iPhone App Review: Tingalin

Tingalin is an interesting little app in the ever-growing category of “instruments for a tiny touchscreen” apps that allows you to recreate the smooth stylings of the ҫifteli, an ancient two-stringed Albanian instrument with a funky sound that would fit right in on an LSD-infused Beatles track. If you’re like me and you’ve never heard of the thing before in your life, enjoy this video of Smail Puraj, a ҫifteli player (ҫiftelist?) who, if incomprehensible YouTube comments are any sort of metric, is a master of the craft.

Tingalin takes a unique approach to playing an instrument on your iPhone. Instead of trying to cram your fingers awkwardly onto the screen, you are instead presented with a virtual fretboard and a window which records each note you pluck in sequence. Once you’re done creating your song, you can play it back by holding your iPhone (very tightly, mind you) and slinging it back and forth in a strumming motion. Each swing plays a note of your song, and the tempo is determined by the ferocity of your strumming. Your virtual ҫifteli can be tuned on the fly, and if you’re not happy with a particular run, you can backspace through your song and try again. Be careful, though: the “delete one note” and “delete all notes” buttons are right next to each other, and I ended up clearing about five minutes worth of work on accident. My biggest gripe is that the strum detection can be pretty iffy: I’ve found that the best way to get a consistent strum pattern out of Tingalin is to play it between your knee and hand like an instrument much more familiar to those of us south of the Mason-Dixon: the spoons.

Tingalin, $.99 in the App Store.