Musicology Aims to Streamline Online Lessons
Musicology, the Canadian-based NAMM Member, is looking to improve the online music lesson experience for both teachers and students.
Rebecca Featherstone, founder and CEO, has been a piano teacher in Ontario for over 20 years. However, last year, along with most others music educators, was forced to ditch the traditional lesson protocol in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. No longer able to use the staple tools of her trade, Featherstone’s lessons came to a screeching halt. To adapt to this new environment, Featherstone jumped into online platforms to continue safely engage her students.
Teaching in the new online format became increasingly frustrating, so Featherstone decided to tackle the challenges presented through traditional platforms by creating a state-of-the-art application for online music instruction. Musicology was built “specifically for music teachers” and is a tool created “by music teachers, for music teachers.”
We spoke with Featherstone about Musicology and the app development process.
What motivated you to create Musicology?
In March of 2020, millions of music teachers around the world made the switch to
teaching online. With the current tools available, I identified a gap in the industry, ‘Why weren’t there any video conferencing platforms designed for music teachers and children?’ I watched and struggled alongside others as we tried to make popular platforms work for us with expensive cameras, microphones, and headphones, but it was just a band-aid. I watched as my six-year-old son struggled with online learning in school, staring blankly at a screen while his teacher tried to engage her students. Music instruction needed something with exceptional audio, layered sound that did not cut out when we clapped or put a metronome on, and gamified tools to engage students to participate with us in the lesson instead of simply watching us.
How did you connect with your team of musicians and app developers?
I was introduced to the team at Arcane Four Studios in Ottawa, Canada, through a business connection. After learning they were part-time hobby musicians and parents watching their children struggle with online learning, I identified with their passion and excitement to work on the project. They have been a valuable resource throughout the build process, coming up with ideas to make the user experience more fluid and engaging from both sides of the screen.
Do you have previous experience with app development? What advice do you have for other NAMM Members who may be interested in creating an app?
I didn’t have an ounce of experience with app development when I started Musicology. I am a music teacher with a B.A. in music and have been a piano teacher and music school owner for over two decades. While the pandemic threw me into this process, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work with industry leaders and advisors from all over the world. I would recommend having a solid plan and vision written down as part of a business plan, a financial advisor for funding, and connect with all the local entrepreneur groups in your area. Go out and join every group available and never say ‘no’ to talking to someone new. Networking is key! Also, don’t get discouraged. There are ups and downs in the process, but you need to keep pushing through and believe in yourself and the vision.
How does Musicology serve instructors and students compared to other online platforms?
Musicology empowers the user. We have built everything needed to teach music online effectively and intuitively, all in one place without having to search through settings and finagle you or your students' studio setup. Other online platforms often go through a server that creates large amounts of latency, prioritizes conversational frequencies over instrumental ones, and puts video above audio. These platforms were built for business meetings, not teaching music. Musicology is on a global peer-to-peer (P2P) network that is well supported; we have brought the latency down so low that it is possible to play duets with a decent internet connection. In addition, we have full-duplex audio (layered sound), allowing you to sing, clap and play at the same time. So, for all those teachers that love interrupting their students during their lesson, you can still do that! It’s like being in the same room again. The other thing that makes us stand apart from other platforms is that every feature is accessible from both sides of the screen, making it a totally interactive experience. Musicology has built-in tools for teaching, like an interactive whiteboard to upload theory or music with the ability to annotate directly on it. There is also a virtual and playable keyboard, a drag-and-drop grand staff and guitar fretboard with a musical palette, an interactive guitar tuner, huge animated emojis, and a metronome with sound that's pushed from the student side to the teacher. This feature enables the teacher to hear exactly what the student is hearing. We are committed to constantly building new features based on teacher feedback.
When do you expect the platform to become available on platforms outside of the iOS/iPad app?
We are currently developing our web app, which will be available for early access later this month. First, we will launch the audio/video component, metronome, emojis, screen share, and multi-camera in an easy-to-navigate drop-down menu with webcam, ManyCam, and OBS. Then we will build the rest of the features like the whiteboard and grand staff until it matches the iOS version. It will work on several different browsers and seamlessly with the iOS version. All new features, including group rooms, will be built this fall.
Are you attending Summer NAMM or the 2022 NAMM Show in Anaheim?
We are very excited to be exhibiting at Summer NAMM this month and have pre-registered for The NAMM Show. Our NAMM team has been amazing, helping us have the best experience possible. We are so thrilled to be a part of the NAMMily. Be sure to stop by Booth #136 in Nashville to see us.