Piano lessons are intimate, personal and the source of hours of inspiration for young students across the globe and piano teachers are (so often) quirky, and always individual. And as if creating a human experience via an app isn’t enough of a challenge, CEO Plenge is a drummer, and not a pianist – what could go wrong? So, with my associate Skepticism, I hopped on a plane to Berlin to meet the man that assured me he was going to explain all.
“I’ve wanted to set up a business for a long time,” Plenge told me. “I’d reached a point in my career where I found I had given everything that I could and I knew it was time to move on.
“As part of my new adventures I was looking to learn the piano but I didn’t want a teacher. Maybe because I was an adult and not a junior starting out, but I felt I wanted more control over my commitment, my time and my process, something a traditional tutor couldn’t seem to offer me.
“I had a gut feeling that there was something here, and if I felt this, maybe others did too. So I spoke to Stephan, who I had previously worked with, and we started our research, and put together some ideas.
I can’t help but feel that the idea of a piano app would miss a number of crucial lessons in piano. My favourite growing up, playing with flat fingers, not actually reading the music and pretending that I was actually a jazz star.
“We took that very seriously, we designed the interface and system to address hand position, musicality and theory. When we first went into testing I was convinced that users were going to tell me it was awful, even horrific. But they didn’t, they loved it. We run testing sessions where I just sit and watch people using the APP. We also encourage real time feedback, one of us will always respond if not straightaway, within 24 hours.
“What we have found is that the feedback we have received is generally to do with the design and the functionality of the app, it hasn’t been to do with the lessons or music itself. This may change as students progress, but at the moment this is what we see.”
It was time to try it out. Plenge watched as I took my first look and studied my face as I started to interact with the program. I was surprised at the layout of the music, colourful and simple, the presence of floating hands at a piano showing me what I should be doing. The app picked up my mistakes, when I was slightly faster with one hand and when I didn’t hold notes perfectly. Though my pride was dented slightly the app doesn’t tell you off and make you start again like my old tutor.
Plenge is keen to tell me more. “We worked with Dominik Schirmer who is our Director of Musical Teaching, having worked in tuition and as a lecturer at John Moore’s in Liverpool we knew we were on to a good thing. Dominik has been responsible for developing the lesson and the musical side of things and to make sure we are providing the best in lessons.”
“We knew our market when we started. We were aiming at adults; they are more likely to look to an APP or alternative to traditional teaching. We have found that we have a higher proportion of males signing up at the moment also.”
I might be a pianist, but I am not a teaching expert, however, for the beginner pianist Skoove has developed something far in excess of what I imagined an app could achieve and Plenge and his team are just a chord or two away from delivering extension of the app for the more experienced pianist.
“We are constantly developing the app, whether it be the content and music that goes on there, or the level or instruments available. For experienced pianists, it may not be an identical system to the one we have now but the idea is there.
“We are also looking to expand to allow users to learn other instruments and to use the APP on other devices.”
Handy, I think. I just fancy the ukulele.
For more information on the Skoove team or to download the app visit them at www.skoove.com