updated 04:55 pm EST, Thu January 27, 2011
A fresh look at music education
Macworld Expo has served as the launch venue for a variety of new iOS apps, including a new utility, Jammit, that aims to help musicians learn how to play popular songs. MacNN took a closer look at the upcoming title, which quickly surpassed our meager expectations for a "play along" app designed for music education.
The app was pioneered by Scott Humphrey, a well-known producer who has worked with groups such as Motley Crue, Rob Zombie and Ozzy Osbourne. At a Macworld Expo press conference, Humphrey introduced his app and explained his vision for a new platform that can be used by anyone who wants to accurately learn how to play tracks from their favorite artists.
Rather than taking a karaoke-style approach by digitally attempting to pull the volume down from the guitar or vocals on a two-track recording, the Jammit developers went back to the source of each track to obtain the original multi-track master recordings. The approach allows users to single out a specific instrument, or each hand for certain keyboard tracks. When attempting to play along, the user can then mute the instrument which they are trying to replicate.
If the Jammit developers would have stopped after isolating individual instruments for playback, we would have been impressed. But they went several steps further, hiring professional transcribers to convert the content into musical notation. Guitar and bass players even have a choice between notation and tablature. The app also provide an option to listen to a metronome channel, which was never part of the original recording but certainly helpful when trying to master a riff.
The interface is clean and simple, allowing users to quickly adjust muting or volume on various channels. Separate transcriptions are available for vocalists, guitarists, keyboardists, bassists, and even drummers. While some musicians received professional training, many learned by playing along with an album. We believe the app is relevant to both categories, enabling users to hone their playing via ear and eye.
We asked Humphrey if the app will eventually allow users to record their own takes multiple times for comparison, an option that developers are already considering for future updates. It would also be great if musicians could add their own multi-track recordings, but the company could not confirm if such abilities would be added.
Jammit will soon be available as a free app for the iPhone and iPad. Users will be able to buy song packages with three tracks for $10 total. Content will include groups such as Foreigner, Godsmack, Deep Purple, No Doubt, Rob Zombie, Chicago, Pantera, Nickelback and The Ramones. Humphrey noted that the transcribing team has already worked on thousands of tracks, while the range of genres will include everything from metal to classical.