Tonara’s iPad App Looks To Reinvent Sheet Music For The Digital Age

If you’ve ever played an instrument, there’s a very good chance you’re familiar with the annoyances involved with sheet music. For one, it can be tough to find the piece you’re looking for, and then there’s the matter of actually playing the piece — every few stanzas, you find yourself pausing to flip to the next page (or you have to recruit a friend or family member to turn the pages for you.

Now TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield Finalist Tonara thinks it has a fix: it’s launching a new iPad application that will display your sheet music, then listen to which notes you’re playing, turning the page automatically at exactly the right moment.

And the app appears to be quite impressive from a technical perspective — it supports polyphonic note recognition (so it could recognize notes being played by both your left and right hand simultaneously on a piano, for example), and can adjust to tempo and missed notes. The app will also ignore ambient noise, and it’s possible to set up multiple iPads with multiple instruments playing, and not have them interfere with each other.

The company will be distributing the app for free on the App Store, and it will include several royalty-free songs. In the future, Tonara will be selling digital versions of sheet music for around 99 cents apiece, much like a Kindle for sheet music.

If this sounds familiar, it’s likely because the company has a mission that sounds similar to Miso Media’s Plectrum — which took the People’s Choice Award at least year’s TC Disrupt SF. Miso Media has a guitar-focused application that will also listen to the notes you’re playing (t supports guitar tab in addition to traditional sheet music notation). And it also lets you purchase new songs for a dollar or two each.

The big difference at this point appears to be the fact that Tonara is focused primarily on sheet music, Plectrum is focused on Guitar Tab. I’ll be curious to try both apps out side by side — in their demo, Tonara’s tone recognition certainly looks very impressive.

Judge Q&A:

BG: I’m quizzical about the size of the market. I’m not convinced there’s a big business opportunity.

A: $2 Billion market. Hundreds of thousands of musicians.

Wendy: I’m not feeling it. I’m very creative… I’m not feeling the business model.

A: The market is not as small as one would think.

SM: Great presentation. Defensibility.. you’re using works that are so old, what’s the differentiator. What locks you into the artist.

A: As far as copyright is concerned, we’re starting with work in the public domain, also talking to major publishing houses. The technology is not a simple one to develop.

Backstage interview: