Free Web-Based App to Help Musicians Improve Joint Music Making Abilities

In today’s increasingly globalized world and with access to so many tools and gadgets, one challenge still remains: how can musicians learn to make and play music together, but while being physically apart? Making music together requires not only individual skills and musical expertise, but also the ability to coordinate one's actions with others.

In the last decade there have been several attempts to make music “live” via the internet, but there are various obstacles. First there is the technical side e.g. high bandwidth internet, situational adjustments that guarantee a reliable usable connection etc., and then there are human limitations e.g. the lack of sufficient opportunities for joint rehearsal, or the lack of research-guided exercises that would allow for learning transfer across pieces and partners.

Professor Natalie Sebanz at the CEU Department of Cognitive Science and Thomas Wolf, post-doctoral fellow at the CEU Social Mind Center, aim to address these challenges with an app, a simple but highly innovative idea, allowing musicians to practice together, even when they are alone. The project, Training Alone to Play Together App (TAPTAPP) has recieved an ERC Proof of Concept Grant (€150,000 over 18 months) intended to help bridge the gap between results of pioneering research and early phases of its commercialization. 

Currently there are no training apps that specifically train musicians’ ability to play together - rather, they may improve the quality of joint playing by refining individual skills. Based on the researchers’ solid record in social sciences, cognitive sciences, and humanities, they plan to bridge the gap and bring a direct positive impact on society by contributing to a better musical education. While it certainly cannot replace real practice together, the project offers a distinct solution that could result in considerable gains both in the field and for the end users, by creating a useful and supportive learning method for musicians and offering an interesting graduation of difficulty levels with increasing learning success.

“This is my first attempt at turning basic research findings into an application. Having studied interpersonal coordination for many years, it’s a great pleasure - as well as a big challenge - to work on an app that will allow musicians to practice joint music making on their own. I am grateful to have this opportunity through the PoC grant and I hope we will be able to develop an app that is fun to use and highly effective,” says Professor Sebanz.

The app will be web-based and freely accessible to a large pool of users, providing a tremendous benefit to musicians across the world who are striving to improve their joint music making abilities.