Guitar Teaching App Instinct Rocks Your Browser (Video)

The road to rock stardom used to begin with a pawn shop window, a beat-up six string, and mom’s garage — or at least that’s how the song goes.

But Instinct, a stealthy start-up based in New York, is hoping to add “Web browser” to the list of future-rockstar prerequisites.

That’s because the company is building a full-fledged instrument training tool that runs entirely in a browser window.

The company’s first Web app, Instinct for guitar, has been designed to be very simple, at least for the budding musician.

Users log in, pull out their own guitar and play along with the digital lessons presented on screen.

The whole thing is very visual, with deftly simple animations of fingers, strings and fretboard, all designed to take a potential player through the motions of learning a new riff.

The kicker is that Instinct is one of very few teaching tools that can also listen to what’s being played and provide live feedback.

Founders Blake Jenelle and Brian Stoner started building the project about six months ago, hoping for a tool that was not complex. “Anyone could open up and shortly be playing guitar,” Jenelle said.

Today, Instinct is far enough along to be raising a seed round of capital and counts Gabriel Weinberg, founder of DuckDuckGo, among its early investors.

If the concept behind Instinct’s app sounds vaguely familiar, it may be because of an Apple iOS app AllThingsD covered called Rock Prodigy, that used a sort of Guitar Hero-like interface for teaching similar skills.

Instinct is similar in that its developers have also solved the pitch detection problem, Jenelle said.

Pitch detection is what makes these teaching tools smart, and lets them listen to and differentiate among the various notes a guitar can play.

But just as Instinct’s similarities to Rock Prodigy may make it a viable competitor, there is a key difference.

“We’re looking to tackle the problem of listening to [a user] play, and creating a lesson from that,” said Jenelle. “That way users will be able to take any audio and have Instinct create a lesson for them.”

This is a difficult problem in computing.

And one of the major barriers to scaling apps like Rock Prodigy and games such as Rock Band lies in the difficulty of licensing content and converting it for use in the app or game.

And while other apps rely on expensive licenses and employing specialized labor to churn out lessons, Jenelle and Stoner are attempting to build Instinct to accumulate that precious content more quickly and, theoretically, more cheaply.

If it works, it will be a compelling argument for developing more broadly useable Web apps, rather than native apps, when crowd-sourcing content is part of the growth strategy.

The underlying need for content not withstanding, Jenelle thinks that good technology is just the barrier to entry in the market.

Ultimately, he said: “This is all about usability. The market leader will be the product that is most usable.”

Instinct has no firm plans on when the app will launch out of closed beta.

Whether or not Instinct gets it right, I’d be willing to bet that the millennial generation’s Slash will hone his or her skills by the light of a laptop.


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