11 January 2012

Riffstation - Say Goodbye to Tab Searching?

Do you often spend time searching the Internet for chords or tab of the songs you want to play on your guitar?
Do you get frustrated when you find incomplete or inaccurate tabs, or when you don’t find any tabs at all?
Of course, you can buy official tabs, but again this can be time consuming and it’s not always easy to find a good arrangement. For example, unless the artist is very well known then there is little chance of finding a published tab book. Other times, you can find a tab book, but have to buy a whole book when you want only one song.
Wouldn’t it be great if you had a friendly assistant who you could just ask for those chords whenever you have a piece of music you’d like to learn to play on your guitar? You might be lucky enough to know someone willing to do this for you. But if you don’t, then maybe Riffstation, a new software program for your PC, could be what you’re looking for.

Introducing Riffstation

Riffstation is a program for guitar players that offers features to transcribe a song’s chords, extract or suppress solo parts to learn them or jam along with the rest of the track, and help you assemble recorded riffs to build new ones.

I recently gave its chord finding features a try using the free 30 day trial version available from the Riffstation.com web site.

Riffstation Chord Finderimage

One of the most interesting features of Riffstation is that it proposes to identify the chords in an audio file.  Using the software to find a song’s chords is very easy. There a just a few simple steps: browse to open the audio file you want to analyse, Riffstation imports the audio, draws a waveform, and finally analyses the audio to identify the chords which it displays as “bubbles” below the waveform (see the screenshot to the right).
You can play along with the song and see the chord changes in real time in the Chord Viewer in the middle area of the screen below the waveforms. While the song is playing this view shows you the current chord’s name and a fretboard diagram. It also shows you the next chord in the song with a countdown timer to the chord change. Finally, you can alter the key or tempo of the song as it is played to help you practice.

I found it a little unfortunate that the playback cursor doesn’t move through the chord “bubbles” in time. There is an offset caused by the zoom controls at the left end of the chord line. I think this would be more intuitive than following the countdown in the middle area.

Update: Dan Barry, one of Riffstation's developers got in touch with some information on this, "We're going to implement some of the suggestions you had such as highlighting the current chord to play in the chord strip. We will also be fixing some bugs which are still present in the trial version before paid release."
image There’s no cursor in the the chord line during playback.

Is Riffstation Good at Transcribing Song Chords?

So far I’ve tested Riffstation in its default automatic mode with a number of songs that I already have the chords for. The input files were 320kbps MP3 files that were either downloaded from Amazon or ripped from CD.

The documentation states that automatic mode only finds major, minor and 7th chords. Riffstation did a pretty good job of identifying the basic major and minor chords for simple songs. It even performed quite well on more complex songs with extended or altered chords such as sus or 6 chords, recognizing the base chord name nearly all the time.

For all of the three or four chord pop/rock songs I fed it Riffstation got the chords right. For songs with more complex chords it was a little less accurate but it still gives you a good starting point. There are some tools that allow you to tune the chord analysis and manually correct chords too. The semi-automatic analysis supports major and minor 7, sus2 and sus4 chords in addition to major, minor and 7th chords.


Overall the software performed very well and could be a very useful tool if you want to learn to play pop and rock songs. For more complex songs it will give you a very good starting point but you’ll still have some work to do to transcribe the details and chord types the software doesn’t support.

At €39.99 for the full version Riffstation has plenty of interesting features for guitar players. You can learn more and download the free trial version for yourself at the Riffstation web site. I’ll be reviewing more of its features in future posts, be sure to subscribe to the feed using the link below so you don’t miss them.


Anonymous said...

I don't think the link to riffstation is working...


Gary Fletcher said...

Hi Tim, thanks for pointing that out. The link is fixed.

Unknown said...

I can find the chords but no tabs, are there tabs?

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