Playing a musical instrument is fun but learning music theory is hard and time-consuming. What if you could jam with your keyboard without knowing any theory and sound great right away? Enter Musiclock – an app that allows anyone with an iPhone to jam to various tunes hitting just the right keys every time.
“Traditionally, to play scales you need to memorise all the rules,” says Perttu Pölönen, the 20-year-old inventor and founder of the Musiclock. “It can take up to 3 years to learn all the major scales. With Musiclock you can skip that and just start playing.”
The mobile app, launched this April in Finland and New Zealand, lets the user select the backing track they prefer to play - blues, rock, jazz etc. – and the app will show scales that fit that track. The wrong notes are automatically eliminated from view and the user can simply rotate the clock-like display to get new chords that fit that backtrack.
At the moment, the app is intended for the piano and the guitar, but Perttu’s ambition is to build one for every instrument in the world. “Music theory is universal and so is this clock; you don’t even need to know how to read to be able to use it,” adds Perttu.
More than an app, Musiclock was originally developed as a physical device: a stick with rotating round parts that are cut out to hit the right keys of any chord when running the stick over a keyboard. Perttu came up with the idea when learning music theory. He noticed that just like a clock that has 12 sections, a music octave has 12 notes; combining the two in a clever way he created Musiclock.
“When I first created the device and showed it to a few composers, their feedback was positive but I wasn’t sure what to do with it.” says Perttu. “I was 15 years old and still in middle school. It took a year until I showed it to the world again when entering a national competition for high school students.”
Musiclock won that competition and Perttu went on to win a number of other international competitions, including the European Contest for Young Scientists in 2013.
“This success gave me and other people more faith in the product, so in early 2014 I decided to found a company with my older brother.”
Since the logistics and costs of manufacturing a product are considerable, the siblings decided to develop an app that would capture the essence of the physical device.
“We’ve tested Musiclock with 7-12 year old kids and they got it immediately. They even developed games and compositions out of it! Music teachers have taken it up too and the app will be used in a number of music schools in Finland this year.”
When asked if he sees himself as an entrepreneur, Perttu smiles humbly. “It would be awesome to be a full time entrepreneur but it’s all about the music for me. I am studying at the Sibelius Academy at the same time as running the company – it’s hard to combine the two passions but I’m trying my best.”
What’s next for Musiclock? The app is available around the world, so releasing it for more devices, raising a new round of investment (the company is currently backed by KoppiCatch and Tekes) and launching a crowd-funding campaign.
“The physical device I originally invented can help music students grasp music theory faster – pianists and guitarists really want it. So we’re planning to launch a crowdfunding campaign soon to help us manufacture and ship the device.”
Perttu’s ultimate ambition is to create a better method for learning music theory. “It would be cool if kids around the world would learn music using Musiclock, so that more people get to enjoy music and some might even find their calling.”