A smartphone can be your music guru

A smartphone can be your music guru

With a smartphone in hand, you can practise swaras and ragas to perfection in the comfort of your home using the mobile app Riyaz.

Developed by Bengaluru-based startup Musicmuni Labs, the app helps you learn Carnatic and Hindustani vocals through step-by-step modules. You can sing along with the instructor or listen and repeat and the app will give you immediate feedback on your performance.

“There are tons of resources to learn Western musical instruments and singing, but hardly any for Indian classical music traditions. We wanted to make learning Indian classical music more accessible using technology,” said Sankalp Gulati, co-founder of the company.

IIT-Kanpur alumnus Gulati, and co-founder Gopala Krishna Koduri, alumnus of IIIT-Hyderabad, were pursuing their PhD from the Music Technology Group, at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. Their interest in developing technology to facilitate learning of Indian music tradition began with a project they worked on with their professor Xavier Serra. “The project was to improve domain knowledge of music information processing in five music traditions, including Hindustani and Carnatic. After its completion, we received a grant from the European Union to transfer the technology and develop products for people to use,” said Gulati.

The company was founded in 2016 with the grant while they were still doing their PhD, with professor Serra as a co-founder and several other batchmates as collaborators.

They interacted with senior Carnatic and Hindustani singers, including T M Krishna, to find out what issues they faced when teaching music, especially to children. “Most of them told us that when children practise at home by themselves, they make mistakes which are corrected only when they attend the next class,” Gulati explained. To keep young children engrossed, the team is also developing a separate child-centred interface within the app with an interactive mascot.

A special feature of the app is that it gives you visual feedback with a graph charting the pitch of your voice. This would be useful for learning to sing Harikatas and Gamakas. The app will also be particularly beneficial to beginners, the team believes. “From our experience, we know that learning music is seen as a financial burden by many. The cost of  formal training may be an entry-barrier for people who want to explore their interest,” Swapnil Gupta, a collaborator, explained.

Soon, they want to introduce lessons on the theory behind the two traditions and include video interactions. At present, the app is available in the Beta version on Google Playstore and it has over 30,000 downloads to its credit. The team will launch the final version within a few months with more lessons.

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