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iGuzheng – A nice emulation of a Chinese zither instrument

The app iGuzheng has been available since 2011, but the recent addition of Audiobus compatibility has breathed new life into the app. This is definitely a "boutique" app, but for the price it is a great tool to have in your arsenal.

Anyone familiar with traditional Chinese music has probably heard a Guzheng, even if you don't know it. It is a zither-like instrument that dates back to 500 B.C., and has an instantly recognizable sound. The iGuzheng brings this sound to both the iPad and iPhone beautifully.

There are two layouts for the main interface - actual instrument size, or you can fit all 21 strings onto the screen. With the "actual size" option, there is a scroll bar on the right which allows you to easily reach those strings that are offscreen. While playing with iGuzheng, I preferred the actual size option, as this allowed for a good spacing between strings, which helped avoid accidental string hits. If you wish, a pinch/zoom on the scroll bar allows you to adjust the spacing of the strings. One thing that may be an issue for some is that the app is portrait-mode only.

The playing of the strings feels very real. You almost feel as if you are actually plucking the strings. Raking across the strings bring a beautiful waterfall of notes, and playing several notes at a time brings nice chords to your song.

You can manipulate individual notes in several very easy ways. By tapping and dragging horizontally on a string, you can get a  "Shake" technique, which is essentially a rapid plucking of the string. On the left side of the app are larger "sliders" that act in two ways. For each string, if you tap, hold and move the slider to the right, you can bend the string (or you can pre-bend a note by moving the slider to the right prior to tapping the string, and releasing). By moving the slider to the left, you can apply some vibrato to the played note.

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Included in the app are seven demo songs. Two of these songs are further augmented by embedded YouTube videos, showing the song being played, and "tablature" that shows the notation. This is a really nice touch for those who wish to delve further into the world of Guzheng playing. You can also change the background color of the app as well in the Settings menu. Below is a demo song included in the app. This song showcases very nicely many of the different playing techniques in iGuzheng.

The strings are tuned to a standard major pentatonic, with some options to change the key quickly. It is very easy to get up and running on making your song sound sweet.

While the app is Audiobus compatible in the input slot, one really nice feature is the ability to record within the app. Your recording also captures your notes visually as they were played, so you can hear and see your performance just as it was recorded. Your recording can be shared via email to other iGuzheng users. I did not experience any bugs or glitches while using iGuzheng in Audiobus. Having iGuzheng in Audiobus opens it up to some very creative possibilities, by adding some reverb, delay, or whatever your mind can think of.

I recorded a simple demo, using iGuzheng recorded through AUFX: Space, with Alchemy Mobile playing a drone in the background. I wanted to bring something a little extra to the natural sound of the guzheng, so I added the reverb from AUFX: Space, which brought a nice shimmer (nice to my ears, at least).

I referred to iGuzheng earlier as a "boutique" app. By that I meant that it is a very specific app, that likely wouldn't be used on all of your songs. To me, these types of apps are what make iOS music great. Apps like iGuzheng, Samvada, Thumbjam and others bring exotic instruments to your devices for literally pennies on the dollar. As Kurt Vonnegut once said, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is".

You could go out and spend at least $300 USD to buy a real guzheng, or you could spend a few bucks to get one for your mobile iDevice. Add in the fact that you'll always be in tune, never have to replace 21 strings, recording a live instrument, etc., and an investment in iGuzheng is a no-brainer.

iGuzheng™ - for iPhone (AppStore Link) iGuzheng™ - for iPhone
Developer: Supertintin Co., Ltd
Rated: 4+
Price: $1.39 Download
iGuzheng™ (AppStore Link) iGuzheng™
Developer: Supertintin Co., Ltd
Rated: 4+
Price: $3.99 Download


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