help my mum play riffs
June 6, 2011 2:49 PM   Subscribe

My mum is learning to play guitar. I am trying to find some software that would help her. I think a program that plays MIDI files would be good, so I am wondering what is a good one? But other ideas would be good too.

My mum, very sweetly, is learning guitar, and apparently is managing to spend at least half an hour practising every night. She is progressing well, but a problem she is having is trying to play popular songs and getting a good feel for how chord changes etc fit together with the rhythm and melody.

I don't live nearby, but I was just talking to her on the phone. I think she's looking up chords on tab sites and trying to play some simple songs, but it's not always making sense to her. I was saying that she should listen to the original tracks and, even if she's not at a stage where she could play along, she should concentrate on listening out for where the changes are and that would help.

She said she would like to hear the songs with only guitar, and possibly slowed down. I thought her best bet might be to download MIDI files of songs she wanted to play, and use software where she could mute/solo instruments, and adjust the tempo, to be able to play along. I'm a musician and I have loads of software that can do this, among other much more advanced things, but it'd be great if there was something (freeware a plus, but she'd be happy to pay) that did this and only this, and did it well. I've spent half an hour downloading a few freeware things that performed reasonably well, but were clunky and probably optimised for Windows 98.

I doubt this is an obscure desire, so is there a product that does this kind of thing elegantly and intuitively? (My mum is completely confident with computers - she works in IT - but is definitely a beginner when it comes to music and music software.)
posted by cincinnatus c to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Windows Media Player and iTunes both support .mid files, but don't have the granularity of playback to allow you to mute individual tracks. Audacity allows you to import midi files and playback at a selected speed, and I suspect would allow the muting of parts you desire, but it's a learning curve.
posted by nomisxid at 3:28 PM on June 6, 2011

Guitar Pro
posted by the cuban at 3:28 PM on June 6, 2011

I second Guitar Pro. If you search the web you can download tons of free tabs in Guitar Pro format, and then you can play them, slow them down, loop sections, mute instruments, add a metronome, etc. using the software. It's great for practice, and not too hard to learn to use. They have a free trial version here.
posted by vorfeed at 4:10 PM on June 6, 2011

An open source alternative to Guitar Pro is TuxGuitar. Works well for me under OS X.
posted by doctord at 4:18 PM on June 6, 2011

Sounds like Guitar Pro might be perfect. The iPhone app version going for 3.99 would be right up my mum's street. I'll wait a bit before doling out best answers to see what else might be suggested, but I've already emailed her with the links.
posted by cincinnatus c at 4:22 PM on June 6, 2011

I'm at a similar stage of learning, and one of the most useful things I've found is to search YouTube for the artist/song name followed by "acoustic cover" or "acoustic tutorial" or "guitar cover" or "ukulele cover." For example, lady gaga born this way acoustic cover.

Most of the results are simple videos of amateurs playing solo. Many of them are relative beginners using fairly simple chords and strumming patterns (like me!), though it's also fun to watch the real experts and get some ideas of what I might want to learn in the future. If you find a user whose style you like, you can click on their name to see what other songs they've recorded.
posted by mbrubeck at 4:53 PM on June 6, 2011

I use Capo to play music back at half-speed while I'm learning. Then 3/4, then full speed. It also lets you do some filtering, and can help you figure out the notes and chords in a tune.
posted by DaveP at 6:03 PM on June 6, 2011

Seconding YouTube. Searching for i.e. "Bruno Mars Grenade guitar lesson" gets results for a surprising number of songs. Some are great, some are terrible, but hearing and seeing somebody else play the song works better than just reading a tab.

MIDI files aren't the best because they're usually orchestrated with lots of different parts. You're better off with something like Guitar Pro (like MIDI but playing only a guitar part) or Capo (playing the actual song at a lower speed). I personally use both.
posted by mmoncur at 8:27 PM on June 6, 2011

For when she is a bit more comfortable with tab, have her check out
It has tab that moves along while the song plays. I showed it to my brother in law who has been playing for just a short while and he is having fun with it.

Some songs are wrong and sound cheesy, but others are surprisingly well done.
posted by gregjunior at 11:25 AM on June 8, 2011

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