The Sonoptic app for iOS lets musicians, students and teachers "see their sound" as they practice

SEATTLE, WA — July 13, 2014

A data-focused studio turns an analytical eye (and ear) to the art of musical practice

Bin Software, a Seattle company known more for its work on data-intensive systems for search and scientific computing, today announced the immediate availability of Sonoptic, for the iPad and iPhone.

Designed to give musicians insightful, real-time visual feedback as they practice, Sonoptic offers students and teachers a new tool for understanding phrasing, intonation, and pitch/rhythmic accuracy. The app includes a rich catalog of over 300 melodic drills that can be algorithmically targeted to match the player's style and level.

A Tool for Seeing and Improving Your Sound

More and more musicians are incorporating tablets into their practice and performance routines. As lifelong musicians, the members of Bin's founding team turned their experience in data analytics, signal processing and application design toward a question that intrigued them: why don't more tools for the tablet use the power of the device to deeply augment the personal act of musical practice?

“There are a number of sheet music applications that focus on bringing popular songs or longer works to mobile devices,” says Ryan Stewart, a Managing Director at Bin. “But as players, we’ve realized that real improvement often involves paying careful attention to exercises specifically designed to work on these skills.”

“We became convinced that visualization and analysis could bring insight to that work. A little bit of fun, too. So we asked: what if I could literally see my pitch, rhythm, intonation, and dynamics in an artful and detailed way? How could that make my practice time more engaging and productive?”

The Sonoptic team became focused on creating a unique experience for the individual player—particularly students. “We didn't want to emphasize a particular pedagogy, or to overemphasize theory,” says Stewart. “That's the job of great teachers. We want to provide teachers and musicians with a unique, useful tool to augment or revitalize their practice routines.”

Sonoptic presents music in a crisp, highly readable traditional notation form. As you play, the app records your performance both as audio, and in an innovative visualization overlaid directly on the musical work. The result is a detailed, reviewable canvas that increases your understanding and memory of the nuances of your performance.

Though it's a serious tool, the Sonoptic experience has a subtle gamelike quality that encourages focus, and makes repetitive practice more satisfying and encouraging. Accurate visual feedback solves some very real problems for players at all levels. A student can better understand and retain the advice of her teacher by playing back a performance and reviewing the visual material. A more experienced musician can hone aspects of breathing, fingering, posture—and more immediately understand the nuances of those choices.

Designed for Simplicity, with an Adaptable Reference Built In

For those looking to add to their music training library, the Sonoptic catalog serves as a comprehensive, convenient reference book. It comes with close to 400 appealing and challenging drills from a variety of styles including classical, jazz and blues.

Sonoptic is already being used by instrumentalists across the spectrum, including vocalists, violinists, brass and reed players, keyboardists and guitarists. It cleanly records and analyzes sound recorded through the iPad's built-in microphone and requires no additional equipment. But Sonoptic can also be used through alternate sound processing paths such as IK Multimedia's iRig.

Because its content is algorithmically generated, Sonoptic also lets musicians quickly adapt the work to their specific level and goals. With a few taps, you can quickly vary the length, rhythmic basis, keys, tempo and prevalence of accidentals of any exercise. So it rapidly adapts to your style and level of play.

They made every aesthetic and design decision from a position of respect for the musician. They've kept the catalog and controls in easy reach, but out of the way during performance. No text was allowed to encroach on the notation area. They refined a unique stationary scrolling technique to advance multi-page music without the distraction of full-page transitions. Says Stewart, “We believe tablets are right at home on a music stand. But they can do so much more than just mimic the paper sheet music form. With Sonoptic, we've begun exploiting the deep audio and visual capabilities of mobile devices while maintaining a deep respect for the power of traditional music notation.”

Special Benefits for Teachers

Sonoptic is an ideal tool for teachers, in both one-on-one and group settings. The catalog allows for quick navigation to assign or demonstrate work. A standard metronome is included, and can be used whether recording or not. And the adaptable presentation of music can be used to illustrate—and practice with—important concepts like key signatures, accidentals, transposition, tonal harmony, idiomatic phrases, chord inversions, and much more.

Pricing and Availability

Sonoptic is available now for US$6.99 from the App Store. More information is available here.


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