Tunessence aims to make learning guitar fun through utilizing popular music to teach students individual techniques that will allow them to play any song. CEO Alex Soto (pictured left) explains how their product works, why him and his co-founder Matt Bauch (right) chose Pittsburgh to start their company, and the importance of focus.
Describe Tunessence in one sentence:
Tunessence is a virtual guitar teacher in your web browser that “listens” to you and provides feedback to make you better.
How does Tunessence work?
You come to our site and choose what song you’d like to learn—say Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. Instead of teaching you how to play that song from the get-go, we’ll first get a feel for your skill level and then build an individual lesson plan to help fill in the gaps between your current abilities and what you’ll need in order to successfully play Wish You Were Here. You’ll then learn songs in the same genre that emphasize techniques so that by the end of the lesson, you’ll have the skills to play the song you initially chose and you’ll have fun and stay engaged in the process.
In a way, it’s very similar to Codecademy, but our listening technology allows Tunessence to provide an even more personalized experience, which is important for players at an intermediate level.
Why did you decide to focus on intermediate guitar players instead of beginners?
There are plenty of tools out there for beginners – and it’s all free – but once you can play a few chords and a few songs, there’s a ton of information out there but nothing to organize it and guide you through an appropriate sequence of topics. So we’re focusing on those players, which allows us to do a lot of cool things.
How did you come up with the idea?
Matt [Co-founder and CTO] and I met freshman year of college as lab partners in a programming class at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). About two years ago we started talking about creating a startup and brainstorming ideas. The idea for Tunessence came to us one night when we were jamming together and I was struggling to play a song from a guitar tab online. We realized that a lot of people learn that way, and it just kind of made sense to make something better.
Neither of you are native to the Pittsburgh area. Why did you choose this city to start your company?
We applied to a lot of accelerators across the country but chose AlphaLab because of their great network of entrepreneurs and connections we already had at CMU. CMU was a big part of our decision. It’s right down the street so we’re able to meet with our old professors a lot who help us work through problems as they come up.
If you could give one piece of advice to an entrepreneur just starting out, what would it be?
Focus! We started out trying to do a very general thing, create a product for every instrument that works on every browser, and these were the kind of things we worried about right off the bat. Now it’s all kind of irrelevant.
The corollary to that is to test your idea really well. Throw it out there. Even if you thought that you’ve thrown it out there, you probably haven’t.
Finally, when you approach problems, you can never prove yourself right. You should constantly try and prove yourself wrong and as long as you’re never able to prove yourself wrong, then by default you’re right. Challenge yourself.
Where can people find out more about your company or sign up to be a beta tester?
You can learn more about our online guitar lessons and sign up for our beta test at http://tunessence.com/. You can also follow our progress on Twitter (https://twitter.com/tunessence) or Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/Tunessence)