While magical mobile devices are able to simulate instruments in wild and mind-blowing ways, thankfully most people stick to the actual instruments themselves when learning to play. Arguably, a better (or at least more popular) use for mobile devices is to act not as the instrument itself, but as an educational aid — a tool that helps us to learn how to play our favorite instruments.
There are a ton of these educational (and often game-ified) apps out there, and we seem to have a new one at TechCrunch Disrupt every year. There’s Miso Media’s Plectrum, which “listens” as you play, scrolling the tablature forward as you progress through the song, or Tonara’s interactive sheet music, Stagename‘s game-ified music education for the mass market, WildChords, a musical game that uses audio technology to recognize sound through your device’s microphone, turning your six-string into a game controller, Rocksmith, Rock Prodigy, and these … well, you get the picture.
If you want to learn to play the guitar, or another instrument, you can find plenty of YouTube videos you can strum along to, and the mobile apps and web-based tools that boost your chops continue to get better — and, frankly, astound. Of course, the truth is that most musicians learned their instrument by playing along to their favorite songs (probably not mp3s), and imitating what they heard. While YouTube offers a great jumping off point, it’s disorganized and only just scratches the surface.
Today, we’ve learned about another app for iOS (and coming soon to Mac and Windows desktops) called Jammit, which should be of interest to novices and experts alike. Ideally, when learning to play an instrument (or practicing), we want to play along with our favorite songs — to emulate them to get a better feel for how musicians created these songs — and for learning how to create our own riffs.
Jammit wants to assist in this approach by allowing musicians to play along with their favorite songs, and to get a taste (at least virtually) of what it’s like to be there in the recording studio. Jammit uses the original multi-track master recordings in its catalog so that users can tune into instrument-specific samples — for guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, and vocals. This granularity allows musicians to dive in to each nuance of a certain song, and then replace it with their own hot licks. Now you can feel like you’re part of the band — even if, like me, you’re too busy to go on tour with Rush.
It’s not easy to get access to original master recordings of songs, and Jammit Founder Scott Humphrey tells us that they’ve spent years working through the red tape to manage licensing fees and be able to offer master tracks to their users. After years of pursuing these leads, Jammit is now home to master tracks from hundreds of artists, including R.E.M., Jane’s Addiction, Nirvana, Rush, The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and more.
While the catalog is not as complete as those we’ve come to expect from iTunes, there’s plenty of classic music to get you started on practicing, mixing, recording, and tinkering. Allowing you to literally remove the original guitar riff and record yourself right into the song — from your iPad? Pretty cool.
What’s more, the app provides note-for-note transcriptions in standard notation or tablature, the ability to quickly navigate to any part of the song, repeat bars with snap-to-grid looping — and this is the kicker — slow the song down by 90 percent without affecting the pitch. This feature, along with a “now” line, which underscores exactly which note you are on to aid in the learning process, are two huge updates for the newest versions of the app. If you’re having trouble hearing what chords are being played, or are struggling with the fingering, just slow the song down and loop it, or get cues from the app itself. Then, once you’re done recording, you can send it off to friends, teachers, and groupies.
The app itself is free, and individual songs range from about $2 to $6. Jammit currently has around 200 guitar songs, and approximately the same amount for bass, drums, and vocals. Humphrey tells us that they have hundreds more songs in the cue, and are starting to see bands come to them who want to release their albums on Jammit in tandem with releasing a new album. The latest example would be Lamb of God’s new album, “Resolution.”
Jammit is currently raising a seed round of funding.
For more, check out the example of Rush’s “Limelight” below, or check out “how it works” here.