One of the most frequent fights children have with their parents is how often they practice piano. Teachers typically expect their students to practice three or four times a week, but for many kids, it’s a high expectation. Now, learning to play the piano can be much more enjoyable thanks to Israeli startup JoyTunes, also known as the virtual piano instructor.
Founded in 2010 in Tel Aviv, JoyTunes has developed three mobile applications that help people learn an instrument. Teachers can use the app – currently available on iOS devices for piano – to enhance their lessons, and students can either practice or use the app to learn on their own.
At the moment, JoyTunes only offers tutorials to learn piano, but the team is working to expand the number of instruments.
According to the company, its three iOS apps (expected to be released to android devices soon), can improve musical skills. You may start with the basics, learning simple notes and scales, and eventually build your way up to playing entire songs. Just place your iPad or iPhone on any surface in front of you, and hit the keys (on an actual piano or keyboard) as they’re presented to you. Your mobile device will be able to hear if you’ve made mistakes, so you can go back to correct them if needed.
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If you’re a teacher, you can use JoyTunes’ Piano Maestro app to help keep your students motivated by making their practice time more engaging. Students are able to practice the skills taught to them by their teachers by playing along to songs ranging from classical music to pop tunes.
While playing along with the application, Piano Maestro records the performances of its students and awards them stars if they play well. If a student earns three stars or more, they can send their score directly to their parents’ mobile device.
If you’re an individual learning to play on your own, you can use JoyTunes’ Simply Piano app to learn the essentials and then tutor yourself by having the application open in front of you while you play on your instrument at home. The application is designed to hear if you make mistakes, giving you the ability to know when you erred and fix them.
JoyTunes’ third app, called Piano Duster, is a starter version designed for young kids who have no prior musical knowledge.
Since 2010, JoyTunes’ co-founders Roey Izkovsky and brothers Yigal and Yuval Kaminka have raised $7 million from angel investors and venture capital firms such as Aleph, Genesis Partners, Formation 8 and Founder Collective. Their current business model is based on in-app purchases, ranging from $5 to $60 each.
Keeping students engaged
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JoyTunes’ biggest drawback is that you need the motivation to continue practicing in order to improve. While the application does “gamify” the act of learning an instrument to make it more fun and attractive, without motivation (or a teacher breathing down your neck), there’s no way for JoyTunes to force you to keep working.
However, thanks to the gaming aspects of the application, JoyTunes has helped many teachers and parents keep their kids interested in playing and practicing the way they need to in order to hone their skills.
“Teachers have told us that they had a student who already quit piano and just as a last resort they gave them JoyTunes,” co-founder Yigal Kaminka tells NoCamels. “A few weeks later, the students asked to start again, and now they’re the star student of the whole studio.”
Using the power of games to master musical skills
The idea for JoyTunes was born after Kaminka – an oboe player in the orchestra – had toured Germany with a world-renown conductor. He returned to Israel to visit his nephew, who was extremely excited to show his uncle his new video games, but not at all interested in showing off his piano skills. After being urged by his mother to start practicing piano, a fight ensued, a fight that almost anyone who learned piano as a child has had with his parents.
“We decided that we wanted to end these fights using the power of games to master musical skills,” Kaminka says, and that’s why JoyTunes combines aspects of video games and music.
Can JoyTunes replace my instructor?
While the JoyTunes team hopes the application will help new musicians, they urge people not to forget that as fun and helpful as JoyTunes’ apps are, nothing can help you capture the “soul” of music without a proper instructor.
So whether you’ve been hankering to master Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F major, or want to impress your friends with Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” (or anything in between), JoyTunes could very well be the app for you.
Photos and video: Courtesy