Guitar Pro 8 is the latest music scoring program from Arobas Music that gives guitarists a wide set of tools you can use with TABs you download or write yourself.
In this review, I’ll walk through the main features of Guitar Pro 8 and show you step-by-step how to use them.
Tutorials and tips are included at the end of this review to help you get the most out of Guitar Pro 8 if you choose to buy it.
I’ll be constantly updating this review as I spend more and more time with Guitar Pro 8. If there is anything you would like me to add to this review, ask me here.
What is Guitar Pro 8
If you already know the basic idea behind the Guitar Pro programs, you can skip this section.
Guitar Pro has been a popular program for guitarists for a very long time. I started using Guitar Pro 5 in around 2006 and it’s been my most used guitar-based program ever since.
The way to think about Guitar Pro 8 is that it can be used in three basic ways:
Jam With Guitar Pro Files
You can download Guitar Pro TAB files from a few free Guitar TAB websites and jam along with the songs.
The built-in sound engine creates decently realistic-sounding virtual instruments for you to play along with including guitars, bass, keyboards, drums, and almost any other instrument you can think of.
Write Music Scores
If you want to write your own songs, Guitar Pro 8 can be a handy songwriting tool.
Once you learn the basics of writing out music, you can quickly capture your song ideas and build full scores for your music.
The big advantage of using Guitar Pro 8 as a songwriting tool is how easily you can write transcriptions for other instruments. You can write out drum, bass, piano, violin, or any other instrument parts and sent/print the transcriptions for other band members.
As a Practice Tool
When I was first learning guitar, Guitar Pro was my main learning tool. I still use it today to work on exercises, practice scales, and learn song parts.
As covered later, there are handy practice tools you can use to slow parts down, loop sections, and build up your speed on complicated parts.
You also have access to a large chord and scale library to help you expand your fretboard knowledge.
New Features in Guitar Pro 8
Guitar Pro 8 was a surprise release as the previous version had been receiving many feature updates over the last few years (check out my review of Guitar Pro 7.6 here).
A lot of guitarists who use Guitar Pro 7 may wonder what new features are included in Guitar Pro 8 to decide whether to upgrade or not (there is an offer on the Guitar Pro website for people wanting to upgrade from GP7).
Let’s go through the new features in Guitar Pro 8 in detail and how you might want to use them.
Audio Track Playback
Guitar Pro 8 allows you to import an audio file to play alongside the other tracks.
This new feature is incredibly useful from a transcribing, practice, and songwriting perspective and will be worth the upgrade for many guitarists currently using Guitar Pro 7.
There are many useful ways you can use this feature. Here are some examples:
- Import a vocal track to work on writing accompanying parts
- Import a song you want to work on transcribing
- Import a song you want to learn and slow the track down/loop sections to practice
- Import a drum/bass/other recording from your band for you to work on your parts
The audio file waveform shows in a new section across the bottom of the screen:
There are handy tools to help you sync the audio file’s tempo with the tempo of the Guitar Pro tracks, as well as pitch-shifting tools.
Only one audio file can be added per Guitar Pro file, so don’t expect to be able to import multiple audio tracks. Use a DAW if you want to mix and edit multiple audio tracks.
Full step-by-step instructions and tips on how to use audio tracks in Guitar Pro 8 are covered later in this review.
While Guitar Pro 7 included a nice range of effects you can apply to your tracks, Guitar Pro 8 includes a handy pedalboard view to let you tweak and adjust the effects all in one window.
To bring up the pedalboard, open the Track Inspector panel (press F6) and you’ll see a ‘Show Pedalboard’ button under the Sounds section:
A new window will appear showing the effects for the current track. You can also view the mastering effects applied by clicking the top left button.
You can add, remove, or adjust any effects from this view instead of using the track view on the side of the screen.
At any point in your track, you can insert a small customizable scale diagram directly above your TAB.
To insert a scale diagram, press Shift + S at any point.
These scale diagrams work in any view (eg: page view, vertical, horizontal, etc.) and can be customized with text, colors, and symbols.
Here’s the view showing the different ways you can customize the scale diagrams:
As well as adjust the number of strings and frets, you can mark the diagram with different colored shapes with or without text as you like.
As a guitar teacher, I’m very happy about this feature as it gives me an easy way to quickly add diagrams to any exercises I create for my students.
If you highlight some of your track, Guitar Pro will automatically fill in the scale diagram with the notes selected:
Guitar Pro 8 won’t automatically work out what the scale is for the notes you have selected, so if you want to find out what the scale is, use the scale tool (go to Tools > Scales).
One example of how you might use this feature is when you’re learning a scale run, lick, or riff. Sometimes it’s handy to have a fretboard diagram showing the notes you will be using as a way to visualize what you’re playing.
Here’s an example of what I mean:
I simply highlighted the notes I wanted to work on and color-coded each note to help me remember a few things (eg: blue square = hammer-on, red = bend).
If you’re learning how to read TAB, adding scale diagrams like these can give you another way of visualizing the parts.
I highly recommend playing around with this feature as it can be quite handy when working on songs that use scales you’re unfamiliar with.
If you have ever used free TAB websites with interactive TABs, you may have noticed that many of them will automatically raise the volume of the displayed instrument.
So for example if you were viewing the lead guitar track, that guitar part would have a higher volume. If you switched to the bass track, the guitar volume would reduce to normal and the bass volume would increase.
Guitar Pro 8 allows you to boost or lower the currently viewed track’s volume by adjusting the focus dial shown on the bottom Master panel:
If you raise it above half-way, the currently viewed track will be boosted by the amount you set (36% boost in the above example). If you lower it below half, the current track’s volume will be lowered.
This is a great feature for when you want to jam along with tracks or if you’re learning a song.
By boosting the currently viewed track, you can focus on it while learning the parts. Then you can lower it down when you want to jam with the other instruments.
Of course, you could always do this manually by adjusting the track’s volume slider, but this focused feature will automatically apply to any track you view.
For example, if the file you’re using has 6 different guitar tracks and you want to jump between them, it’s much easier to use the focus control instead of manually adjusting or muting each individual track.
The command palette is a tool you can use to quickly search for different editing functions while writing and editing your files.
Press Ctrl + E or go to the Tools > Show command palette menu to bring up the command palette:
Think of this as a quick shortcut tool to find different functions you might want to quickly access while editing.
If you’re a programmer, you’ll know the advantages of having a tool like this. It allows for very fast editing once you know how to use it.
I’m still learning the basics of the tool, but there have already been a few times where this tool has been a much faster option than using menus.
For example, if you wanted to change the time signature to 3/4, you simply bring up the command palette (Ctrl + E), type in 3/4, then press enter.
Many of the things I searched for weren’t in the list of options, but a lot of useful things are. You can press ? to bring up the list of possible commands.
Here are some examples to show how quickly you can edit your files:
For the first example, I started typing ‘key’, then pressed TAB once it highlighted the option ‘key-signature’, then it brought up the list of keys to choose from. After typing G, it narrowed the options down.
You don’t need to memorize a list of commands to type or type in the full commands. Just start typing and press TAB when it finds the right option. I’m still getting used to this tool but I can already see how much it will speed up my work.
Other Features and Changes in Guitar Pro 8
There are quite a few changes and minor features worth mentioning, but it would drag this review out too much to cover each one in detail.
Here’s a summary of some other changes and features in Guitar Pro 8:
- Nested tuplets – if you know what that means, you’ll be happy to know they’ve been added to GP8
- Drum Mixer – adjust the volume and pan of each individual drum element
- Audio Note Settings – adjust the duration, volume, and timing of the sound you hear for a highlighted note
- Chord transposition – under the Tools > Transpose menu, chords can now be transposed along with key signatures
- Piano Fingerings & Sustain pedal – you can include fingering notation for any piano tracks as well as sustain pedal notation
- Decimal tempo – you can set tempos such as 120.5 bpm as well as tempos below 30 bpm
- Visual metronome – an optional visual flash is added to the top of the screen when you enable the metronome or count down
- Pin recent files – pin any files you want to regularly use in the recent files view
- Relative tempo change shortcut – press the + or – keys to change the relative tempo during playback
Ease of Use
While Guitar Pro 8 packs in a lot of new features, it will feel very familiar to anybody who has used Guitar Pro 7.
Let’s look at what it’s like to use GP8 whether you’re new to Guitar Pro or you’re currently using an older version.
If you have used Guitar Pro 7, you will feel right at home with Guitar Pro 8.
From the opening screen, Guitar Pro 8 looks and feels almost identical to GP7.
Minor improvements have been made to the opening screen such as being able to pin files to the Recent Files tab.
Once you load up a file, the main view is almost the same as GP7. There are some new options and changes, but it’s essentially the same layout.
If you haven’t used Guitar Pro before, the main view is split up into a few sections.
There are three main panels you can open or close to give you different tools to edit your tracks.
The panel on the left (highlighted in yellow) gives you a range of editing tools to work on the notes and symbols in your scores. There are keyboard shortcuts for almost all of these options, so once you learn the basics, you may keep this panel closed and simply use keyboard shortcuts to edit your work.
The panel on the right (highlighted in green) gives you information on the current song or track. From this panel, you can turn TAB or Standard Notation on or off, change the tuning of the instrument, change the type of sound used for the instrument, access track effects and other useful options.
The panel on the bottom (highlighted in blue) displays all the tracks in your file. You can mute/solo each track, adjust volume, pan, EQ and track automations. You can also toggle the view to display multiple tracks at once, which can be very handy (eg: view lead and rhythm guitar parts at the same time).
These three panels are useful when you’re working on a file, but when you just want to jam along with a track and sight-read, you can turn them off so the main score can take up more space on the screen as shown below.
You can zoom in and out and change to a few different views. Every guitarist has different preferences and once you play around with the views, you’ll probably find you prefer a certain view for jamming and another for editing.
Setting Up Tracks
Setting up new tracks is the same as it was in GP7 with an identical setup window:
If you haven’t used Guitar Pro before, the above window lets you choose what type of instrument you want to create, along with the different sounds and tunings you can use.
You can create guitar tracks with anywhere from 3 to 10 strings and there are tuning presets for every option.
I’ll explain step-by-step how to set up audio tracks later as it’s a core part of getting the most out of Guitar Pro 8.
Editing your TAB or Standard Notation feels the same as it did in previous versions with one major difference.
As I covered above, the new Command Palette gives you quick access to a range of useful editing tools.
Let’s say you want to add a half-step bend to a note. There are two quick ways to do this.
The first way is to press b to bring up the bend tool, then drag the line down from the default full bend to the half-bend position.
This is a useful tool when you want to adjust the timing of a bend.
In Guitar Pro 8, you can now use the Command Palette to do the same thing.
You press Ctrl + E to bring up the palette, start typing bend, and press TAB when the option you want is highlighted. Here are the options that show by the time I typed in ‘be’:
So if you wanted a prebend or bend and release, you could press up and down on your keyboard to select the option you want.
Once you press TAB or Enter, the palette will bring up the different bend options:
Once you get used to this tool, it can significantly speed up your editing. If you want a one and a half step bend, you would bring up the Command Palette, type in bend 1.5, then press Enter.
If you do a lot of songwriting or transcribing, this feature alone will make a big difference in how fast you can work.
How to Import Audio Files into Guitar Pro 8
Importing audio files is a massive feature in Guitar Pro 8, but there’s a bit of a learning curve to use it properly.
Let’s go through step-by-step how to import and adjust an audio file to work in Guitar Pro 8.
To import an audio file, go View > Show Audio Track. Or click the new audio track button on the top right of the screen.
A new section appears at the bottom of the screen as shown below:
You can add an audio track either by dragging an audio file into this section or clicking the browse button as shown below:
The audio formats you can use in Guitar Pro 8 are mp3, m4a, wav, flac, aiff, ogg.
Once you choose an audio file to add, you’ll see the waveform in the audio track section:
At any time you can turn the audio track on or off by clicking the toggle on the far left.
As you might expect, the main challenge when using audio files with Guitar Pro 8 is getting the audio track in sync with your TAB.
In the above screenshot, you can see that the file is set to the default 120 bpm. The audio file I added isn’t 120 bpm, so I need to sync the file and Guitar Pro’s tempo.
First, drag the far left bracket to line up with the first bar of music in the audio file as shown below:
The track I imported starts with a snare hit to start the count, so I dragged the bracket to line up with that hit.
Then, to find the audio file’s tempo, you drag one of the ‘sync points’ to match a new bar of music as shown below:
The triangles are ‘sync points’ used to help you sync the audio track to your file. To sync my track, I dragged the sync point for bar 2 to match the start of bar 2 in the audio file.
You can see that the tempo of the audio file now shows 98.0 bpm.
Getting the sync point to line up perfectly isn’t easy. If you skip ahead in your song file, you might find that the sync points gradually fall out of sync as shown below:
Five minutes into this track and you can clearly see that the bar lines don’t properly match up to the peaks in the audio file.
This is why it’s a good idea to use sync points over a large range. If I create a sync point at bar 124, you can see that the tempo of the file is still 98.0 bpm, but now the entire track is in sync:
Depending on how accurately placed your other sync points are, you might see your tempo adjust slightly.
Tracks with tempo changes will need sync points at every change.
Once you have created the sync points to properly sync your audio file, you can click the settings icon in the audio track and ‘Create Score Tempo Automations from Sync Points’:
This will now adjust your Guitar Pro file’s tempo to match the audio file. In this example, you can see that my file now shows 98 bpm instead of the default 120 bpm:
You can see above that every sync point creates a tempo automation point. Because I created a sync point in my audio file at bar 2, the tempo is also shown in bar 2.
If your song has tempo changes, you’ll see every change in your Guitar Pro file to match your sync points.
To delete a sync point, right-click the sync point triangle:
On the right side of the audio track view, you can see three useful options:
You can apply different preset EQ filters to the track and you can adjust the pitch of the track up or down.
For example, if you imported a song where the guitars are in Eb Tuning and your guitar is in Standard Tuning, you can easily shift the track up one semitone to match your guitar.
Overall Impressions of Guitar Pro 8
As a guitar teacher who used Guitar Pro 7 every day since it was released, I’m very impressed and happy with Guitar Pro 8.
The look and feel are almost identical to GP7, but the new features make this a worthwhile upgrade.
Being able to import an audio file is an incredibly useful feature whether you want to transcribe a song, learn a song, or work on songwriting.
Once you first import a backing track or song into GP8 and properly sync it to the transcription, you’ll see how useful it is. Being able to slow the track down, loop sections, transpose the song, or just be able to jam along with the song while following the TAB makes GP8 such a powerful guitar program.
If you do a lot of transcribing or songwriting, the Command Palette is worth spending time on. I’ve been writing and editing TAB the same way for years and I’ve already found myself automatically typing Ctrl + E over and over.
Even something as simple as typing 3/4 to change the time signature instead of using the other method just makes GP8 so much easier to use.
If you don’t currently use an older version of Guitar Pro, I highly recommend Guitar Pro 8.
Should You Upgrade From Guitar Pro 7?
If you currently use GP7 or older, this version will be worth the upgrade for almost every guitarist.
When you see that the layout of Guitar Pro 8 is almost identical to GP7, it may not feel like this would be worth the upgrade.
I felt that for a while after I first opened GP8. It looked and felt the same as what I was using.
That feeling completely disappeared once I loaded an audio file and synced it.
Note: there’s currently a 30% off discount on the upgrade option from any earlier version (ends July 31).
Guitar Pro 8 Pros
- Adding an audio file is incredibly useful
- Useful new features (eg: scale diagrams, command palette)
- Easy for GP7 users to learn
- I have not experienced any bugs or crashes (yet)
- Files are cross-compatible with GP7
Guitar Pro 8 Cons
- No improvements in instrument sounds compared to GP7
Who is Guitar Pro 8 for?
There are three main ways to use Guitar Pro 8, so have a read through these to figure out if Guitar Pro 8 is for you:
Transcribing: if you want to transcribe music for guitar (or other instruments), Guitar Pro 8 is one of the best options. Being able to import the audio file, slow it down, and transcribe directly in Guitar Pro 8 is something that wasn’t possible in earlier versions and significantly improves Guitar Pro against other popular transcription programs.
Learning/Jamming: if you just want to play guitar and learn songs, I highly recommend GP8. There are countless free Guitar Pro files available to download from TAB websites and GP8 has useful learning tools (covered below).
Songwriting: I’ve used Guitar Pro for my songwriting since version 5 and once you learn the basics of transcribing the music you play, it’s a great tool to have available. Now that you can import audio into GP8, it becomes a very powerful songwriting tool. You can record a track of guitar ideas, import it into GP8, then transcribe the parts or work on other instrument parts alongside your guitar recording.
Getting Started With Guitar Pro 8
Here are some tips and tutorials to get you started with Guitar Pro 8:
New to Guitar Pro Users
If you have never used Guitar Pro before, it can feel a bit overwhelming at first when you see all the editing tools and options.
I suggest starting by following the below lesson, which will show you how you can use Guitar Pro 8 to learn songs and work on skills.
Follow the step-by-step instructions and you’ll quickly learn how to use Guitar Pro and why I often say it’s the most valuable learning tool available to guitarists.
Here are some other useful guides and tutorials you may want to check out:
GP7 or Earlier Users
If you’re currently using Guitar Pro 7, you’ll find GP8 a breeze to learn. Almost everything will be in the same place as GP7.
I suggest starting by learning how to add and sync an audio file to a Guitar Pro file.
Follow the steps covered earlier to add an audio file and use the sync points to match it up with the transcription.
If you use Guitar Pro to transcribe or write your own music, I recommend spending time learning how to use the Command Palette. While you probably already know all the keyboard shortcuts from GP7, try to do everything with the Command Palette for a while.
Some things will always be faster using the standard keyboard commands. But there will be other things where the Command Palette is the better option by far.
The only way to figure out how to get the most out of the Command Palette is to try to use it for everything. You’ll quickly figure out when you should switch to using it and when you should stick to the shortcuts you already know.
I’ll be updating and adding to this review as I spend more and more time with Guitar Pro 8. If there is anything you would like to see me include in this review, let me know here.