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Tonara: Digital Sheet Music That Actually Listens To You Play

Tonara_ipad_mainWandering the halls of SF MusicTech on Tuesday, I met dozens of music startups that aim to improve user experience, discovery, distribution or anything else that might aid in what happens after music is created. Which is why it was such a breath of fresh air to meet Yair Lavi, CEO and Founder of Tonara. Lavi and his team have developed an interactive music app that actually “listens” to musicians as they read and perform pieces of sheet music, while also offering a marketplace for digital sheet music. In doing so, Tonara has effectively modernized the very tradition of playing a piece of music from written notation.

Sheet music, while tremendously beneficial in terms of musical arrangement and playback ability, has its limitations. While playing a piece, it can oftentimes be difficult to find and/or remember your place in the song; not to mention the physical act of turning the pages in the middle of playing your instrument. It can also often be very hard to find a specific piece of sheet music that you’re looking for.

Tonara solves these problems by offering an app that displays your sheet music, listens to which notes you’re actually playing, and automatically turns the page at exactly the moment you need it to – all while offering a built-in marketplace of sheet music from a multitude of genres, styles, composers and instruments.

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“We started Tonara with the idea that the way people learn, practice and play music will change considerably with the rise of tablet technologies and new music distribution channels,” said Yair Lavi, CEO and Founder of Tonara.

Lavi was kind enough to demo the Tonara app for me on his iPad, which he tells me is the only version out right now due to their favoritism towards the iPad’s hyper-intuitive design and functionality. The app supports polyphonic note recognition and can adjust for variables like tempo and missed notes. It can also somehow filter out ambient noise from the playing surroundings and can remain functional even for one specific instrument in a room with several others.

In addition to musicians being able to view their exact position in a score and go worry-free about turning pages, they can also receive real-time tempo feedback on their performance – which is great for those practicing or still learning. Tonara’s sheet music store features a rather wide selection of music and includes pieces for piano, violin, cello, flute and voice (plans to support additional instruments are expected as the user base grows).

A few months back in July, Tonara received $4 million in Series A funding led by Carmel Ventures, with follow-on investment from existing seed investors including Index Ventures, Lool Ventures, Eilon Tirosh, Rami Lipman and other prominent angel participants. The company says they will invest in ongoing technology innovation, secure additional partnerships with sheet music publishers, and pursue strategic marketing initiatives.

Tonara is currently available as an iPad App on Apple’s AppStore. Users can access a selection of music scores free of charge, and purchase additional scores for $0.99 to $2.99 directly within the app.

Hisham Dahud is a Senior Analyst for Additionally, he is the head of Business Development for Fame House and an independent musician. Follow him on Twitter: @HishamDahud