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$9,746 pledged of $30,000 goal
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All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .

By Sam Brotherton
$9,746 pledged of $30,000 goal
backers

All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .

About

Welcome to Trebella

Trebella is an app that plugs into any digital piano and gives you the experience of having a master teacher in the room with you, every time you play. The app encourages correct rhythm and articulation, breaks down the challenging parts of a piece, and isolates your weaknesses to make the most of your practice time. Whether you are a beginner learning your first song or a student tackling advanced repertoire, Trebella keeps you working smarter so that you can reach your musical goals as quickly as possible.

We've spent the last two years building Trebella's core music engine, and are extremely proud of its ability to accurately give feedback for even the most challenging piece. We want to launch with a wide array of popular and classical repertoire, as well as a variety of drills and exercises. For that, we need your help!

How Trebella Works

A simple exercise played in "lockstep" mode
A simple exercise played in "lockstep" mode

Trebella will launch with a variety of courses, each designed around a single piece of music. Some courses teach popular songs like Christmas carols, while others are designed to help you practice (and master) even the most advanced pieces.

We believe that to learn properly it is vital to play in tempo as soon as possible. So once you've gotten the hang of a piece, Trebella will keep time and enforce the beat. If you run into trouble with a certain section, Trebella will slow down and have you practice the left and right hand parts individually. Once you get each hand down on its own, Trebella will have you play both hands together while slowly increasing the tempo until you are back in correct time.

Trebella isolating a student's hands in a Mozart sonata
Trebella isolating a student's hands in a Mozart sonata

Trebella does more than just slow you down and make you practice the difficult spots. It's also smart enough to simplify complex music, helping you overcome specific technical weaknesses. Trebella is able to determine from your errors what kind of simplifications and exercises you need in order to overcome them. For example, the opening measures of the Chopin "Ocean Etude" consist of fast sixteenth note arpeggios that can be hard to play consistently. If Trebella determines you need to work on your jumps then it will create an appropriate drill for you, in this case collapsing the arpeggios into chords. Take a look:

Trebella simplifying a complex Chopin etude for practice
Trebella simplifying a complex Chopin etude for practice

Each course not only teaches you how to play a piece of music, it also reinforces proper technique so that you can play with expressiveness and joy. For beginning students, Trebella gives you visual feedback if you make a mistake and can indicate the correct fingerings as you play. We’ve built Trebella so you’ll never have to take your eyes off the music. 

Trebella for Teachers

We've built our own sheet music editor which we use to create lessons for Trebella. Our goal is to release this editor so music educators and teachers can create their own lessons. Music teachers will be able to create lessons reflecting their own pedagogical approach, or create material designed for individual students.

Adding fingering numbers and annotations
Adding fingering numbers and annotations

The Trebella editor enables teachers to create interactive lessons centered around a piece of music. The editor is still in development, but is a central part of our vision for Trebella. Currently it allows teachers to create a Trebella lesson from a Finale or MusicXML file and add annotations throughout the sheet music, as well as fingering numbers for individual notes.

Your custom exercises integrate seamlessly with Trebella's smart teacher out of the box, but you'll also be able to give the teacher specific directions by defining sections of the piece, how strict you want the teacher to be about certain passages, and what exercises you'd like the teacher to suggest when it detects different kinds of errors. Trebella will instruct students to practice these exercises before continuing, just at it does with our own first party content.

We won't be including the editor when we first launch, but once it's ready for public consumption the editor will be included with Trebella at no extra cost.


Why We Need You

We will use the funds raised from this campaign for three main tasks:

  • Developing Content: New Songs & Lessons. First and foremost, we want to develop the best possible repository of songs and lessons for users at all levels. We will consider our launch successful if every user can find something that perfectly suits their skill level and goals. This is our biggest reason for running a Kickstarter campaign.
  • Packaging Trebella for various platforms and app stores. The technology powering Trebella will run on all major platforms, but there's still a fair amount of work involved in packaging for Steam and other app stores. Since we are continually improving the app, we want to make sure the update process is seamless.
  • Building a Platform for Music Teachers. We have already built an editor allowing piano teachers to design custom Trebella courses. We want to build a platform where teachers can make their content available to students and monitor their students' progress.

The Plan

The core technology behind Trebella has been hammered out over the last 2 years, and the system already supports almost all concepts found in sheet music. With the game as it is now, you can practice nearly any piece from simple beginner’s compositions to complex Chopin pieces. We need your help to put the finishing touches on the application, hire teachers to ensure lessons of the highest quality, and build out the infrastructure necessary to bring you new content to learn every month.

Depending on the level of your support, you will be improving your skills with Trebella as soon as the end of this year. Our roadmap for the next year looks like:

December 2017: Beta Phase 1. Release to anyone at the Early Access reward level or higher. At this stage Trebella will not be integrated with any online content, but it will ship with a selection of easy holiday music arrangements, intermediate-level sonatas and exercises, and some Chopin pieces for more advanced players. The beta will be delivered as a download for Mac and Windows, and we will send you updates weekly as we add features and fix bugs.

April 2018: Beta Phase 2. This will be the first launch that includes access to our full online catalog of music. You will be able to download new lessons as we and our partners release them.

June 2018: Public launch! Throughout the closed beta we'll be working with our early access users to learn what they love and what they'd like changed. We'll launch the app officially in June of next year on Steam and on our website, along with access to all online content. This is when your discounted subscriptions will begin.

Post Launch. After launch we will continue adding more content to the application so that you always have suitable lessons for improving your skills. Toward this goal, we will be releasing the Trebella editor to teachers outside our network at this point. Additionally, we hope to partner with IP owners in order to bring popular copyrighted music to the application so that you can also learn your favorite pieces from movies, TV, and games. We will also be working on bringing the application to other app stores and devices such as the iPad, Microsoft Store, and Mac App Store. 

The Team

 

Sam Brotherton is an engineer and product manager with experience building machine learning powered applications at Google and other companies, ranging from two person startups to Fortune 100 biotech firms. He has been building software since he was 10, plays 45 kinds of flute, and speaks Chinese. When he puts together a software development team it’s like the intro to Ocean’s 11. He met Blake in math class at Harvard, and they have been patiently laying the foundation for Trebella ever since. Sam works primarily on organizing the project and making Trebella's "teacher" algorithm as smart as possible. When he's not working, he's probably hiking in the mountains with his family and dogs, skiing, or badly playing Morgana on League of Legends.

Blake Wilkey is a musician and machine learning engineer in charge of Trebella's content and pedagogy. Despite having no traditional musical education prior to college Blake became proficient enough to play the classical music he loved, and taught himself enough music theory to begin composing music of his own. Blake's vision for Trebella is for it to help students avoid many of the pitfalls he encountered, so players of all levels can learn more efficiently. He is creating loads of original content for the app, and is also spearheading relationships with musicians, teachers, and publishers. Sam and Blake met at their topology class at Harvard, where Blake frequently bailed Sam out when Sam ‘forgot’ to do his homework. When not working, Blake can be found enjoying recreational mathematics, baking biscuits (Southern style only) and playing fighting games with authentic Japanese arcade sticks.

Jacob Kovac is a software engineer specializing in graphics programming and game development. He has been developing the game engine that powers Trebella since 2013, and is a core contributor to the open source framework, Kivy, on top of which Trebella is built. As we grow, Jacob will continue to lead the engineering team and manage the core game experience. Jacob likes organic gardening, buying early access games that will disappoint him, and giving away most of his software for free. He met Sam in sixth grade where they solved math problems, built calculator games, and played music badly. Sixteen years later they are still studying math together, working on Trebella, and making marginally better music. 

Adam Cahan is a full stack software engineer. A lifelong trumpet player and jazz musician, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of being a rapper. Eventually he transitioned into software. Adam will be building the web services to power Trebella's subscription and coursepack marketplace. Adam met Sam at a LA Tech Meetup, where they talked about the titles to blogs they had seen on Hacker News and their mutual appreciation of trip hop music.

Risks and challenges

We have been self-funding Trebella for the last year and a half, and are able to continue development at our current pace for at least another year. This is more than double the time we expect it will take to bring Trebella to market. However, to build the project we truly envision we have some concerns beyond the technical aspect of building the application.

ACCESS TO LICENSED CONTENT
While there is a lot of wonderful music within the public domain, especially from the Western canon (aka Classical Music), we want Trebella’s courses to include contemporary (and licensed) work so that you can learn music from the movies, games, shows and all the other modern music that you know and love. This requires negotiating with license-holders so we can distribute their content. The first step in starting these negotiations is demonstrating that we have an audience, otherwise they will not give us the time of day. That’s where you come in! By backing Trebella today, you will help us demonstrate to potential partners the value of working with us.

OFFERING PEDAGOGICALLY SOUND COURSES
Teaching music is an art. While software will never replace a great teacher, we can bring their talents to a larger audience. Our initial plan is to work directly with teachers to prove out the system and find out what works best. We have already reached out to a handful of music educators in our network to create the first lessons you will see in the application. In the future, we hope to empower teachers to create and distribute lessons and exercises which match their teaching style on an open marketplace.

IMPROVE THE MUSIC ENGINE
Trebella is currently quite capable when it comes to determining whether or not you are playing the sheet music as it is written. However, Trebella's musical understanding does not yet encompass the full spectrum of feeling that can be evoked by a talented pianist. For instance, many pieces are played ‘rubato’, which is when the tempo of a piece is quickened or slackened to allow for greater expressiveness. Jacob is actually working on enabling rubato in Trebella now, but this is just one example of the level of sophistication we want Trebella to have. We are confident that a combination of good algorithm design and machine learning will let us create a program that can teach you these more sophisticated concepts.

THE HIT BY A BUS SCENARIO
The greatest risk to any small software project is what happens if the team is no longer able to continue. We do not have replacements waiting in the wings, and if the worst should occur and all four of us are simultaneously hit by a bus in some horrible ‘Abbey Road’ album cover reenactment mishap, there is a slight chance that development could not continue. We will do our utmost to ensure we look left and right, and then right again when crossing the street, and to otherwise take care of ourselves. However, if we fail and Trebella’s development can no longer continue, we will ensure Trebella is released under an open-source license so that our dream does not die with us. This is something completely within our power as Trebella is not based on any proprietary software and thus ours to give away.

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