Talking Panda iRocker review: Talking Panda iRocker

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The Good Talking Panda's iRocker teaches you how to play guitar chords and scales in a clear, easy-to-understand fashion; plus, tunings, chords, and scales have actual audio samples. The software also includes five basic songs to get you started playing with others.

The Bad Talking Panda's iRocker costs $30, and it's somewhat limited by the fact that it runs within iPod's Notes feature.

The Bottom Line Talking Panda's iRocker won't turn you into a guitar-shredding virtuoso overnight, but it can teach you enough to start writing your own songs.

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7.7 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

Apple's iPod and iTunes spawned a purchasing frenzy in the digital music world. Now it's time to give something back. Talking Panda's iRocker can teach you how to make music yourself, using the rocker's instrument of choice: the guitar. If you or someone you know feels like picking up the guitar, iRocker is a good way to learn the fundamentals, although it won't do your practicing for you.

Like most manufacturers, Apple doesn't allow third-party companies to write their own software to run on its line of iPod MP3 players, but Talking Panda uses the same loophole as many other software programs designed for the iPod: the Notes feature, which can be used to present rather complex text documents with navigational links and links to audio samples. Installing iRocker takes over your iPod's Notes directory completely, although we're happy to say that the installer does create a backup folder with your old Notes in it. Once installed, clicking Extras > Notes on your iPod takes you to iRocker's menu. There's no technological copyright protection, so once you unzip the installer, you can put iRocker on any additional iPods you might own in the future (the license agreement prohibits redistributing the software).

When you first launch iRocker, you get an instructional text introduction to the program, which teaches you how to read tablature notation so that you'll be able to play the chords and scales covered in further sections. Then it's time to tune your guitar. The Guitar Tuner feature gives you accurate tones for the standard guitar tuning, plus eight alternate tunings. You click each open string on your iPod's screen to hear an acoustic guitar play that note through your headphones or your speakers (whatever your iPod is connected to). Then you can tune each of the strings on your guitar to match those--fairly self-explanatory.

Virtual Chordbook is the meat and potatoes of the iRocker app. Using a clever ASCII-ish depiction of a fret board (don't worry, it looks good--see the image below), iRocker shows you where to put each finger in order to create each chord. It doesn't take you into upper positions but includes 12 chords for each note: major, minor, seventh, suspended, diminished, ninth, and so on. That makes 144 in all, although Talking Panda counts them as "more than 200," probably because it counts A sharp as different from B flat, even though they're the same.

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