Let’s go back a few years: Time Magazine lists iReal b as “One of the 50 Best Apps of 2010″. Fast-forward: November 2013, is the new iReal Pro ($6.99 – 7.99 Euro) one of the best apps of the year? Let’s find out… For those who still don’t know this precious musician’s swiss army knife, iReal Pro is (quoting his creator’s words) “a backup band, it’s a chord book – and it goes with you everywhere, from your home to the band stand to the classroom”. It simulates a real-sounding band that can accompany a musician as he or she practices, lets musicians collect chord charts from their favorite songs for reference and edit/create new charts. I would have loved to have this app when I started playing music, (too) many years ago. It’s like the perfect mix between an educational and a fun tool (more than 30 different accompaniment styles), but at the same time it can also be a very effective creative assistant (have a song in mind but your band mates are away? Just start a new chart and insert your song’s chords, you’ll have a backing band ready in minutes!).
So, what’s new in the current version of iReal Pro for iPad? The app, an overhaul and update of iReal b, is more mature and more functional than ever. A redesigned interface, polished and easy to use (with lots of features under the hood). Everything is very intuitive – this is the kind of app where you don’t really need a manual. The new player looks nice, even though I would add the possibility to rewind/fast forward and the possibility of changing the tempo in real time, without having to stop/restart the song every time.
The mixer now lets you choose different instruments (a couple of taps and you can switch between upright and electric bass, or between Rhodes and acoustic piano, etc.). I also find the option of adding piano/guitar chord diagrams (in-app purchase, 2.69 Euro each) very helpful.
The audio quality of the featured instruments? Solid. Bass, piano and jazz drums sound quite realistic, guitars sound a bit cheap, but they all do their job (we’re talking of a 43 Mb app, after all). Needless to say, iReal Pro is not meant to be a VST audio-quality kind of tool. Maybe one day we’ll get there, but for now this is more than satisfying.
The app comes with a good amount of charts/exercises (blues, jazz, bossa, etc.) and it’s possible to buy more via in-app purchases (jazz, latin and pop styles, between 3 and 6 $/Euro each). Want more? One the app’s best features is its very active community, where you can enjoy other users’ uploads (and/or contribute yourself), for endless hours of learning and fun. The app also lets you create playlists, to easily manage your charts.
Conclusion If you haven’t already, we definitely recommend getting iReal Pro. For the price you could probably only get a second-hand copy of a chord book, while here you have access to a boatload of material, plus some killer interactive features. Price $6.99 – 7.99 Euro