Guitar Gear Review: Riffstation by Sonic Ladder

Many cool guitar applications come across our desks here at TMRzoo. The latest guitar app to grab our attention is Riffstation by Sonic Ladder. What Riffstation does in a nutshell is analyzes sound files (MP3s and Wavs) and graphically displays the harmonic information.  In non-technical language, you can upload a music file to RiffStation and the software maps out the chords for you.

In testing RiffStation we threw some challenging songs at the software. We first uploaded a piano driven Elton John song. RiffStation quickly analyzed the file and plotted out the basic chord changes.  In auto mode, RiffStation will only recognize major, minor, and 7th chords. In most cases the software got us close enough to map out the additional chord tensions manually.

Once uploaded RiffStation allows the user to isolate the guitar in its Jam Master interface. With Jam Master we could change the pitch or tempo of the track. This allows the user to breakdown the more complex parts of the track and transpose on the fly. In addition, a looping function allows the user to isolate riffs for further practice or analysis.

While not spot on accurate, RiffStation was fairly correct with most rock, blues and pop song arrangements. The product really shined with guitar driven songs. Power chord driven hard rock and metal seemed to give us the most accurate results.  RiffStation also nailed most of the classic rock tunes sampled.  Each time the product gave us much more musical information than the average lead sheet or chord book.

This is a great tool for the beginning guitarist and well as the accomplished musician. Uploading my own sound files to RiffStation I was able to loop my own arrangements in different keys. This gave me the freedom to try new leads and break out of my comfort zone keys.

RiffStation is a valuable time saver for any musician or educator.  Even with more complex arrangements and chord progressions the software will still give you a great jumping off point.