At a beginner level a learning app can help you probably getting into the play of an instrument very easy.
But are these apps also good for advanced players or do they bring more frustration to this people?
In this short blog you can read some insides from my own experiences and from many comments I went through during the last years.
Hopefully these are helpful for you to make your own decision about instrument learning app. And please let me know your thoughts about the question: Are apps only for beginners? Looking forwards to read your comments…
What is an advanced or PRO player meaning in this context?
If you are a player with some knowledge about the keys, notes and how to play in example a piano with your right and left hand and you are able to play some cords and you know these cords by name, definitely you are not anymore at a beginner level. Even if you can not play fluently and you need some time to get a song to play with some practice you won’t be called as a beginner anymore. In this blog I would call you a Pro or advanced player.
What is a PRO looking for?
Advanced players for sure looking after a possibility to improve the skills, the technique and to increase the own portfolio of songs they can play alone or along with backing music.
It can be mentioned at this point that most of these PROS getting frustrated if they have to start with the ABC of the training which have been created for beginners. This is normal as they go through a lot of basic stuff before reaching the point of learning new things for themselves. It might result into a lot of negative comments and ratings even if they found the best piano learning app in the world.
A big question though is: Do all apps fitting to PROS or not? Unfortunately due to my own experience the answer is a clear no.
Why are apps not meet expectations of pro?
Advanced players searching for special content and support in faster improvement and as they know how well they already play they will for sure struggle with the topic mentioned in the last section of this blog. There are not many apps getting deeper into the theory of music and helping especially advanced players to get better. Most of the apps for learning piano in example are tackling the basics and starting with it. Without any shortcut advanced player become frustrated students.
What kind of challenges apps have in the market?
You can find a lot of apps related to the beginner level or they teach some pieces of the full cake of playing an instrument.
My personal assumption is that the reason is linked to the fact that the effort the programmer need to put into adding a new lesson or implementing a new song to play along with is very high at the moment. The software for programming apps on android or IOS base might be already some kind of standard. However, the important part comes with the link to the outer world around the device which runs the app.
Detecting each tone, each rhythm or each correct played pause is somehow challenging for the app. The app has to record the tone, rank it to the tonality system according to the song or lesson chosen and needs to confirm to the student that he or she played correct. This is happening only in seconds.
As devices getting more and more processor power, this might be not the biggest hurdle to take. However, the environment is giving back resonances during the play time of an instrument. These additional signals can disturb or interfere the tone capturing process. The app might interpret other sounds from the room, the cat, the sound waves reflected by the wall. You may can emerging that a wrong played tone hits the microphone twice. First time when the player hits the piano key and second time is much later as the Tone was traveling through the room, hits the wall at the other side, was reflected and get back to the microphone. This can result quite often into errors which gives bad played tone feedback to the student, who is frustrated as he or she was playing well.
I could see this directly during the lesson time of my own daughter. Her face turned into red once she realized that she wasn’t wrong but the app showed it with lower rating of her play.
Recommendations to the app developer
The beginner musician is searching for basics to learn an instrument. However, there are a lot of semi-advanced players or late age second time starter that are searching for an option in the app to chance the expert level from beginner to advance. With this change they expect some other content linked to their level of expertise. With this kind of option an app becomes one step ahead to be best learning app with a wider range of audience.
Conclusion to the question: Are apps only good for beginners?
For sure apps can help beginner and at the moment to my knowledge there are way to many beginner apps in the market which have not developed next level player lessons or show a shortcut to start at another level according to the actual situation. However, the comments in blogs and App stores are clear, there is a demand for it and people searching for these options.
Furthermore, Apps needs to be really good in interaction with the microphone and should be able to filter waves of tones played seconds ago by using logic algorithm. Beginner might except errors in the feedback of the app but this last not long and the user will stop using the app faster than expected due to this lack of correct feedback. More advanced players have a higher expectation from beginning onward and therefor this specific technical quality point can decide for take it or leave it.
One interesting point is not mentioned here as it is worth to write in a separate blog later on. In my life I saw constantly a battle about the question: App for free or App to pay. There are a lot of expectations in the user market which drives the industry somehow crazy. The zero cost but high quality mentality is quite a challenge for the industry. The companies or startups have to develop first, get to a scale of user fist and reinvest the earnings in better content. This is normal business cycle but for sure a big rock to be climbed in a market of low budget apps with commercials. But let’s look at this point later…