iPad App Review: 1Chart, A Promising Nashville Numbers App
Nashville Numbers is a super easy way to chart out complicated songs quickly, but there just wasn't "an app for that" for the iPad. Until now.
I stumbled upon 1Chart about two weeks ago while browsing, and immediately dropped the rather hefty $12.99 for it. It downloaded quickly, and walked me through a short tutorial on how to use it, then I was off to the races.
I bought version 1.1.1, but it was surprisingly stable for a fresh-out-of-the-coding-room app. It hasn't quit once on me, and I'm running it on an iPad 2.
What immediately impressed me about the app was it's simple, direct interface and minimalistic approach to charting. It covers the basics of chording, providing an easy to use numbers keyboard, complete with extensions and various musical notation options. It also offers copy and paste, and the ability to put rhythmic notes in above chords. Nice.
This past weekend I got a last-minute call to sub with a southern gospel group from near my home in Nashville. Our first gig was in two days, and I was going to have to learn around 18 songs in a style I don't regularly play, and perform them with a band I wouldn't be rehearsing with until a few hours before our first concert. This was my perfect chance to stress test 1Chart by writing out the band's set.
I popped out my trusty iPad and a stylus and went to work. After about an hour of fussing with 1Chart, I finally reverted back to pen and paper in frustration. Why? Several things:
• 1Chart is powerful and clean, but it's biggest weakness is it's inability to let me write directly on the sheet anywhere I want. I was constantly trying to figure out how to do what I wanted to do 1Chart's way, instead of the way that made the most sense to me. This severely limited my speed, and since the entire point of writing in Nashville Numbers is for the speed, this is almost a deal breaker. 1Chart guys, I'd highly recommend focusing on incorporating annotation into your app (I love the way that the app ForScore has set up annotation- I'd love to see you emulate it).
• Many of the commands were only as fast or even significantly slower compared to hand notation with pen and paper. For copy and paste, I had hold down my finger on the exact spot (and I mean exact), wait about one second, select the area I wanted to copy, then press copy. Then I'd have to pick the section that I wanted to copy to, click in exact spot I wanted, hold my finger down, and then select paste. In this same amount of time, I could have almost re-written the section by hand.
I think 1Chart needs to entirely rethink the way that it does copy and paste, adding and deleting sections, and generally speed things up. I'd love to see them take advantage of the iPad's gestures, and make everything work using quick swipes. I'd love to see them add these features:
1. Double tap to go into selection mode. In this mode, you could simply drag your fingers across the notes you want to select. Once you'd let up your finger, you'd automatically go back to regular mode.
2. Two-fingered swipe left would be copy. Two fingered swipe right would be paste. Two fingered up would be delete. Two finger slowly drag would be move the selection to another section.
3. Making a two-fingered circle gesture in the middle of the screen would cycle backward and forward through my undo/redo history.
4. Tap and hold anywhere on the screen would automatically insert an annotation section.
5. Tapping below a section would automatically insert a new section.
6. Tapping 4 times on the BPM section at the top of the screen would tap tempo your speed.
7. The Title would be by default the title of the document until I changed it.
8. I'd be able to start a metronome, and tap in notes on a keyboard above any chord, anywhere on the music and have it appear like this (or at least let me draw it in):
9. I'd be able to add Verse, Chorus, and other titles from a scrolling selection wheel under the section titles.
10. I'd be able to add order progressions like this to anywhere I like on the page:
I know it sounds like I'm being extremely critical of this app, and probably the last thing you'd expect me to say at the end of the blog is to go buy 1Chart. But that's exactly what I'm recommending to all of my readers. Before you ask to have me committed, here are three reasons why I believe 1Chart is worth the plunge:
1. This is by far the best app for quickly writing Nashville Numbers charts on the market today, and even with it's current limitations, you'll find yourself being able to write out most simple tunes at blindingly fast speeds.
2. While extremely limited, the 1Chart app developers have all the basics down with this app. They've started from a strong foundation of keeping the app stable and fast, with a no-frills and no-nonesense approach to charting. I really appreciate that.
3. It's an investment for the future. As this app continues to mature (they're currently on just their 2nd minor release) these guys will continue to improve the app by adding features. I'll gladly drop 12.99 to support the long term development of an app that helps me with something I do every day, and could potentially drastically increase my productivity.
Bottom line: I think of 1Chart as that lanky freshman kid on the sidelines: not yet ready for the spotlight, but working hard and waiting for his chance to shine. And I'll support that kind of an underdog any day of the week.
You can pick up 1Chart on the iPad app store by clicking here.