Hello again! Since the last blog post, and with April coming to an end, we have some exciting news to share…which is, we have officially graduated from the FFWD programme after 8 weeks of hard work. We rock!
You might wonder from the title what FFWD is, so here's a little background info.
FastForward (or the FFWD) programme is one of the UK's leading Pre-Accelerator Programmes with the goal to take startups from initial idea to the first round of funding in a 8 week course. At Vibes, we were honoured to join this programme together with a wonderful group of other startups. During the FFWD course, we got to learn from experienced professionals and mentors, who helped us to validate the business idea and implement them step by step to actually make them become reality.
Though 8 weeks doesn't seem long, it definitely was an important milestone for us. In this short period of time, ‘Vibes’ was born and then nurtured from a vague idea into a solid business plan and direction. As you might have learned already from Phil’s previous post, Vibes ‘came to life’ after he became inspired (read: frustrated) from his own music learning experience, and, after reading various music forums and Reddit Threads, realised he was not the only one suffering from this problem. Does this relate much to you?
Essentially, what is a workman without his tools, and what is a musician (or a music learner) without his (good) ears?
Ok, so going back to our main topic today. What came after weeks of hard work and preparation was a 5-minute pitch on the final presentation day, where we got the opportunity to showcase our work to guests, accelerators, and incubators, etc., and get to connect with them afterwards. As the saying goes, one minute on stage often takes ten years of practice off stage. After all, we had been working on this for months, and now the day had finally came! "Excited" was not even the right word to describe half of what we felt!
What is a workman without his tools, and a musician (or a music learner) without his (good) ears? Click to tweet
The afternoon went a lot faster than we expected, which was mainly due to the fact everyone was so prepared and ready. We were amongst one of the last to present but Phil did a great job conveying our idea, mission statement, and future prospect of Vibes. After the event, we also chatted and connected with several guests and professionals over a relaxing pint (read: several pints) in a pub. What’s a better way to end the day than that, right?
Below are just some snapshots during our presentation. I hope this gives a little more in-depth knowledge of what Vibes provides. Any questions are welcomed of course!
We started at the beginning of the presentation by discussing the ‘problem’ Vibes is trying to solve. Surely everyone wants to solo like Jimi Hendrix (see below), be creative and enjoy music, or just simply being able to hear a song, in mind or from Spotify, and play it!
Thereafter, we moved on to explaining the science that underpins Vibes, namely the concept of sensory augmentation. Taking advantage of our brain’s capability to make associations, Vibes aims to stimulate the visual, auditory and tactile senses to enhance and accelerate the musical learning process. According to the neuroscience of learning, this use of association rather than repetition, as used in the standard ear training apps and software, will theoretically reduce the time it takes to recognise musical intervals, chords etc.
The presentation slide below shows graphically (though not purely accurately) how Vibes is trying to change the music learning process.
Association rather than repetition can theoretically reduce the time to recognise musical intervals. Click to tweet
The use of real and battle-tested science, which has been used in industry, is how Vibes differentiates itself from the countless ear training apps out there . All in all, we are glad that this ‘baby’ has been delivered. Looking back on the 8 week Accelerator programme, it was a hell of a long journey but overall extremely rewarding.
However, all good things must come to an end. As much as we enjoyed our past journey with FastForward and all our wonderful colleagues, we know we must now take what we have learned and embark on a new journey.
We sincerely welcome all of you who are interested in joining this journey with us. We may have graduated from FastForward, but it is definitely not the end, but the beginning of something more exciting, inspiring, and unique.
There will be more blog posts to come in the next few weeks, where we will record the process and growth of Vibes. If you like this post, feel free to leave a comment. We'd love to hear from you!
At the moment we are building the prototype to put the theory into a reality, and hoping to find people who are interested in Vibes to be our first round of beta testers! If this sounds exciting to you, please do subscribe so you don't miss our latest updates! Also, feel free to drop us a message if you know someone who you can refer to. It’d be much appreciated!
Till the next post :)
Our first blog post looks to answer the two question. Firstly, for all those starting out down this musical road...
Why should you worry about training your ears to hear musical intervals, chords and scales?
Lend me your ears and I’ll tell you my story. I started playing guitar 18 years ago in Germany, but that story of hard labour and cold winters is for the memoirs. I took a few lessons and my teacher tried to teach me music theory and how it applies to the guitar. Sadly, for him, I already had a taste of playing Beatles songs (he liked German heavy metal which wasn’t quite my forte so we settled on the Beatles and Eric Clapton! I am certainly not that old but that is where our musical appreciation converged). Though I understood the theory, I was hooked on playing recognisable songs. I bought guitar tab books and with practice could soon play my favourite songs. It was challenging, fun and uplifting.
Fast forward all those years later and with the help of more books and the internet, I have improved technically and can now play a range of styles. Here comes the big ‘but’… when it comes to playing a solo, improvising or trying to play something I have just heard on the radio or in my head then it is simply embarrassing. It took me hours just to work out the ‘La La Land’ theme song (City of Stars)! Scratching around on the fretboard to find the right notes was nothing short of frustrating. And I still got it slightly wrong!
Scratching around on the fretboard to find the right notes was nothing short of frustrating. Click to tweet
What do we learn from this tale of horror and Oscar winning musicals? Basically, it doesn’t matter what instrument you play and how many years you have been playing, if you want to excel, really enjoy music and be creative, then you will want to actually hear the music you are listening to, including all the subtleties and complexities. You will then be able to:
If you want to excel, enjoy music and be creative, then you will want to actually hear the music. Click to tweet
So that is my answer to why ear training is important and the cornerstone of musical learning. However, that leads me to my next question...
Why had I, after playing guitar for so long, not been able to pick up the ability to recognise even the basics of intervals?
It suddenly hit me that learning from books and the internet had meant that I had almost completely bypassed the core skill of music – listening. I could not recognise melodies (or the intervals that make up those melodies) as at no point did I have to use my ears to really listen. From people I have talked to, who either were self-taught, had poor teaching or got bored with musical theory, I am not alone.
To work out what was missing, let’s take a look into the fantastical world of the brain for a second. I will try and keep it simple, mainly so not to embarrass myself. Amazingly, sound and music does not exist outside of your brain. Before we go down some dark rabbit hole filled with trees falling in woods, let me explain further. Your ear through various mechanisms converts vibrating air molecules of different frequencies into electrical impulses which excite fibres of the auditory nerve. Each nerve fibre carries a different frequency to the area of the brain called the auditory cortex. Here we enter the world of the brain and the firing of neurons. Neurons are the means by which data flows in your brain. Information is therefore encoded in your brain by the configuration of neurons. Different frequencies fire different neurons which then, using various brain centres, references them to previously stored configurations of neurons. The interpretation of music, including pitch, timbre, amplitude etc., is all linked to the constant referencing of the input stimuli to historical configuration of neurons.
It is a complex topic and, if people want, we will cover it more in depth in another blog post. Essentially if you want to get better at recognising musical intervals (relative difference in frequencies) then you have to build up the unique configuration of neurons to act as reference points. Like in forming any new habit this is usually achieved through repetition. Interestingly, Vibes is looking to help this process by creating more associations in your brain and therefore reducing the need for a high repetition learning.
To get better at recognising intervals, you have to build up the unique configuration of neurons. Click to tweet
Therefore, if, like me, you have learned from books without engaging your ears, then your brain has never had the chance to create the relevant configuration of neurons.
With a bit of understanding of how the brain works, you can hopefully see with dedication, you can gain the skill of ‘ear training’ and start on the road to be able to play that killer solo. Currently it requires study and hard work to allow your brain to recognise musical intervals, chords and scales. Our aim at Vibes is to reduce the time it takes you to learn and enhance the brain’s ability to process music. No tall order but we think it is possible.
I hope you enjoyed this first blog. If you have any comments then please let me know. Remember it's my first ever blog! Thanks