Swapping a push bike for a battered guitar can lead to more than you ever imagined, as Jerry Kramskoy, found and CEO of MusicIncite Ltd. told Matt this week…
Tell us a little of the background to MusicIncite, and what inspired you to start the company
The inspiration to start MusicIncite came from my experiences with music and in hi-tech over the decades.
At the start of my musical journey (pre-Internet), I failed miserably at learning music theory. Being into rock, school music lessons held no appeal for me. If only RSL Awards had existed then! Or BIMM and ICMP.
Aged 9, living outside Johannesburg, I was pushing my bike through the bushveld and met a kid carrying a beaten-up acoustic guitar. We swapped. That started my life-long love of music and guitar. This has taken me, self-taught, from my knee-shaking first gig in my early teens, to getting signed by EMI records for a compilation album track, on Metal for Muthas Vol 2 as part of NWOBHM. Iron Maiden were on Vol 1. Our singer, Marc Storace, left to join Krokus. Marc later asked if I’d be interested in a European tour as second guitar with them. I stayed with my wife instead.
Many years later, I signed up for an intermediate/advanced class at the Guitar Institute in Acton, and this time I understood theory due to the inspirational teaching of Shaun Baxter, a top UK guitarist, and fellow curry afficionado.
I became an expert in music theory and its application on guitar, and invented a visual method for teaching musical relationships that are the foundations of melody and harmony. This developed into a book, and then software prototypes.
In 2013, I founded MusicIncite Ltd, with an intense desire to help to help those struggling with theory or stuck exceed their perceived potential as guitarists, to create a music education platform for them, and for the teachers that teach them to get their points across while reducing their efforts. This also supports technique practice (creation and sharing).
emuso is your signature product, where does it fit into the 21st century music education landscape and what are the big changes for v3.0?
Learning about music requires doing. Seeing, hearing, listening, singing, playing, building vocabulary, rhythmic skills, ear training, copying others. Not just reading about it or listening to it. This is the whole point of emuso. Students can start exploring musical concepts on virtual guitar from day one, long before any technique has developed. They can create a scale and chords on day one, with no notation and an understanding of how these relate. This is impossible starting with notation or tab.
Emuso’s design allows students to minimise thinking in terms of note names, and where they are located on guitar, and maximise thinking in terms of intervals, relative to a chord root, or tonal centre. This greatly reduces the learning effort, reducing the chance of cognitive overload.
Emuso is a platform, comprising cloud-based interactive content and a hybrid application for Windows 10/11 and MacOS 12 up. The application includes a toolkit, with editable chord and scale libraries, a rhythm explorer (unique to us), ear trainer, visual theory explorer, and virtual guitar, bass, and piano. Users can create their own chord shapes and invert them, leading to many new discoveries (including for me). The application brings the interactive content to life.
MusicIncite provides this content currently from emuso.buzz, though emuso is designed for white-labelling, and individual teachers may just use the toolkit.
A big difference between emuso and the various tab players, such as SoundSlice, is that tab gives no clues to note choice. You learn where to place your fingers and when. Emuso provides semantic tab. During playback, the notes appear as labelled circles, and that labelling can provide the interval relation with the underlying harmony. Using layers, a melody can be visually superimposed on a chord progression. Additionally, emuso lets the user place “memos” into a rhythm part, which appear at the right time to remind the user of some chord or scale shape to experiment with while the overall piece of music is playing.
V3.0 is going through user trials currently. The user interface has been greatly reworked to simplify the user experience.
[You can read more from Jerry about emuso at the end of this feature}
You’re passionate about music education, what are your feelings about the Model Music Curriculum and the new National Plan for Music Education?
I have very little experience of teaching young children, so I don’t feel qualified to comment. That said, MMC is very thorough, with a wide range of suggested music, and I’m happy to see that notation is not enforced. I think that concentrating on certain keys isn’t that critical these days, depending on playability on-instrument, and especially so if notation is not used. The sooner that students realise music is primarily about musical relationships (intervals) unfolding over time, the better.
I do think that music performance can be daunting, especially in a class setting, and that needs addressing for its social consequences. This of course is true of school lessons in general.
The National Plan for Music Education makes very little mention of technology, other than for performance in A-level. No mention of how it can help with composition, or indeed learning the elements of music, such as chords, scales, intervals, tonality, rhythm, and so on, and again an over-emphasis on notation that is not required with MMC.
Ear training is missing. That’s shocking for something that is experienced principally by our aural perception and aural processing.
Visual instruments are especially open to learning via intervals, as these have a direct relationship with hand shapes. Digital technologies allow experimentation very early on with zero need to know note names. The same goes for notation. Technology can avoid this.
How do you feel music retailers, manufacturers and distributors can best support music education?
Retailers providing links to local teachers, community music groups, music hubs, and to educational resources, as well as in-store tuition. Possibly providing discounted equipment, especially for deprived areas.
Manufacturers providing educational resources packaged with the equipment they manufacture.
Distributors are trickier, as they can incur significant costs to the education suppliers.
If you had to choose your top 3 albums/recordings, what would they be and why?
- Royal Scam, Steely Dan. I love Steely Dan, their musicality.
- Blue Matter, John Schofield. A very original player, who’s worked with many other great artists. Master of outside playing, and the half-whole scale.
- Night at the Opera, Queen. Bohemian Rhapsody blew me away at the time.
Choose 3 live music events which made a significant impression on you, and why.
- Live Aid. A terrific demonstration of the world coming together.
- Reading Festival. Great bands, and I got soaked.
- Sliema Arts Festival, Malta. I was asked to put a band together for a Maltese singer, and we headlined it, on a beach, in front of around 14,000 people.
More from Jerry on emuso
Emuso’s support for scale-related chord families makes it very easy to create chord progressions.
For example, here is the B major scale and its II-7 chord. This takes at most three clicks. One to create the major scale (its tonic can be dragged anywhere on the “guitar” and the scale shape adjusts. In this case, the tonic is at B), one to select scale-related chord families, and one to click on the second note (C#) of B. Thereafter, clicking on any scale note creates the appropriate chord, and each of these can be added to a chord progression with one click. Non-diatonic chords can be added, or existing chords edited, allowing for secondary dominants and modal interchange.
Chords and scales can be switched between any of the virtual instruments, including chord progressions.
V3 includes visualisation of the CAGED system, moving through it one click at a time, and includes a “capo”, to help students appreciate how this works, with the chord names and pitch names presented as though the capo were at the nut. We did this, working with a Taiwanese university guitar instructor, who also teaches at high-school guitar clubs, and privately.
In addition, v3 comes with very strong support for MIDI guitar and MIDI keyboards.
V3 makes it extremely easy to create melodies, and hence create technique practice regimes with whatever shape you wish.
The emuso platform also comes with interactive content, as mentioned above. Here is an example. This is our own content, though we can license emuso so other contents can be used instead.
Finally, for a more immersive experience, v3 can frame-accurately synchronise interactions, tests, tasks, with points on a media timeline, to show a chord shape during a video lesson, say, which the user can save off, or switch to a different instrument. This content will become available later in the year.