It’s sometimes only a matter of minutes… We pick up the guitar, fall in love, and then the clock starts ticking down to the first riff or solo that we hear that captures our attention and sets curiosity in motion. We start frantically searching the neck up and down for the notes that sound the most similar to the ones that just inspired us. Before the internet andIpods, we would either wait for the radio DJ to say the name of the artist or song, or sometimes call the station and request the information. Then,we would pool our gas money together to get to our local sheet music store that had a specialty section for guitar tablature. If we couldn’t find the artist or song in tablature, we might resort to a local teacher to scour through the composition and teach us a reasonable facsimile. More often than not we would end up simply piecing the parts together by ear, subsequently wearing out our CD’s by listening to the sections hundreds of times.
Riffstation, is a software guitar practice tool designed to eliminate much of the guess work of learning your favorite songs, riffs, and solos. Riffstation allows you to import the song you’re trying to learn, isolate the desired section, loop the section, adjust the tempo, and it even automatically gives you an accurate metronome click along with the section to improve timing. When learning a complicated solo, Riffstation can isolate the guitar in the mix and almost completely lift it out of the mix to concentrate completely on the guitar. The opposite is also true in that Riffstation can also mute the guitar in the mix so you can practice what you’ve learned over the top of the original track, or improvise your own solo. You can even take the liberty of rearranging sections of a song by your favorite artist to build your own backing track using the riff builder tool. All this, and it will also analyze and detect chords being played within any section of the section.
After clicking on File and importing a song using Open Audio File, you see the audio in the waveform viewer in the top window. Just beneath the waveform is the chord strip where the software has detected the chord structure of the song or section. Beneath the chord strip is the zoom and navigation bar. You can zoom in or out using your mouse wheel or zoom (-) (+) to the left of the chord strip. The zoom navigation bar highlights the section that is zoomed in and you can navigate the whole song by sliding the highlighted section.
Riffstation has 3 major sections. Jam Master, Riff Builder, and Chord Viewer. Jam Master is where you see Riffmaster’s ability to accurately assess the tempo of the song you’re trying to learn. Using the tempo adjustment you can slow down or speed up the section of the song without altering the pitch. Beneath the tempo adjustment is a mode selector which I found to be very effective, yet hard to explain. Depending on the style of music you’re working with, the mode selector will process the playback with more or less appropriate dynamics depending on the ear of the listener. It’s a variable that needs to be heard to be understood. To the right is the isolation area where you navigate the frequency graphic until you find the guitar. At that point you utilize the width knob to widen or narrow the frequency to dial in the guitar more accurately. The separation knob acts as a sort of volume knob for the frequency section you have isolated in proportion to the rest of the band. To the far right is the filter with high and low pass modes. When cutting out the guitar, this filter helps boost other finer frequencies used by other instruments while still leaving the guitar out of the mix. Think of it as dialing the band back in without the guitar. Lastly, to the right is the tuning where you can tune the entire song without changing tempo.
The Riff Builder tool lets you construct your own backing tracks using songs from your favorite artists or albums . The idea is to rearrange the sections of a song to create your own unique arrangement while maintaining the sound of the band in the original recording. Riff builder has 6 internal riff banks that each contain 16 programmable steps. Here is a brief description of the process. After selecting a bank, you then select the section of the song you would like to isolate and begin arranging other parts around. After highlighting the section you wish, double clicking on the selection places the riff in step 1 of the bank that you choose. You repeat this process with each riff or section that you would like to rearrange into a cohesive backing track. For fine tuning or creatively experimenting with the rhythm sequencing of your riffs, you can use the beat offset knob to slightly increase or decrease the tempo. This effects ALL of your stored riffs however, not individual riffs. The last step is using the Song Builder. Think of Song Builder as a loop sequencer of sorts.Reminiscent of sequencer on a drum machine or software like Propellerhead’s Reason. Clicking on an empty step of Song Builder allows you to insert a riff via a drop down menu. Simply insert your riff sections into a chronological sequence that makes sense to you and you have your own custom backing track as though your favorite band recorded it just for you.
Intuitive Chord Chart
Because I’m sort of a music / tech nerd, my personal favorite tool in Riffstation is the Chord Finder. Chord Finder will detect the appropriate chords happening at any given time in the song. What’s even cooler, is that there doesn’t even have to be a guitar in the song. If there is no guitar, it will sense the appropriate chord so that you can still play along. While the Riffstation manual states that Chord Finder is based on an algorithm that isn’t expected to be perfect, tests done by the software designers proved to show an average of 80% accuracy! The GUI providesa “next chord” area next to the current chord being played so you can anticipate your movement. The automatic mode of Chord Builder will provide Major, Minor, and 7th chords, but there is a Chord Editor tool that will allow you to change the note structure of a chord being suggested by the Chord Finder. I’m pleased to say that I tried Chord Finder with one of my own compositions that relied a bit on chord melody to carry the verse. It correctly chose 3 complete chords that I was playing as broken chords and inversions to voice the melody.
I can see where Riffstation can be a powerful tool to all levels of guitar players and even those looking to experiment with randomizing elements of their own compositions until something jumps out of the speakers to build upon. I think this would be exceptionally useful for those who teach guitar as “prepared, yet impromptu” 3 dimensional breakdown of a song a student wants to learn, or as a template for developing song structure. Not to mention it’s obviously a great jamtool. It almost writes its own curriculum for the lesson. Watching Riffstation breakdown a song and presenting the analysis of so many aspects of a song almost instantaneously is worth the demo download itself. I see myself using Riffstation to take out the solos in my own work to practice playing them live without having to pull up the entire work file in my DAW. Riffstation streamlines the workflow of the most technical and creative aspects of learning on the guitar. It takes away the drudgery of slicing, chopping, looping, and sequencing in a traditional DAW and gets right to what you want to be practicing or writing with. The learning curve was minimal and users of Propellerhead’s Reason or Ableton Live will be in familiar territory with Riffstation.
To begin experimenting with this forward thinking tool please visit http://riffstation.com/