Every time I think I’ve seen it all on iOS , an app crosses my desk that proves that the universe of touchscreen music is still in a state of rapid expansion. Case in point, GeoShred: a collaboration between rockstar technologist (and this month's cover artist) Jordan Rudess and physical-modeling developer moForte.
While we’ve seen a few guitar-centric iOS apps that allow access to the idioms of fretted instruments, GeoShred is a quantum leap forward in this territory, with gorgeous physically modeled instruments and a performance interface that incorporates best-of-breed elements from both the Roger Linn Design LinnStrument and Haken Continuum. The end result is a guitar emulation that is not only great fun to play, but quite convincing overall.
Firing up the app for the first time, I was blown away by the initial presets, which includes everything from guitars and dobros to exotica like kotos and sitars. There’s also a helping of player-specific presets, including an ambient Robert Fripp lead that immediately inspired a new track. Other legendary players are captured in presets with names like “Beckish” and “Howe Classic.”
GeoShred’s interface is key to its ability to deliver convincing performances, with each preset offering a customized layout that maximizes playability. For example, digging into the performance settings, there are three modes available for quantizing the accuracy of the surface as you perform. Guitar mode delivers the illusion of sliding along frets, switching notes as you move across each virtual string. Slide mode removes those frets and allows you to glide freely between notes, with speed and snap parameters ensuring that even sloppy fingering results in solid intonation. Piano mode offers stricter tuning, with no guitar-like artifacts—useful for more synthetic textures. There are even playing options that allow fluid control of feedback, harmonics, and string scrapes. Combined with the ability to specify key and mode, these tools can make anyone sound accomplished.
While the hundred or so presets cover a lot of stylistic ground—some with impressively interactive arpeggiation amenities—GeoShred’s synth engine is also accessible for sound design. Diving into its modeling tools, I discovered a treasure trove of parameters (around 50, if you’re counting) that allow you to twist and shape the instruments into bizarre fretted mallet and xylophone textures that are fairly astonishing. What’s more, if you select a hollow body for your instrument, you can expand it to room size for otherworldly reverb effects.
Beyond the physical models, there’s a massive complement of guitar effects and amps, capable of everything from classic rock and metal textures to ethereal psychedelic cascades worthy of Pink Floyd.
After a few evenings playing with GeoShred, it became clear that compelling guitar leads and power chords are now part of my production arsenal, along with physically modeled mallet instruments that can be played with dramatic slides and fancy fretwork. What’s more, GeoShred is an instrument that delivers real inspiration for keyboardists who are looking to expand their tonal palette beyond the black-and-whites. For many, that alone will make the twenty-dollar price tag a true bargain.
PROS Impressively accurate guitar models. Brilliant adaptive touchscreen playing surface. Extensive modeling and effects editing with hundreds of parameters. Inter-App Audio-and Audiobus-compliant.
CONS Need to turn off certain iOS multitouch gestures to prevent accidental closing of app. Not well-suited to funk and disco guitar idioms.
You’re now a guitarist. Seriously.