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How neuroscience and haptic tech could drastically change the way we learn an instrument

Laura  Barnes
How neuroscience and haptic tech could drastically change the way we learn an instrument

For many musicians, the ability to recognise musical note intervals, chords and scales remains one of the trickiest aspects of learning an instrument such as the guitar.

While some have a gifted talent for knowing what notes are being played, many have to put a lot of time and effort into ear training.

Current approaches are either lessons from music teachers, books, or online resources and apps, all of which work to varying degrees depending on the student’s abilities and how their individual brain works.

One company is looking towards neuroscience to help create new technology that it believes will “change the music learning industry”.
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Vibes is a wearable device and mobile app that helps users learn to hear musical notes effortlessly and quickly.

The unique device, along with the app, engages your tactile sense as well as auditory sense when hearing music. The firm says this creates more associations in your brain, helping you recognise musical notes and transfer those melodies or chords to your instrument in a more natural, faster and efficient way.

“Vibes aims to help those self-taught musicians regain their faith in ear training, enjoyment in music and to become the rock god they’ve always dreamt of,” said the start-up.

Vibes believes that the ability to recognise music note intervals, chords and scales is “the foundation of music learning and vital to the 17.2 million UK adults who currently play an instrument”.

“Corresponding to today's time precious environment, the challenge exists to educate self-taught musicians in a manner that is quick and easy, so that they can unlock their creativity and enjoy music; no matter of age and skill level,” explained Vibes.

“Though there are many ear training apps and websites in the market, Vibes offers a unique combination of a wearable haptic technology and a mobile app to simultaneously engage multiple senses and enhance and accelerate the time it takes users to recognise music; allowing the users to be creative, play a song by ear, solo and improvise; and enjoy playing music.”

Vibes will position itself as a “disruptive innovation technology”, with its initial target being 18-34-year-olds, who play or have played a music instrument, are beginner to intermediate level, self-taught or previously have had some lessons, and want to improve their music ability.

The start-up’s founder, Philip Spivey, is a guitar player of 18 years. It was his inability to hear the difference between musical notes that resulted in him studying the latest scientific research to build a product to aid and speed up the ear training process.

The “ah ha” moment came from a BBC documentary on sensory augmentation featuring a device that can allow blind people to see by creating a pixelated image on their tongue using an array of electrodes.  

Spivey and his team are currently working with leading neuroscientists in London incorporating the latest scientific research into an early prototype to test the scientific concept. This will be followed by larger controlled trials and beta tests to ensure that it can be applied to the general public.

Vibes is still in the prototype-building stage and is looking to validate the market demand through signups on its website.

Those early subscribers will get a chance to be beta testers for the product. If you would like a chance to test out Vibes and find out more information about the project, visit

Tags: learning an instrument , Vibes , ear training , neuroscience , haptic technology , weareable technology

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