Behind the Scenes: How We Built SteadyTune

July 18th, 2013 by Jack Ivers
SteadyTune icon

We’re excited to launch our first all-new app in over a year: SteadyTune, the Mac menu bar tuner. We thought we’d give you a little peek behind the scenes in this blog post to explain how SteadyTune came to be.

The Idea

Agile has been in the tuner business for a long time; GuitarToolkit was one of the 600-odd apps in the App Store when it opened back in July, 2008. The idea for SteadyTune was a case of scratching a slightly different itch. Most of our team are both developers and guitar players. We regularly caught ourselves launching GuitarToolkit in the iOS simulator to tune our guitars. Certainly we had our iPhones and iPads nearby, but when sitting in front of one’s Mac in Xcode, it was slightly more convenient to just launch the GuitarToolkit tuner, sim and all. This got us thinking: wouldn’t a native tuner app be great? And what if it were a there-when-you-need-it, out-of-the-way-when-you-don’t, menu bar app? Thus was SteadyTune born.

Leave Well Enough Alone? Never!

We figured that if we were going to do a stand-alone tuner app, the tuning visualization had better be great. So we discarded our two current tuner visualizations—GuitarToolkit’s tuning meter and AmpKit’s tuning strip—in favor of something completely new. Because animation is a key part of the tuning visualization, simple screenshots don’t do SteadyTune’s viz justice. Instead, take a look at this very short video:

We then took another detour, this time technical. One of the most difficult challenges in tuning algorithms is avoiding needle twitchiness while preserving tuning accuracy. Although we’ve been told that GuitarToolkit rivals the best dedicated hardware tuners in this regard, we decided to see if we could do even better in SteadyTune. In the end, we entirely rewrote the tuning algorithm, and the results—both on steadiness and accuracy—are striking.

Successful Simplicity

We didn’t leave well enough alone, but all told we’re thrilled with how well the combination of new visualization and new algorithm work together. Enhancing lives, one tune at a time.