Back in September at TechCrunch Disrupt SF, a small company called Miso Media won the People’s Choice Award for a very impressive iPad application with a musical bent. The application, which is now called Plectrum, acts as a virtual guitar teacher by actually listening to the notes you’re playing, then advancing the music displayed on the screen accordingly. Disrupt attendees weren’t the only ones who were impressed: the startup later went on to close a $600K seed round led by Google Ventures.
But while it’s gotten plenty of buzz, the application itself hasn’t been available to users. Until now. Today, the company is announcing that Plectrum is live on the App Store. You can download it right here for $2.99.
Fire up the application and you’ll see a handful of lessons and classical songs, like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and some scales. Tap a lesson and it will present music as TAB (a basic music notation system familiar to guitar players). And unlike other tab viewers, Plectrum will listen and scroll along as you play each note (it’s pretty cool). It also has fingering suggestions for each note and chord, which is a nice touch. In addition to guitar, the app supports music for bass guitar, ukulele, banjo, and more.
I fired up my acoustic guitar to put the application to the test, and came back with some mixed results (though there’s plenty of promise). The audio detection works pretty well, with notes scrolling across the screen as I played, but every so often a note I played on my guitar would register more than once in the app, causing it to ‘skip’ to the next note. Or sometimes I’d have to adjust the threshold setting because the app wasn’t ‘hearing’ everything I played. And there’s definitely a learning curve to using this on songs that move at anything faster than a leisurely pace — though I’m sure I would have gotten used to it after a couple of hours.
There are a few more superficial quirks as well. When I downloaded Yesterday, by The Beatles, I found that the audio detection wasn’t working at all. Turns out the song is actually supposed to be played a step down, but the app didn’t go out of its way to point that out. I’m also not a big fan of the integrated Strobe tuner, which looks snazzy and is accurate, but will leave guitar novices scratching their heads. But, again, this is still early days for the app, and it’s off to a solid start.
Miso Media generates extra revenue by offering plenty of in-app purchases. First, you can buy licensed virtual guitars in the app, with instruments from the likes of Fender and Martin & Co. More important is the application’s lessons store, which lets you purchase tabs for premium songs, like Blackbird by The Beatles. These songs range from around 99 cents to $2.99 depending on the publisher and take a few seconds to download.
CEO Aviv Grill says that the app will be adding dozens — and later, hundreds — of premium songs to the lesson catalogue every week. To do this, they’ve adopted a user-submitted content model. Using Miso Media’s tab editor, you’ll be able to construct your own tab for popular songs, which you can then submit to the company. If your tab is deemed to be the ‘best’ of the submissions, they’ll start selling it through the app, and you’ll receive 5 cents per download (if the song has multiple instrument tracks, then each person who tabbed a track gets 5 cents). Each app will be screened for quality, and if someone submits a more accurate version than yours, Miso will swap in the better one (there will only be one version of each song available at a time).