Every once in a while a new tool comes along that can completely revolutionize your workflow. Capo is an app for your Mac as well as your iOS device that can do just that. If you are a performing musician, Capo can help you learn music in half the time with increased accuracy. The iOS app works hand-in-hand with the Mac app, so we’ll take a look at both.
Capo is the swiss-army-knife of learning and notating music. At its core is a time and pitch stretching engine of extremely high sonic quality. This allows you to slow down a song (while maintaining pitch accuracy) to listen to a particularly challenging riff. You can also shift the key of a song while keeping the tempo intact, something critical if you find yourself in a position of having to learn songs in a different key from the original.
Capo may not be the first app to offer the pitch and time stretching functionality, but it is certainly the first app to offer a complete musician’s toolbox along with the pitch and time tools. You can create a ‘region’ around a section or riff that you’re trying to learn, then loop that region to practice is over and over at whatever speed you like. Capo’s beat detection engine will also create a ruler that allows you to ‘snap’ these region borders to the beginnings and ends of measures—and you don’t even need to know the tempo! Capo figures it all out for you. If you have a song that starts or ends with an incomplete measure or you’re working on a section that is in an odd time, Capo allows you to tweak this beat detection and shift the downbeat forwards or backwards.
When trying to learn a particularly troublesome riff, Capo offers a spectrogram view which shows you a general idea of where the pitch information is the strongest. Keep in mind, that for music which is very dense with multiple layers and instruments this is best used as a guide to help you figure out a passage. One of the most helpful features Capo offers is the ability to click on this spectrogram and ‘drop in’ MIDI notes. These notes will play back along with your recording as a kind of ‘verification’ that you’re on the right track to learning the riff. You can do this with chords as well, and the chord detection engine does a good job of getting you on the right track. While it’s not 100% perfect, (it may, for example, analyze an A6 chord as a somewhat enharmonic F#m7 chord) it is a great starting point so you can get in there and tweak until you have an accurate analysis and riff notation.
When you save a Capo file, your adjusted beats, chord analysis, looped regions and more are all saved—and shared across devices! That means you can work on a project in Capo for Mac, save your analysis and typical sections you like to practice all looped and highlighted—then open up Capo Touch on your iOS device and your work is all synchronized. It really makes working on challenging pieces or multiple songs in various keys a snap. What’s the old Vince Lombardi saying? “Practice doesn’t make perfect, only PERFECT practice makes perfect.” Capo helps you achieve perfect practice, and has a whole host of extras to boot. Not only do I give this app suite two thumbs up, I just grabbed the nearest person and put their thumbs up as well. Fortunately, she’s married to me so it wasn’t too weird.
Pros: Intuitive interface. Clean time/pitch algorithms. Flexible transcription tools. Tweak-able beat analysis. iCloud support.