The Workbench & Rehearsal Room iPad:
My Top 10 Apps

iPad: Your pathway to a more productive and better organized workspace!

It’s not as if Apple needs more free publicity, but IMHO, the iPad is the greatest workbench and rehearsal room innovation since the Mesopotamians perfected beer.*

Seriously — I find myself reaching for the thing as often as I reach for the soldering iron. In fact, I sometimes confuse the two, which probably explains the sketchy wiring in my pedals and the mysterious burns on my fingertips.

Marketing hype notwithstanding, there’s isn’t always “an app for that.” (In particular, I eagerly await the “Why Doesn’t This $^%&Y# Thing Work?” app.)

But I would like to share a few tools that proven consistenly useful in the two years since the iPad’s debut. Prices range from free to a whopping $5.99 for Electronic Toolbox Pro.

01. Electronic Toolbox

Electronic Toolbox Pro

Every conceivable electronics calculator and reference chart in one handy app. There are other cool options, like EE Toolkit, but this is my fave because of its attractive, user-lovin' interface. Never again will I wonder whether a 104 capacitor is the same as a .01uF. (Answer: No, dumbass!)

02. Cleartune

Cleartune Chromatic Tuner

A handsome strobe-style tuner. I keep it on my phone as well. I've pretty much stopped using hardware tuners. Particularly useful for adjusting guitar and bass intonation. (Just one question: How come the little arrows never seem line up with zero as neatly as they do in this illustration?)

03. Safari

Safari Web Browser

I don't know about you, but I can't work more than five minutes before plowing into the roadblock of my own ignorance. I'd never get anything done without a wicked workbench web browser.

04. Dropbox


I shudder whenever I recall life before Dropbox. It's a web-based service ( that lets you synchronize files between your computer and mobile devices, or access them via any web browser. If I sketch out a circuit on my laptop and put it in my Dropbox folder, it automatically appears on my workbench iPad. You can store 2GB of data for free, though I use this so much that I cough up 10 bucks a month for the 50BG upgrade.

05. Metronome™


A good metronome is indispensable even if you're that rare guitarist with a decent sense of rhythm. Resolves all "But we played it faster at rehearsal" arguments in a second! (That's two clicks at 120BPM, BTW.)

06. Camera


If I didn't have a handy workbench camera, I wouldn't be able to share photos of my work with smarter people who can tell me what I'm doing wrong.

06. Kindle

Kindle and/or iBooks

While I pride myself on keeping an immaculate and perfectly organized workspace [snurk], it's nice being able to keep tons of reference books within arm's reach. (A special shoutout to authors Dan Erlewine and Dave Hunter, whom I rely on constantly.)


If you've devoted as much time as I have to fishing through the recycling bin looking for that important note you'd jotted down and inadvertently discarded, you too would appreciate a great handwriting-based note app. There are many to choose from, but Noteshelf is my fave because it also boasts excellent sheet music capabilities.

08. StreamToMe


Not that I don't need the exercise, but StreamToMe has spared me hundreds of trips up and down my stairs. With the companion app installed on your computer, you can browse through all its files from your mobile devices.

09. Voice Memos

Voice Memos

How are you supposed to take notes while holding a soldering iron in one hand, pliers in the other, and a beer in the other other? By speaking into this handy digital recorder, or course.

10. iCircuit


This incredibly cool tool lets you — well, to be honest, I haven't yet figured out exactly what I can do with this full-featured circuit simulator. But it's high on my to-do list! 🙂

11. Plants vs. Zombies

Plants vs. Zombies

One reason I haven't had a chance to master iCircuit. The best mobile game EVER!

01. Electronic Toolbox thumbnail
02. Cleartune thumbnail
03. Safari thumbnail
04. Dropbox thumbnail
05. Metronome™ thumbnail
06. Camera thumbnail
06. Kindle thumbnail
07. Noteshelf thumbnail
08. StreamToMe thumbnail
09. Voice Memos thumbnail
10. iCircuit thumbnail
11. Plants vs. Zombies thumbnail

Is anyone else foolhardy enough to expose their expensive mobile devices to hazardous workbench and rehearsal room environments? What are your observations? Recommendations? Bitter regrets? Do tell.

* Just kidding. Kids, don’t drink and solder.

21 comments to The Workbench & Rehearsal Room iPad:
My Top 10 Apps

  • I am also an iPad user as well as the iPod Touch. I use mine as a musical instrument a great deal. I have more apps than any sane person should have. Some of my faves are Bebot which is a synth whose interface is a stupid looking little robot that moves as you place your finger on the screen left for low note right for higher notes as you move up the modulation increases you can have either continuous note change or add lines for a more keyboard like response. It is  4-5 note polyphonic and looks like a kids toy but it is very expressive. I also use an app called Teslas Synth which is similar but a bit more aggressive. There are also a host of strange synthy type apps from Curtis that I use a lot that have unique interfaces and can bend sounds dramatically. Another cool one is Droneo which creates drones that can be tweaked to the nth degree. My main tuner is an app by Peterson called iStrobsoft that gives the same .1 cent accuracy as their hardware brethren ideal for tuning or intonation adjustment. Moog has 2 apps I use a lot called Filtatron and AniMoog which create sounds worthy of the Moog name.  I also use some sound maker type apps like Slewpi, Syntpond, Reactable, Keplers orrey, Slice, Aura Flux and iGendyn for improvisation and inspiration. I recently used my iPad at a gig I played with The Dits a free improv/noisy/trippy/humorous trio I have played with for the last 12 years except for a not so brief hiatus for back surgery. The sounds I created worked well and we got a tremendous response from an audience of 35 or so (it was a very small venue/ very large living room). I use an Akai IOdock with my iPad and did not drag my iPod Touches along for thae show. I normally use all three devices along with guitar, electric cello, drum pad, percussion and a big box of cheap electronic toys but I was trying to limit the baggage since it was up a long flight of stairs (even tho’ everything was carried for me I still had to set it up). I highly recommend the iPad as an instrument  it also can make a very convenient guitar FX and amp simulator there are a number of great sounding apps I like the Agile one as it works with guitar adapters that plug in thru the multipin plug as well as the headphone jack ones. If you have the extra cash go for an iPad as it comes with Garageband already aboard which will satisfy most of your needs. Don’t forget to back up the iTunes to save your apps.

    • joe

      I am way too embarrassed to admit how much money I’ve squandered on apps. Which is quite an accomplishment, since they only cost a couple of bucks each.

      • Matthew Seniff

        They are so cheap but I don’t want to know my total. It is still cheaper than hot rod cars and Harleys!! 

    • Actually it’s an Alesis IOdock. I have a bad mental tic in relation to Akai from repairing way t0o many of their tape decks back in the 1970’s, those decks were one of those “What were they thinking at the Akai factory?” sort of things.

      • Oh yeah I forgot Sudoku and Word Search that I play a lot but are good to keep the Alzheimer’s away. Or as my Great Uncle Dean used to say about doing a crossword everyday “Just to see if my brain is still working”.

  • Frank

    I think its the best damn thing that’s ever been invented, I sit it on my workbench when I putting together a Tonefiend DIY.  I use it to keep up with the news, family far away. It keeps me up late at night searching for that next great effects unit which I spend my life searching for on youtube and then trying to find on Ebay or (here in France).  It’s the first thing I grab if I can’t go back to sleep in the middle of the night.  I’m sure it is the main contributing factor to my insomnia.  My wife says it interrupts our sex life.  (just between you and me it adds to it).  Here are the apps I love:  I’m with you Matthew, I love Bebot, I have it on my ipad and iphone.  I couldn’t live without Guitarist Ref, Garageband, (even though I have it on my iMac). Songster, is great because you can find a tab for almost any song you can think of and it also plays the song for you.  It’s sounds crappy but you get the tab FREE.  Essential chord progressions helps me with my song writing. DM1 drum machine, Funkbox and Virtuoso, which is a piano.  By the way there is an app to find out how much money you’ve spent on apps.  Last time I checked, a year after I bought the ipad I was shocked to find it was well over $1000 and I’d made a conscious effort to download only free apps.  Now that was 2 years, ago I could’ve bought that Duesenberg I’ve always wanted for the money I’ve spend on apps.  I’m also embarrassed to say that I’ve dumped so many apps THAT I PAID for because they were crap or I just never used them.

  • Oinkus

    Like I need something to spend money on that I don’t have? Bad enough I can’t afford parts and strings much less new gear 🙁 Oh yeah that’s right I can’t afford anything Apple makes ever!

    • Hopefully that will change for you someday. Boys do need their toys!! And frankly the iPad is a lot of tool for the price plus you can get them used. I bought a 32Gig iPod Touch for $189 refurbed and shipped from an Apple factory in China which is a good deal and had a full warranty looked brand new (I got it as a backup for my first 8GB iPod touch that I had a bunch of hardware for).
      I have never been a big fan of Apple because I had to support them when I worked for a university Chemistry dept. starting in the early 90s. I always thought they were largely wasted on most of  the faculty who refused to RTFM. We had a professor that could not figure out how to print off the molecular diagrams he made for classes even tho’ I showed him and wrote out instructions several times (even a monkey could have followed my instructions they even had pictures). He ended up putting a piece of paper on the screen and tracing the diagram with a pencil then photocopying it. He learned that technique from a kids show on TV in the 1950s. Virtually 85% of the faculty were hardly better at using them and they were ridiculously expensive even with educational discounts. I got tired of showing people rudimentary stuff over and over rather than increasingly more complex stuff but that is pretty typical of  many PhD types in my experience. I think that most doctoral candidates get a PhD for putting up with all the crap involved with getting the degree rather than any other merit IMHO.

  • Oinkus

    Yeah you can find a deal on most anything if you take the time to do the research and then the patience to wait for a deal.Very cool grats on scoring some good loot cheaply. Trust me I have way too many toys its my complete rebuilds that are killing me I really prefer to remove EVERYTHING from a epi or squire and replace with top end parts. Price is usually around 1k for the entire build but it will then be as good as a real gibson or fender.

    • joe

      My “math” works out about the same, Oinkus. For about $1K, you can create something that rivals most $2K+ guitars. 

      • Ryan

        I prefer the price of American Modded over American Made when it comes to the big companies, but there are lots of cheaper guitars that are just fantastic out of the gates these day. Epiphone has always had my attention and the new Squier Strats being offered are fantastic, and you have tons of money left over for tone control.

        • joe

          I can’t believe how solid both Squiers and Mexi-Fenders are these days. I’ve used both many times in my demos. I haven’t explored the latest generations of Epis much, though you’re one of many players who has said here that they are as upgrade-me guitars. I’m going to have to check them out.

          • I have a new Chinese made Fender Modern Player Jaguar that is a tremendous guitar especially for $399. It has a 3 piece matte finish mahogany body, tune-o-matic bridge/stop tail piece , C shaped maple neck w/rosewood fret board and a pair of hot P90s that sound great. I changed the tailpiece for a Gibson TP6 with fine tuners (something I do on all my guitars nowadays), put in a Stellartone to replace the tone control and also changed the bridge for a Gotoh locking style with a bit more adjustment on the intonation (I use some odd string sets that sometimes need a bit more range). But right out of the box it was a sweet guitar and works well for my mainly slide style and it is much prettier than it looks in the pictures. The only thing wrong with it is the headstock is not painted, all Jaguars should have painted head stocks (Fender also got that wrong on their new 61 reissue IMHO).  I added a Roland GK3 for synth work and it is now one of my main guitars as it is light enough my back doesn’t freak out to early in a session. Other guitar players are very impressed by it’s sound, looks, and playability.
            I also agree on the Epis they are making some great guitars they even have several LP models with long tenon neck joints which makes them really sing and sustain ( a bit too heavy for my back tho’). An Epi with the long tenon neck upgraded would probably be a better guitar than many Gibsons as you don’t get a long tenon in a Gibson LP except from the custom shop models (and that is what made the real 59s so desirable). I have always had a thing for those cheap guitars that play out of their price range, add a few updates and you’ve got a winner.

  • Ryan

    Thanks for the list Joe! Once I get my own iPad (wife never lets the current one out of her site), I’ll be checking these out! From your frequent references, this top 10 list might be for you: :satansmoking:

    • joe

      Awesome, Ryan. I was having this problem with not drinking enough beer, but I think you’ve really helped me out there. Thanks.

  • Hi Joe,

    WOW! I didn’t even know about this site/blog. It is awesome.

    I was hoping that you might have studio.HD somewhere in your list ( as I know you have tried it. But I guess it’s not as big for the workbench and rehearsal side of life :^)

    As an aside, it’s now 24 discrete tracks of audio and we added more 3rd party drum loop libraries to the in-app Loop Store and the ability to share the mixes via SoundCloud. We also did a FREE 4-track studio.M version ( for the iPhone that has in in-app upgrade to 8 track (+ more effects and loops) for about the cost of a latte. :^)

    Can’t wait to dig into this world of pick-up lore even more. I love my SD JB model in the bridge position on my Hamer. :^) 

    • joe

      Hey Kord! Welcdome.

      Studio HD is a cool and insanely powerful app. I didn’t mention it here, because the focus was the workbench. Music production apps are definitely a worthy topic. I’m sure I’ll do a piece on them soon. 🙂

      • Cool.

        On a separate note, I *do* think the mid-range guitar quality is pretty amazing these days. The pickups and maybe the setup are the biggest iffy bits. You are helping a lot of folks out by helping to sort the pickup issue.


      • Ryan

        …any time Joe!
        Kord, great points!

  • Hi Joe,

    WOW! I didn’t know about this site/blog. It is awesome.

    I was hoping that you might have studio.HD somewhere in your list ( as I know you have tried it. But I guess it’s not as big for the workbench and rehearsal side of life :^)

    As an aside, it’s now 24 discrete tracks of audio and we added more 3rd party drum loop libraries to the in-app Loop Store and the ability to share the mixes via SoundCloud. We also did a FREE 4-track studio.M version ( for the iPhone that has in in-app upgrade to 8 track (+ more effects and loops) for about the cost of a latte. :^)

    Can’t wait to dig into this world of pick-up lore even more. I love the SD JB model in the bridge position on my Hamer. :^)