One of the more tedious tasks of playing in a cover band is managing lyric and chord sheets. When you play a typical four-hour gig in a local bar, memorizing all that music is not always going to happen. You’ve got to study each song and learn your particular parts, sure, but having a cheat sheet with the verses and the chords on an iPad can really help keep you on track while you also manage your guitar, pedal effects and vocal performance. Gathering all this song data from the internet (or writing it out yourself) can take time. For me, the process usually involves finding the right transcription of the chords in the correct key online, copying the relevant bits from the web page and then creating a PDF on my computer for upload to Dropbox and my iPad so everyone can access it. An upcoming app called TabBank, currently in beta and set to release on July 27th, aims to simplify this process quite a bit, with a simple way to create and import chord sheets and tab right on an iPad or iPhone.
Launching the app, you’ll see a fairly basic interface without any clutter to get in the way. You’ll get the option to create a new chart or read through the Getting Started guide, which explains that TabBank uses its own version of the ChordPro standard file type to edit your sheets. If you’re typing out your own music, you simply enter the chord name in brackets in front of the word you want it to appear over on the final product. You can even define new chords the app doesn’t already know with a line in the file that tells the app what strings and frets to use when previewing, like Cm7b5: x3434x. Tabs can be created with rows of dashes that represent the guitar strings; they will be formatted a bit more nicely when you’re done, and you can add hammer-on and pull-off notes as well. You can also format the font size into small, medium or large styles, and choose the from three different styles used for chords and lyrics.
What makes TabBank extremely useful for me, however, is the way it pulls in tab and chord sheets from the internet. You’ll need to install a mobile Safari extension, and then navigate to any of your favorite portals, like Ultimate Guitar or E Chords. Once you find the version of the song you want to import, you hit the Share button in Safari and TabBank will pull in just the relevant portion of the music, ignoring all the ads and other cruft usually found on such sites. The song will then appear below the Create New Chart section in the main screen. You can tap the title and get a nicely formatted tab or chord chart in seconds, and you can edit it right in TabBank, as well.
You can tap on any chord or tablature and TabBank will play it back with a basic MIDI guitar sound paired with a visual of the notes on a guitar neck. It might be helpful for newbies who need to know how to play a given chord, but it’s fairly bland when you’re trying to figure out a solo or rock riff. I pulled up AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” and, while accurate, the playback only sort of sounded like it should. This is more a limitation of MIDI and written tablature, though, and not a problem with the app itself.
Once you’ve written out your chord sheet or imported one from your favorite website, you can export either a PDF or ChordPro file, which you can then share out to any other apps you like. It was incredibly easy to send a PDF to the app I use to manage lyric sheets and set lists on stage, Deep Dish’s GigBook.
So far, TabBank seems like a great tool to use if you want to manage your guitar tab and chord sheets on your iPhone or iPad. Being able to get music from the web, edit it on my device and then send it to the setlist app I use saved me quite a bit of time; I look forward to using the app from here on out. The app should be out on the App Store July 27th, where it will be a free download with some in-app purchases to add printing and exporting PDFs and saving tabs from the web.