If you’ve ever tried to look up guitar tablature on the Internet, you know how impossible it can be to find good stuff. Many of the sites with guitar tabs are filled with spam or just plain hard to read. Things are a bit better on YouTube, where people can post videos of themselves actually playing songs, and put the accompanying tablature information in pop-up windows or the video’s text description. But even there, the whole thing is far from easy — for both the people looking for guitar tabs and the helpful souls who post them.
A new web app called Soundslice could finally be the answer to these woes. Soundslice is the latest project from Adrian Holovaty, the Chicago-based developer and entrepreneur known for being the co-creator of the Django web framework and the founder of EveryBlock, the hyperlocal news site which was acquired in 2009 by MSNBC. Holovaty had help on building Soundslice from designer and visualizer PJ Macklin.
Essentially, Soundslice lets you bring in any YouTube video of someone playing a song and easily create interactive tablature notes around it. The idea here is right now, most interactive online guitar tab notes are accompanied by dinky MIDI recordings as examples of how the final product should sound, which are generally pale imitations of what real music sounds like. Soundslice is built around a core manifesto that starts off by saying “the best way to learn music is to listen to the original recording” — and a great place to find original recordings and good covers is YouTube. By starting with that base and adding in a snappy user interface, Soundslice hopes to make transcribing guitar tabs go from being “a geeky, intense, isolated activity” into something easy and rewarding.
A nice byproduct, of course, is that more of us newbies might finally learn how to play guitar. I’ve got a basic six-string that has been collecting dust in my apartment for a few years now, and I’m excited to tune it up and give it another go with Soundslice (playing videos at half-speed, most likely, which is a very helpful feature of the app). Following along on the demos, such as Holovaty’s own rendition of Yesterday, actually make playing the guitar seem less intimidating than ever. All the information I need is right there in several different forms — it seems like the next best thing to having an in-person instructor, with the added bonus of being able to rewatch certain bits as many times as you need to without being an annoyance (or having to pay someone overtime).
Soundslice just launched today, but my initial takeaway from the site is that it’s well-designed, solidly built, and quite useful. The web app brings together video, audio, and visual elements in a way that allows music to just make sense. It’ll be cool to see how it evolves over time.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Adrian Holovaty just last week on the sidelines of TechCrunch’s Chicago meetup. You can watch our entire interview with him in the video embedded below to hear a bit about how his work as a musician informs his job as a technologist (he is not one of those people who believes you should just eat, sleep, and breathe code and nothing else), what it’s like building a startup in Chicago, and more. He starts talking about Soundslice in particular (as his new “labor of love”) at around 9:38: