Does your dog have fleas? Knowing the answer to that question used to be important when learning to play the ukulele, but not anymore, thanks to the Ukulele Tool. It's one of four free tools for learning to play stringed instruments bundled together as the Tomky Tool. In addition to the Ukulele Tool, you get the Guitar Tool, the Banjo Tool, and the Mandolin Tool. Each tool is separate and runs independently of the others, yet all share the same interface and features. You'll need audio to use it.
The Tomky Tool has a single installer, but each tool has its own Start Menu entry and desktop icon. We started with the Banjo Tool, which opened with a compact interface that closely resembles a smartphone's touch screen in size and style. Large buttons access the program's main features: Chord Chart, Metronome, Music Player, and Tuner, with About and Quit buttons rounding out the interface. We opened the Chord Chart, which resembles the frets on a banjo's neck. The controls are simple: File, Play, and Alternate menus; Zoom and Rotate controls; and a Back button. Each string was labeled but unmarked; plucking the string displayed the string's tuning and played a note. Pressing Play played the chord. Under the File menu, we could select New Chord or New Scale or click Open to select a huge range of chords for that key from a drop-down list. Clicking Alternate changed the fingering. Lefties will appreciate the ability to flip the orientation with the Rotate button. The simple Metronome feature is easy to set. We'd like the ability to change the sound, though. The Tuner displays the banjo's five tuning pegs and plucks the string continuously when you hold down its button, making it easy to tune your instrument. A built-in Pitch tool plays a tuning-fork sound, too. The built-in Music Player is a nice extra and handy for playing and learning selections, thanks to its speed control.
The Mandolin Tool, Guitar Tool, and Ukulele Tool are basically identical to the Banjo tool, only optimized for each instrument. This string quartet of freeware is highly recommended.
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