Rehearsal: an App for Practicing Musicians

North Carolina State UniversityUSA




Kirsten Southwell


Musicians are unique. They each bring their own perspective to how they create and practice music. Rehearsal is a tablet application that is designed to support the diverse practicing habits of musicians, whether they read music or not. The Rehearsal App is designed to optimize practice rituals with tools that explain, curate, and inspire their music. The app is accessible to a variety of musicians because it supports their primary learning style, whether it is visual (sheet music) or aural (by ear), and provides methods that broaden their musical perspective. My goal in creating the app is to improve musicians’ craft and comprehension.


This project started with the question, How Can Design Improve the Musician’s Experience? Most of the semester was spent investigating user experience, researching different methods of visual interpretation, and conducting comparative analysis to other interactive music tools. When working with an audience as broad as musicians, a constraint from the beginning was attempting to focus on target audience without privileging talent or ability. Once I chose to focus on recreational musicians, I conducted ethnographic research on three musicians. The insights they shared with me about their perspectives on creating and practicing music directly informed the final product.


For many musicians, practice is the backbone of their craft. For me personally, I realized that I quickly lost most of my musical ability once I left for college, despite nearly twelve years of learning and playing music. This realization made me wonder what kinds of comprehension were been missing from my years of practicing music. Contrary to musicians who read sheet music, I found that musicians who practice by ear also suffer loss. Sometimes it was a recording that would get lost in a folder of unnamed tracks. Other times, it would be from losing the vision of how a song would fit together in the first place. While every musicians’ needs are different, I designed Rehearsal as a way to help make practice efficient and improve music comprehension over time.


I chose to create a tablet device because it supported interaction and was able to display the music at the appropriate size. What is interesting about a music tool is that for many of the interactions, the user does not have free hands. I decided to turn this challenge into an opportunity. I used this consideration as a way to incorporate functions that could be responsive to sound, such as the way that the technology records, catalogs, and compares sessions. For the visual design, I wanted to make the interface as minimal and simple as possible so that touch interactions can be completed quickly and seamlessly.


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