Riffstation creates software that gives you the chords for any song and offers a variety of related features to help you learn to play. Now they've launched a web app, Riffstation Plus, focused on the single feature of identifying chords in songs on YouTube. It's not perfect yet, as one can see in blog comments, but they seem to be listening and are soon introducing a feature that allows user edits for more accurate chord display that also opens up some interesting social possibilities.
Riffstation's software app does have an impressive range of features with an emphasis on the needs of guitarists learning new songs and improving play. Created by self-described "guitar geek programmers", they launched Riffstation in 2012.
Riffstation Play recently launched with just one main feature, chord identification of YouTube music videos, which is apparently not an easy task. In a fun twist, they also provide ukelele and piano chords.
Built By Guitar Geek Programmers
CEO Dan Barry told me more by email. He says that the original software app is most used by intermediate to advanced guitar players for "transcribing parts and learning songs quickly."
In addition to being "guitar geek programmers," Barry says they are also "audio DSP guys":
"We build algorithms capable of listening to and understanding music. Our chord recognition algorithm is at the heart of Riffstation. It can analyse any audio track or video in less than 20 seconds and produce the chords with about 85% accuracy for maj, min and dom 7th chords in pop and rock music. We will be introducing new features as we go which will allow the community to edit chords. Think of it as version control for chords."
Some TechCrunch blog commenters pointed to problems with chord recognition and it looks like Barry's been responding there as well.
Riffstation Play's Social Potential
At this stage it's not perfect but Riffstation seems pretty clear on what they're doing and appear to be committed to iterating their way to success. But that success will not be due to algorithmic wizardry alone.
In the blog comments linked above, Barry not only mentions specific fixes to problems raised but notes that "cool new features planned for allowing user edits" are on the way. He also mentions the edit feature in his email.
In addition he noted:
"Not only are we able to provide chords for any version of any song in the world, we also get to collect the data on what songs are most popular within the guitar player community."
So there are both community and data aspects that open up with the introduction of this new web app. User edits strike me as the feature that reveals the potential for Riffstation Play becoming a social platform.
Though Riffstation's been primarily focused on guitarists, the ukelele and piano chords set the stage for other musicians to join in. There's potentially a much bigger move with Riffstation Plus than the release of a new web app.