I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Skoove team in Berlin. I left their offices feeling inspired by the potential of their software for use in the classroom. Any music teacher knows that differentiation is tricky at the best of times, especially when dealing with large classes of mixed ability learners. Skoove won’t solve this problem, but it will give you an excellent, motivating tool to support a variety of different learners.
For me, one of the highlights of the product is that it is based on a clear pedagogy. What Skoove calls ‘Listen Learn Play’ is, effectively, a digitised approach to the modelling process used by teachers in classrooms every day. It works.
I was, therefore, delighted when Dr Florian Plenge, co-founder and CEO of Skoove, got in touch with me asking to write a guest post for Teacher and Musician. I’d urge you to both read the post and try Skoove for yourself.
Just over one year ago, my co-founder, Stephan Schulz, and I embarked on a thrilling new journey. We left behind our regular 9-5s to found our new music learning startup, Skoove, in Berlin.
Stephan and I were well poised to work in music education technology. My previous gigs were first as head of the DJ Division and then VP Sales and Marketing at digital instruments giant, Native Instruments, where I developed the leading DJ product, Traktor. Stephan founded Raumfeld, which makes high-end wireless hi-fi products. Having worked together at Native Instruments, we were excited to join forces again.
Our mission is to make music education fun, effective, and accessible to everyone. We were inspired by studies that over 61% of the population in the US, UK, Australia and Germany would love to learn to play a musical instrument, but only a fraction do.*
Having identified what we saw as a major gap in the market, we set about researching, developing, and testing our first product for Skoove: the world’s first interactive online piano lessons. And, on 15th September 2015, we launched in public beta.
What does Skoove offer?
Skoove is designed as a fun and effective music learning app. Through simple and effective techniques, beginners can now learn piano-playing fundamentals. Those with some previous experience on the piano, can revise and extend their repertoire. Of course, this is all at their own pace and with real-time feedback. The repertoire ranges from pop hits to film and classical, and our courses are developed by Dominik Schirmer, an accomplished musician and former lecturer at the prestigious Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts.
Skoove works in your web browser to deliver interactive, expertly designed lessons. All you have to do to get started is connect a keyboard or e-piano to your computer.
Together with the Fraunhofer IDMT research institute, we’ve developed a new algorithm called “web-based polyphone real time pitch validation”. This algorithm compares the frequency of students’ input audio with the notes that should be played, and then offers real-time feedback. And in mid-2015, we graduated from the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator programme in Berlin.
Behind our ‘Listen Learn Play’ technique
Following our distinctive “Listen Learn Play” technique, the essential elements of piano-learning, like aural training, music theory, and piano technique are carefully integrated into each lesson.
First, we present the song and break it down into digestible parts to address the student’s aural memory. Skoove then waits for the user to play the right keys, enabling him/her to learn at his/her own pace, cutting down the frustration and maximising the progress. The student builds muscle memory quickly, easily making the connection between technique, sight-reading, and keys.
While score and keys deliver reassuring feedback, the animated hand teaches piano technique, including fingering and finger-transitions. Finally, the student plays the song together with Skoove, reassured of the correct rhythm of the melody while having lots of fun playing.
We see Skoove as a great complement to existing music education in the both the classroom and extra-curricular music learning. Skoove can support, extend, and consolidate teachers’ musical content and help to develop their students’ musical practice and experience.
Our target student?
We’re aiming for beginners who have always wanted to learn to play piano but who maybe didn’t have the time or resources to start. Using Skoove, students can start playing and learn their first piano melody right away. Since Skoove adapts to one’s pace, motivated beginner students can play their first melodies in just minutes. Our current online piano courses will keep students busy for six months, and we are constantly developing and adding new courses.
As an online music app, anyone around the world with a keyboard or e-piano (and coming very soon, acoustic piano) and a computer with internet access, can start playing piano.
What next for Skoove?
Our official launch is in late 2015; we’ll continue adding more features and have plans for an iOS app in 2016.
We’re a small team with a big mission, and we cannot wait to develop even more innovative music education products to help more people achieve their musical goals.
*Sources: GFK (2012), Gallup Poll (2009), Nexus (2007)