Jamming along with records is, for most of us, one of the most important (and cool) parts of learning to play the guitar. Go on, put your foot up on that bedside table – sorry, stage monitor – and give your public what they want. As a practice technique, however, trying to be the third or fourth guitarist on an already-finished track does have its drawbacks. And this is where Riffstation might just make your day.
With its super-simple interface, Riffstation’s main selling point is a powerful audio manipulation tool called Jam Master. This gives you complete control over the tempo and pitch of any song you care to load up from your hard drive, and even better, the ability to isolate a section of the stereo field – as wide or narrow as you want it – which can then be solo’d or muted, either completely or just partially. So you can bring a tricky guitar part right to the top of the mix and play it back in an ultra-slow loop to work out what the notes are, then mute the same guitar part while you practise playing it instead.
Understandably, all this drastic filtering takes a toll on the sound quality, which can get a bit lo-fi, and there’s an obvious problem with any mix that has other instruments in the same part of the stereo field – kick, snare, bass and lead vocals are often all in the middle, for example – but for the most part the isolation does work surprisingly well, and the hi/lo filter can help by limiting the effect to certain frequencies.
Riffstation has three modules and we’ve only talked about one of them, for the simple reason that it’s by far the best – Riff Builder is a tidy loop-making tool but one that many of us could probably live without, while Chord Viewer had accuracy issues with most of the songs we tried it on – but you might well find that the Jam Master bit is worth 40 euros (about £32) by itself. If you’re not sure, the free 30-day trial version is begging for a chance to convince you.
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