Music Everywhere

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May 2

Month of May for Tabber

Hey all, 

Sorry for the length of time between updates. We’ve been working very hard and have quite a lot of things to update you about. The month of May is going to be an exciting one for Tabber!

We’ve spent a lot of time designing a third iteration of our embedded boards. We have a beautiful Epiphone Les Paul all ready for the new pieces. The issue with the version we have been showcasing is that when we designed it, we used only one board for all 12 frets (plus open note). The problem is that as you step up through the frets, the board gets wider. It’s important to note that the string spacing stays relatively consistent (about .75cm) throughout the first 12 frets. However, the distance between the top string and bottom string from the top/bottom of the neck gets wider. Therefore, one board does not line up accurately on all 12 frets. 

What we’ve done is take the same circuit design which works very well and create 4 separate sets of boards, each consisting of the average spacing between chunks of 3 frets. This should give us a much more consistent placement of the lights underneath the strings throughout the entirety of the Tabber sleeve. While it’s more costly and time consuming in manufacturing, it has been the sole complaint so far as any frets behind 8-12 were very hard to distinguish in real time and we want to make sure we have a stellar product, even in prototype form.

We are expecting to have those boards within the next 2 weeks and they will also come equipt with different colors for each string to make the distinction even easier to understand. 

On the software side, we’ve gotten some help plugging away on a basic Android version of the application that will utilize Bluetooth to control the lights. We are working on designing more scales and chords as well as keys and modes so we have a greater library. We will also be integrating with Spotify, EchoNest, Facebook and Twitter so that you can pick a song you love, see all the notes light up and then share what you are playing. Sounds fun!

Another really cool update is that we’ve gotten invited to 3 very cool events for the month of May. The first is MTV’s Unboxed on May 6 in Brooklyn where we will be presenting and demoing Tabber for a great crowd of music lovers thanks to Brenna Ehrlich. Next will be a 10 day trip called Geeks On A Plane to South America which we won by taking first place at AngelHack. The trip is hosted by 500 Startups which is one of the largest angel investing firms in the world, so the trip will be packed with 50 special invite top-players (including us!). We’ll wrap up the month at TechCrunch’s annual Disrupt NYC conference on May 23rd. This will be great exposure for us and thank you to John Biggs who wrote the first Tabber article on TechCrunch for inviting us!

This is all very exciting stuff! If you live in NYC (or South America) don’t hesitate to contact us and come see us. We’d love to chat with you!

Talk soon

-Tabber team

We’ve entered into MassChallenge

We wanted to take a chance a let everyone know that Music Everywhere and Tabber have entered MassChallenge. MassChallenge is the largest startup accelerator in the world with access to many mentors and prizes for teams who do well. We’ve been through two other similar programs (Founder Institute and Betaspring), but this one is different as they don’t take anything from you, just offer you support and promotion. 

Through our first place win at angelhack.com, we are automatically advanced to the second round of judging, leapfrogging us in front of over 300 teams. It’s an exciting opportunity and we’d appreciate if you’d go to our profile and give us a vote. 

Our profile is at http://masschallenge.org/profile/music-everywhere

Things we will be changing

Hey Everyone,

So it’s time to release the (quite extensive) list of things we will work on before releasing again on Kickstarter. These are all things we’ve seen and heard from people who interacted with us. Your feedback is critical to us, if there are things you think we’ve missed or any suggestions, please do leave them in the comments. 

Thank you!

Changes we will make:

Kickstarter

More confident price points

     - we don’t have a confident answer to how much the final version will cost. The further down the road of development we get on our prototypes, the more we can accurately judge the costs and come up with the ideal price point for our users.

More compelling lower level prizes

     - because we went with something unique and custom, it drove our low level pledge prices too high. We may still do the custom QR codes as we’ve gotten a sample in and it’s awesome, but they would be a limited quantity and we would have standard versions at lower price points. 

More affordable price points

     - As stated above, we are not entirely sure of our price points, but we do know that there is a potential for the cost to be less, but we won’t know until we get a few prototypes in. One thing we would like to do regardless is introduce a Starter Sleeve which is a 5 fret version that can play tens of thousands of songs at a lower price point. 

Add a complete starter package

     - We may have neglected people who were excited about our campaign, but would have to go and buy a guitar in order to actually use the product. We will make this simpler with a Tabber sleeve plus guitar and amp package so that you can get everything you need in one swoop

More confident goal

     - we might have not needed $45,000 to get where we promised. We thought that with a higher goal, and given that we were early in the development process, we would increase the goal to account for that and to give people confidence that we could achieve it. That was the wrong approach given the status of the project. This time, we will detail exactly what the money will be used for and why and be transparent about that. The goal may end up being the same, but there will be a more calculated and confident approach to it. 

Detailed content plan and push strategy

     - while we failed at this early, I think we had a good plan for the remaining half of Kickstarter. The problem is that the software and hardware will not be finished in time to make many of those new content pushes a reality. With a more functional product, we will be able to show really cool videos and articles going forward.

Add some humor/spice to the video

     - Although I love our video and think it did a really good job explaining, we want to make a video people would watch again and again.

Work to become the most transparent Kickstarter project (even before the campaign relaunches) with an amazing product

Customer Development

More customer development

     - we need to find out who our most encompassing customer profile is and where they can be reached. We know it’s obviously people learning to play guitar and people who like to build things but we don’t know enough about these people. People wanting to play guitar is extremely broad and stretches multiple ages. We were raised in a startup world where this planning is absolutely critical, but the lure of Kickstarter stopped us from doing as much as we needed. 

More community building 

     - we need to use more social media, also something we have not been great at. We need to have a community of people ready for us to say we’ve launched and confident enough to make a pledge immediately or share it with their friends when the campaign goes live again. We hope you all will join us for this.

Regularly updated design/progress and content blog

     - we’ve been doing a lot better at regularly updating the blog (http://music-everywhere.tumblr.com/) with not just updates, but content. The problem is that we didn’t do enough of that before hand so no one really cared about our blog when the time came for Kickstarter

Contacts with big names - musicians, rock band, API partners, guitar shops and distributors

     - reaching out to these people after the campaign is over and coming with a feedback approach rather than a sales approach and cultivating those relationships for the ~2 months leading up to the re-launch may give us endorsements or possible integrations

Established demand for high level products including reseller packages

     - by talking to guitar shops and distributors, showing them we had ~50 people pledge the full amount and we found out what needed to change, we can draw demand for higher prizes in the $1000-2000 range which, if enough are sold, pushes the campaign even faster. To us, it’s a win-win for them, they only have to actually spend the money if there is traction that people will buy Tabber. They also provide valuable input on what they see from their customers.

Hardware

Refined prototype of Starter Sleeve

     - by building the first version of this, we will see 1) if we got it right, or 2) if we didn’t and what we need to do in the next one. By the second version, it should be very functional including RGB lights

Basic version of Pro Sleeve (stretch goal)

     - if we get the first version done quickly enough, we may be able to have a sample of the full sleeve, this one I am unsure of for the moment

Full technical details of hardware and parts

     - maker and gadget sites love details. We didn’t have any ready and I was not able to get them quick enough. We also didn’t know the full details, but the sooner we can get them to the makers, the more they can give feedback

More functional processor

     - we will integrate bluetooth, bring the processor cost down by switching from Arduino and design acrylic cases that looks more professional

Software

Greater accessibility 

     -  While the smartphone app concept is great, it does limit our market. We will build a basic desktop version to reach a broader audience (including parents/kids) and work to build that up in the future

More functional software

     - educational intro tutorial including video guides synced with lights

     - full songs with tempo, looping, and step through functions

     - spotify, echo nest, twitter and Facebook integrations

     - more to come

API specs sent to potential integrators

     - build up relationships with people like Jammit, Chromatik, Rock Band, and MisoMusic in hopes they will agree to endorse, promote and integrate

More well designed app

     - the more stunning it looks, the more it will add to the revolutionary component

Promotion

Push two stories not features

     - we’ve been pushing a “look at this cool thing that will someday do these features” approach, it needs to be more personal, about our story (what we’ve done in the off-time) and what it does for people (with proof)

Hit gadget sites hard

     - gadget sites were easiest to approach and the most beneficial for us so far

More research and press lined up on major guitar sites

     - they have been difficult to find, but magazines like Guitar World, Guitar Player, and others that have a wider reach have longer lead times and typically either want to see videos of a near-market ready product or actually test and review them. Approaching them early for feedback will help us build those connection

Pre-re-launch events

     - MTV has asked us to attend their event on May 6 to feature Tabber, potentially even getting a band to use it on stage. We hope this is just one of many good events to come. 

Our goal is to become even more transparent as we progress and that’s why we are releasing this list. We hope it along with your feedback will serve us well, but may also serve to highlight things that most projects should factor in before considering something like Kickstarter. 

Please leave your thoughts in the comments. 

Thanks!

-Tabber Team

Apr 5

We have decided to close Kickstarter and improve

Thank you all for your promotion, pledges and support. Without you, we could have never come this far and know we know that we have something real and great people behind us. 

We are updating to let you know that we have made the decision to close down our Kickstarter. However, we are not canceling Tabber. We learned a lot of things from our two weeks in Kickstarter and we have decided that we want to get better at a lot of things. We look at our Kickstarter as a big success, but we want to come back to the community with an even better product and more confidence in the final design. 

We will be actively updating on our blog at http://music-everywhere.tumblr.com/ ane we hope that you will stay connected with us. Your thoughts, questions, and feedback are critical to us making an awesome product. 

We will come out better and stronger and be much further along in making it possible for everybody in the world to play guitar. We are very excited and will put what we’ve learned to use not just for us, but for everyone here who was involved. You can reach out to us at any time at community@musiceverywhere.co

Thank you again!

- Tabber Team

Apr 3

iOS to Arduino Hacking Tips

This is a post about some of the things we found out while hacking a guitar to teach music - more info on the project is at www.tabber.co

Technology has been on a fast track to helping our lives since the computer. We’ve seen software to help us with mundane paperwork and calculation type tasks, but now technology is reaching an entirely new level. The ease with which we’re able to control the physical world from something as common place as our smartphones is here!

Let’s talk a little bit about the Arduino and its insane capacity to control our physical world from a mobile device.

There are already a couple good resources on setting up the iPhone to communicate with an Arduino. I recommend going through this tutorial first:

http://makeprojects.com/Project/Connect-an-iPhone-iPad-or-iPod-touch-to-Arduino-with-the-Redpark-Serial-Cable/1130/1

Currently, one of the simplest ways to make your iPhone control a motor, array of LED lights, or a household appliance is to use serial communication. Serial communication is a standard protocol that allows you to transmit bytes over a cable link. The Red Park cable allows you to convert an iPhone port to a traditional serial communication port that you can feed into the Arduino. This gives you the ability to communicate messages between your iPhone/iPad and a physical device connected to an Arduino.

When communicating via the serial communication port, one of the more complicated tasks is managing the messages that go between the iPhone device and the Arduino. There are a range of communication protocols that you can define using the byte length characters that can be sent over serial communication. We are going to go over two basic types of communication: state-based execution and a data load sequence.

1) state-based execution

A simple switch communication protocol is as easy as it sounds. Within your Arduino code, you will read in the serial data:

byte cmd;

cmd = Serial.read();

and then create a switch statement to execute different functions based on the “read-in” character (which indicates the desired state).

      switch(cmd){

        case ‘p’:

          //play function

          break;

        case ‘u’:

          //pause function

          break;

        case ‘r’:

          //resume function

          break;

2) Load Sequence

A more complex implementation of Serial communication may require you to actually transmit useful data between the iPhone and the Arduino. In this case, you would need to define a protocol to communicate that information. We will again use an implementation of the flag-based execution, but will add a character ‘l’ to define a mode to load data. 

        case ‘l’:

          //load function

          break;

Next we need to define the data package that we will be sending to the Arduino. An example would be to define the number of bytes for necessary metadata and then assume the remainder of the package is the described data. An example of metadata would be to have the first 4 bytes of each data package contain the size of the data package by taking the sum of the first 4 bytes. This allows you to correctly parse the data in the Arduino code.

We should then define the load function that will actually read in data from the iPhone. This function will need to read in a series of data pieces from the iPhone. The first piece would be the meta data so you could immediately set a mode for reading the meta data as follows (mode = 1):

      if(mode ==-1){

        if(index < 4){

          dataLength = dataLength+Serial.read();

          index++;

        }

      }

This bit of code will read in the meta data while in “meta data” mode and give you the total data package length.

With the data package length, you can then easily read in the remainder of the data using a similar mode for “data read” (mode = 2):

      if(mode ==’2’){

        if(index < dataLength){

          data[index] = Serial.read();

        index++;

        }

Now that we’ve taken care of the Arduino side, let’s take a look at how the data is being sent from the iPhone. If you’ve successfully completed the Redpark tutorial, you should be familiar with the RscMgr package. The iPhone code will simply take an array of data and send it using the RscMgr command for serial write. Here is an example of code you can put in your button-click function:

         //define a temporary array

         UInt8 temp[dataLength+1];

    temp[0] = 'l';

    for(int i=1; i<dataLength;i++){

        temp[i+1] = (UInt8)someDataElement; //for example a digit = 0

    }

          //send data over serial connection

    for (int i = 0; i<songLength; i++) {

        txBuffer[i] = temp[i];

        if (i%128 == 0) {

            [rscMgr write:txBuffer Length:128];

            NSLog(@”wrote index:%i”,i);

        }

        else if (songLength == i)

            [rscMgr write:txBuffer Length:128];

    }

You’ll notice that the buffer size here is defined in lengths of 128 bytes. If your data package is more than 128 bytes, you will have to create an extra handler to combine the data after being sent over serial. This is due to limitations of the Arduino serial buffer size. Another important consideration is the memory limitations of your Arduino model. An Arduino Uno model only has 2 MB of memory available to read and store real-time data. Not ideal for a production package in many cases, but great for creating prototypes!

Here you have it, a data package communicated to the Arduino from the iPhone. Share with us what you create or intend to build in the comments!

The ingredients of a great hackathon

The Tabber team has been involved in several hackathons. We built the first iteration of Tabber at Startup Weekend Boston in October. It got second place but was the crowd favorite. Ryan and myself both had separate startups at the time, so it took a few months for me to finally say “ya, I’m going for this full time.” However, one of the most appealing parts of hackathons that they all share is that you have pressure, you have to pitch, and you get instant gratification (or disappointment). Due to the response we got, we knew we had something at least somewhat viable. 

So we visited the Music Hackday Boston and made a few friends, checked out what they had to offer, and also do a little bit of work in the middle of a chaotic weekend for us. We liked it, so we made the trek out to Music Hackday San Francisco. We had all the parts to finally put together the new prototype we had been working on, but we’d have to write every ounce of software that weekend because we had none. We managed to pull it off and got to pitch in front of a great audience and then go to a really big music conference the next day, toting around the Tabber we had just built. 

Probably the best thing that happened there was meeting Greg Gopman who heads up AngelHack. He invited us to come to AngelHack and we were thrilled. We knew we had to build something completely different in order to follow the rules. Luckily, our software we built at SF Music Hackday was, well, hacky. It didn’t quite work and was extremely limited in functionality, i.e. it couldn’t actually play songs. Writing brand new software to take any tab from the web, convert it to our system, and then stream it in real-time to your phone which could then light up the song notes, all in under 30 hours, ultimately won us the competition. Here’s what we AngelHack showed us are key component of a great hackathon. 

Clear communication channels

Everything you needed to know about what was going on throughout the weekend was fully conveyed to you by AngelHack. How? They actually built a dedicated website for updates, feedback, live chat and more (this is the kind of site that could be a business in and of itself). If you needed an answer, you didn’t have to seek out someone who worked there or ask the people next to you. You just hopped on to the site and the information was there. This clarity allows teams to keep focused and build an awesome product. 

Talented builders

A must have for any good hackathon is people who can actually build things. I know because I am not necessarily that person. A good team needs three things: a hustler, a developer, and a designer, but the most important for a hack-a-thon is someone (or multiple people) who can build. That’s because when you get up to present, the number one question everyone is going to ask is: what did they get done? Of course you need a good idea and people need to think it’s validated, but people come to hackathons to see what can get created in 30 hours, not necessarily what can be ideated in 30 hours. AngelHack had a ton of amazing teams that built really, really cool things in that time. 

Real prizes

You should never enter into a hackathon for prizes alone (most people don’t get the prizes). However, cool prizes do further your incentive to do well. Everyone thinks of how great it would be to get some cash in their hand, but think about what it means for you going forward to win a trip on one of the biggest angel investors business trip to South America, have lunch with another huge angel, and get a trip to SxSW where you can promote your product to everyone, literally, in the tech community. AngelHack didn’t just have prizes, they had awesome ones and a lot of them. 

Top-notch judges

When you know that the gatekeepers to winning and receiving those prizes are some of the most credible people in the industry, it takes your drive to a whole new level. You know the person you are pitching to is not some run-of-the-mill business person, but quality people who know their stuff enough where their questions and opinions are far more valuable than the prizes themselves.

AngelHack nailed all of these things which is why we think they’ve put on the best hackathon. As hackathon enthusiasts, we encourage you to check out any hackathon if you get the chance but definitely, definitely keep an eye out on www.angelhack.com for their next event. Hackathons are one weekend of your life but if you put in the effort, they can be one of the most important weekends. The guys from AngelHack make sure all of the pieces are in line so that you can come away from that weekend knowing you rocked it and built something awesome and we hope more hackathons rise up to new levels. 

Cheers!

Traditional music theory learning

We’ve seen a lot of comments from musicians that claim that Tabber can’t really teach people because there is no music theory attached or that it devalues musicians. We have every intention of putting musical education into our application, but in a way people can understand with less knowledge of the field. The point of Tabber is to get the basics of guitar presented in a way that people feel confident about. Tabber alone is not going to make a remarkably talented musician who understands theory. Truth is, that is not who Tabber is necessarily meant for. As with every skill, it takes practice and we will provide those educational materials to everyone who would like them. However, there are a fair amount of people who just want to pick up the guitar and play along to their favorite songs and not sound horrible. Tabber gives people the confidence to become a full-time musician, or someone who just wants to play for fun. We feel that more people playing and more music enjoyment does everyone good. Music is something that so many people enjoy, but the full experience of playing along is something that people feel is out of reach because of current learning methods. That’s what Tabber intends to change. 

We’ve submitted!

I’ve hit the submit for review button on @Kickstarter after a lot of work on the video and campaign. Now, we wait in excitement!

Tabber is tired from SXSW

Tabber is tired from SXSW

Kickstarter delay

We had to delay Kickstarter until next Saturday. Look for it then (we’ll update you)!