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Design + Music


Rehearsal: App for Practicing Musicians

For my senior capstone project, I created a concept for a tablet application that would help musicians practice, whether they read sheet music or not. By curating the musicians progress and applying multiple learning methods, the goal of the app is to increase overall musical comprehension and help improve the musician’s ability for performance.


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App Features

Visual Musicians

These musicians use sheet music or tablature to practice music.

  • Score Card: compares what was last played to sheet music
  • Mimic Mode: plays a few measures of music and asks musician to repeat it
  • Annotations: provides annotations that vary by instrument (ex: finger numbers for piano)
  • Learn Parts: allows the musician to record their own parts (ex: right and left hand of piano) and share music parts with other users (ex: different parts of a choir)

Audial Musicians

These musicians practice mostly by ear and memory.

  • Record and Edit Live Sessions: allows the musician to create and edit new tracks for their song library
  • Compare Tracks: shows a visual comparison of tracks so the musician can analyze their differences
  • Mix Tracks: allows the musician to compile several tracks into one track that can be added to the song library
  • Labeling Tracks: to keep the musician organized, tracks are organized by song and can be labeled to help identify parts of the song, date, and other variations.

Music Exercises

These short exercises are designed to bridge the gap between audial and visual musicians.

  • Theory: tap out rhythms, identify key signatures and learn notes on a scale
  • Interpretation: for fifteen seconds, interpret the image as music
  • Ear Training: harmonize with chords, identify pitches, and quiz yourself
  • Improvisation: choose parts (bass, treble, rhythm) and play along to the looping track

I dedicated my last semester of school to investigating the question:

How can design enhance the musician’s experience?

To understand this question more specifically, I narrowed my focus to three sub-questions. Spending two weeks investigating each question, I cumulated my knowledge into developing Rehearsal: an application for practicing musicians.


Question #1

What is the unique experience of recreational musicians?

I began to answer this question by first examining my idea of what a “recreational musician” is. Without being biased by talent, I created an “experiences scale” that created a hierarchy of musical experiences based on ability, innovation, popularity, and focus.

Once the scope was defined, I sought out users to interview as inspiration for different personas. I captured the stories of Mason, a college student who was once in high school orchestra, Olivia, a pianist and violinist who takes private lessons, and Jonas, a local musician that plays guitar and synth. Click on the thumbnails to hear their stories.



Question #2

How does the visual interpretation of music influence comprehension?

This study led me to an amazing collection of musical graphic notations. I studied, compared, and categorized this collection in order to understand how four metrics (tempo, tone, rhythm, and accents) were being represented. Here are some examples:



Question #3

Where does technology succeed in improving this experience?

For the final study, I used an iPad to download and test some of the most popular existing music apps. I created site maps to understand how their features were connected. I also took videos of my self testing the apps to songs that I knew how to play on the piano. These methods informed my final product: an app to help practicing musicians.


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