image, PDF or as text. You can also play around with how chords sound: you can set the app up to play chords as a single strum, as a fast arpeggio, or a slow arpeggio; and select an acoustic, electric or classic sound.
ChordMate is a very powerful app, albeit a bit disorganized and hard to get into. Once you get the hang of it, though, it will become an immense resource for songwriting or just learning to play the guitar. Its many features like alternative tuning support, chord progression organizing, and chord diagrams, make it a sturdy app and a limitless music resource.
At $49 dollars, ChordMate comes as a considerable investment, at least until compared with other kinds of regular chord books which usually run at similar prices. I’m pretty sure ChordMate will be considerably more useful than any of those books, but what do you think? We’d love to hear the thoughts of any guitar players in our audience below!