May 27, 2015

Musopia makes mobile apps for wannabe guitar heroes

Together, guitar karaoke app Fourchords and its sister app Ukeoke offer a songbook of 1 000 easy to play songs for the guitar and the ukulele.
Together, guitar karaoke app Fourchords and its sister app Ukeoke offer a songbook of 1 000 easy to play songs for the guitar and the ukulele.
ISTOCK.COM/PATRICK HEAGNEY

What do the guitar, ukulele, phone camera and karaoke have in common? In this case, Finnish startup Musopia. After three successful mobile apps that make it easier to play the guitar or the ukulele, the startup is now bringing music into our smartphone videos.

Helsinki-based Musopia develops music apps that make it easier to learn to play and enjoy music. No more frustration over not being able to play songs you actually like.

“As much as 85 per cent of people who start to play the guitar let it go because they can’t get past the first stage [of learning the chords],” says Paula Lehto, CMO at Musopia. “Our number one goal is to help people start jamming and to play their own favourite songs as soon as possible.”

To achieve this goal, the startup has so far released three mobile apps. The first, guitar karaoke FourChords, offers an easy way to play guitar songs, its sister app Ukeoke promises to do the same for ukulele players and ChordShaker helps people learn guitar chords.

Behind the idea of simplified ways of playing music is Musopia’s founder and avid heavy metal guitarist Topi Löppönen. After selling his maintenance company, Löppönen set up a competition to crowdsource music-related business ideas in 2011. Musopia was founded the same year around the winning idea (an early version of FourChords) which was released internationally a year later.

Today the company has six employees, has raised 660 000 euros in funding, partners with guitar manufacturer Samick and has had it apps downloaded over 1.5 million times.

Four chord guitar heroes

Musopia’s CMO Paula Lehto and Topi Löppönen showcased their mobile apps in the US at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

Musopia’s CMO Paula Lehto and Topi Löppönen showcased their mobile apps in the US at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

Musopia

There are no shortage of mobile apps that teach you how to play an instrument, but Musopia has a few aces up its sleeve. First of all, users get to play their favourite tracks from the start because, as implied by the title, most songs in FourChords and Ukeoke can be played using just four chords.

“We have re-arranged the songs and created much simpler new versions,” Lehto explains. “The whole songbook of 1 000 tracks can be played through using only 11 chords in total. After you learn those chords, you can play all the songs in the app. Traditionally you would need hundreds of chords to do the same.”

In addition the songs, which vary from current hits to gospel, are displayed karaoke-style with acoustic backing tracks and song lyrics to guide the player. This also enables jamming in a group as the chords, shown as icons, and the lyrics are displayed simultaneously on the same screen.

Around half Musopia’s users are from the US, with other English-speaking countries such as the UK, Canada and Australia following close behind. Interestingly the company has particularly struck a chord with women.

“Almost of half of our users are women. In general 10-15 per cent of all guitar players are women,” Lehto says.

Next up: musical camera

It remains to be seen whether women will also embrace Musopia’s next endeavour. The upcoming app, at the moment called a ‘Musical Camera’, is scheduled for soft launch later this spring and uses an unique algorithm to compose music for videos being shot on mobile.

“We haven’t seen anyone do something like this before. You can use the app to shoot a video and the app will simultaneously compose a soundscape based on what it sees. Colours, shadows and movement help to form the soundscape,” Lehto explains. “You can just listen to what the scenery sounds like or you can record the soundscape together with the video.”

For Musopia it’s a step towards building a whole family of music related mobile apps. But there is one thing the startup won’t compromise: enjoying music must always be at their core.

Text: Eeva Haaramo

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