It’s been a busy and productive 12-or-so months for Melodics. In addition to some major milestone product feature launches, we’ve also really expanded our curriculum at all skill levels: producing and releasing over 200 new lessons (there’s over 1300 total in the full version of the app now), expanded to include 8 more genres (52 total and counting, from ‘Afro Cuban’ to ‘Vapourwave’), and have significantly bulked up our Guided Paths for aspiring musicians in each of our 3 instrument types.
Beyond producing and releasing more musical content, the last year’s product developments were grounded on the following points:
- It’s important for growing musicians to feel their burgeoning sense of musical ability as they progress.
- They will also need the tools to define, measure and track their musical progress throughout their journey on their own, and in a way that makes sense to them and others.
- Remove barriers to reaching a state of euphoric musical “flow”, make sure students are getting good feedback, rewarded, feel motivated when they succeed, and give them the tools they need to build up to perfection with greater autonomy.
Here’s the product releases which came from that:
- Melodics for iPad
- Upgraded Practice Mode
- Step- and -Course-end Commentaries
- Memory Mode
- Record Collections
Getting the full experience — whenever, wherever inspiration strikes. (Re)Introducing Melodics for iPad.
Our first major release of the year: In April 2021, Melodics went Mobile (again)!
We know how useful a spontaneous, ergonomic, portable (yet powerful) device like the iPad is for musicians wanting to play or practice with as little hassle as possible. Going mobile is a great way of breaking down barriers that might otherwise prevent you from getting into and enjoying making music ASAP.
We actually have had an early-access iPad app since early 2020. And yet, we were prevented from updating it with all the new features available in the Desktop versions of Melodics since May 2020(!) — that is, until we could incorporate In-App Purchases (IAP).
We want Melodics users to have the same experience anywhere: from their desktop, laptop to iPad — so IAP was developed to appease the powers-that-be and get our iPad up and running once again.
We’re proud to say, that day has come: all Melodics customers can use their existing credentials and subscription to get the full Melodics experience on their iPad for a smoother music workflow and to play music whenever the mood strikes.
Practice deliberately and improve better, faster. Upgrading Practice Mode.
Deliberate Practice is a big part of how Melodics works to support musicians build good practice habits. Practice Mode is one manifestation of that ethos, and regardless one of our most widely beneficial features (second only to, probably, live feedback).
This is no real wonder — zooming in with focus, chunking, and starting slow before building up are highly effective Deliberate Practice techniques musicians have used to master difficult passages, error free,
for 300,000 years long before 1993 (when the term was coined).
Upgrading Practice Mode was broken up into 3 projects:
- “Slow it Down” (time stretching ability whilst maintaining the pitch of the original track);
- “Zoom in with Focus” (snapped loops, and ensuring a minimum 1-bar duration);
- “Review and Repeat” (presenting users with ‘listen back’, ‘practice’ or ‘perform again’ options; encouraging active listening and critique of performances, and with only 1-click, users can return back to redo sections without having to find or reset loops).
Over 25% of our users now use Practice Mode multiple-times every single session — and it’s in this group of methodically-minded musicians where we see the greatest rate of skill improvement and musical progress.
If you’re looking to make your practice sessions more productive, or nail those seemingly-impossible musical pieces; then look no further:
Feel and measure your musical progress. Introducing Step- and Course-end Commentaries.
We thought it might be nice if we better expressed key “learning outcomes” for all our musical content. So we did: course end-screen summaries are now updated with an explanation of what it is exactly you’ve learned.
We also tweaked our step-end commentaries based on the previous performance. Whether it was just “Nice improvement”, “You’re getting ahead of the beat. Take it easy” musicians using Melodics receive more dynamic messaging and feedback tailored to how they’re performing, as they’re learning; and what they could do to improve for the next try.
Don’t just play it til you get it right. Play it til you can’t get it wrong. Introducing Memory Mode.
Not being able to feel one’s progress is a major systemic reason why people have tended to quit learning their instrument within their first year of trying in traditional education models.
Launched in 2020, Memory Mode is at its core a feature designed to help musicians truly feel a sense of their own progress: could you play it blindfolded?
Memory Mode can only be unlocked if a user first gets three platinum stars — a flawless delivery in the final step of a lesson (which in itself is a great way to feel progress). When playing through the lesson once again but with the feature enabled, the screen progressively dims to darkness until it remains blacked-out completely (so long as you keep playing the notes perfectly without error).
“I think there is a narrative that Memory Mode pushes you towards your learning edge, encouraging you to internalise the lesson rather than rely on reactions.
Like a rehearsal, you might have the chord chart in front of you, but the need to check it becomes less and less as you start to truly learn the song. As a musician, you might instead begin to start thinking more about what’s coming up much further ahead in a song, or about how you’re playing. I think Memory Mode helps to emulate this scenario.”
– Benjamin Locke (Head of Music @ Melodics)
Perfecting a lesson in Memory Mode earns the user three black-out stars, and currently sits as the highest achievement — a “holy grail” of musical ability — in the Melodics award tiers. Most importantly, this feature challenges musicians to progress outside the comfort of the normal live-feedback, visual mechanics of Melodics, and instead showcase their true independent mastery in playing a song by ear. It’s no easy feat, but all the more worth it for when you do get there.
Give your practice purpose: track and measure your progress. Introducing Record collections.
All too often, we learn to place an inflated importance on musical theory; using words, definitions, logic and reasoning as some missing “key” to “unlocking” music. In the process perhaps we forget that for like 95% of human history, making music is, at its core, a kinaesthetic endeavour; a combination of physical and aural skill, memory and sensations. Theory as a science is the relatively new kid in town..
It does have an important place in music, but it shouldn’t be a barrier to you becoming a confident musician in your own right. If it did, we wouldn’t have The Beatles, M.I.A or J Dilla (to name a few) around to enjoy.
So anyway, in December 2020 Melodics unveiled its latest major release: Record collections. Records document a new bit of musical information you’ve learned by passing a particular lesson (e.g. technique, theory, method etc) — and summarises the concept through video and an explanation in the app.
On one hand, these reinforce our chicken-egg approach that theory (probably) stems from music, not visa-versa; but also acts to supplement Melodics’ unabashedly self-guided, learning-by-doing approach to learning music or an instrument.
Your collection showcases that you are, indeed, learning real-life, important musical things as you work your way through Melodics; it helps you track and measure your progress in accepted musical terminology, whilst also alleviating any feeling of intimidation or perceived elitism which can sometimes prevent one from learning musical theory. When collecting Records, you still have an active relationship with music, but now you can better define what it is you’ve learned, as you learn.
As an aside, a byproduct from Records’ development is that users can watch embedded Melodics produced video content basically anywhere in the app itself — a cool platform to mull over future possibilities. Stay posted!
Where to next? 2021 and beyond!
We at Melodics are continuing our efforts towards helping musicians consciously and easily reaching a state of “flow”, and helping them get more out of each practice session. Whether this is building on Records’ videos more; releasing more content and helping Melodics users find the right lesson at the right time; or doubling down on improving the plug & play platform we’ve built — you’ll just have to wait…
Melodics also would like to increase its commitment outside of strictly “the App” — that is to help support inclusion and equity in our diverse community, our industry (both music & technology), and our workplace both locally in Aotearoa New Zealand and abroad. More on that, as well, coming real soon.
But with this year in hindsight, we’re humbled by our incredible privilege to be where we are. We do hope Melodics users aren’t just having more fun playing music they really enjoy, but have a higher sense of achievement, feel increasingly empowered to take control of their own skill development, musical progress, and goals, and to go out and contribute positively to the world. What we’ve all done to date really is just the tip of the iceberg!