Artist Feature Friday: Jonathan Schwartz
“Well, we have found that the average time that a player will use our app is approximately 30 minutes. This works out to about 5 lessons. With that said, everyone has different goals. We did a survey of our users, and we found that 81% of them stated their playing improved after using Jamstar.”
One of the biggest factors for creating and maintaining good tone, is of course, your playing. In fact, many would argue that your playing is the only factor that matters when it comes to creating YOUR tone. How you approach the string, accuracy, timing, bending, strumming, etc. are all important elements to developing your tone. Well, good news! Now there’s an app for that.
Earlier this week we did a review of the app, Jamstar. We decided to take it one step further and have a chat with one of the masterminds behind Jamstar.
First of all, let’s refresh your memory a little. Jamstar is an interactive application that presents guitarists of all levels courses meticulously organized by trained music professionals, and provides comprehensive, real-time feedback for each session. The application is a free download, requires no additional hardware, and, unlike anything of its kind, works across ALL platforms (iOS, Android and via the web). It’s simple to use and is compatible with any guitar.
Jonathan Schwartz, who is an avid guitar player and a big fan of Phish and other jam bands, is also the head of business development and marketing for Jamstar. Today, we had a chance to pick Jonathan’s brain about what makes Jamstar so unique, and, how it can help you develop your TONE.
Here’s what Jonathan had to say.
Can you tell us about the back story of Jamstar and how Jamstar began?
My partner, Kobi Stok, is a software engineer. He worked at SAP for about a decade…he is also a pro bass player. It used to drive him crazy when he would see his friends sitting around playing “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band.” He saw that it was fun, but they weren’t getting any skills out of it. Basically, he went to his garage and started working on the engine that would eventually become the audio recognition piece to the platform. The software hears what you are playing in real time, including polyphonic tones. It’s really a homegrown, grass roots invention.
I met Kobi through a mutual friend. I worked in NYC in the music business for about 15 years before moving to Israel. After a few months of knowing Kobi and believing in the product and his vision, I hopped on board and started doing the business development and marketing.
Jamstar caters to a wide spectrum of players, anyone from beginners to professionals, but Can someone who has never touched a guitar before use Jamstar?
Absolutely. We have courses that are so basic, that it pretty much tells you how to hold a guitar. It even shows you where to put your fingers. We have courses that start with pressing just one fret on one string! I should mention, the guy that developed most of our playback is a Berklee graduate. He’s quite the musical genius. Not only a top-notch educator…he’s a rocker (he tours with Megadeth legend Marty Friedman). He’s a cat.
We have a plan. If you look in the Jamstar market, it’s broken down from beginning, to intermediate, and all the way to advanced. It’s very well marked. You can really follow the course progress in a very easy way.
It’s a lot of fun. You know, I’m an intermediate guitar player at best [laughs]. I never played lead though. Now, with Jamstar, I find myself going back and learning scales, and actually learning how to apply them. My fingers are stronger, my speed is faster, and I have calluses on my fingers for the first time in 12 years again [laughs]. Even the easy versions of songs are fun and challenging. It’s almost like a game, but you’re playing a real guitar; no cables, and no additional hardware needed.
The songs that we license cost $.99. It’s like iTunes, except instead of just buying a song, you’re learning how to play it. We wanted to keep it affordable for the kid that just got his first guitar and wanted to learn how to play. There are competitors out there, but what I think is different about us is that you don’t need to buy a dedicated gaming console to use it. You don’t need to buy a special adapter to plug your guitar in. You don’t need to buy a special piece of software or a game in order to use Jamstar. If you have a computer, tablet, phone, or any other device, you can download the app for free and login to Jamstar without paying a dime. We have close to a 100 free lessons on Jamstar. A lot of them are exactly the basic guitar lessons that beginners need to learn.
Obviously there are a lot of factors from the users end, and everyone learns at a different rate, but do you know what kind of an average turn around time someone could expect to see results and be playing songs after using Jamstar?
Well, we have found that the average time that a player will use our app is approximately 30 minutes. This works out to about 5 lessons. With that said, everyone has different goals. We did a survey of our users, and we found that 81% of them stated their playing improved after using Jamstar.
We all know the first few months to a year of learning a new instrument can be difficult and trying. How does Jamstar help cut into that learning curve?
That’s a good question. We like to position ourselves as, is a play as go kind of learning app. Whenever you want to learn, you don’t have to schedule a lesson. No matter what time of the day it is, you can pick up your guitar and learn something. Based upon the flexibility and the ease of use of Jamstar, we really look to narrow the gap of the learning curve for players.
It sounds like your team is actively involved with your constantly growing community. Can you tell us a little about how Jamstar and your team help provide musicians with feedback and let them know of their progress?
Sure. After each lesson, you get a mini report card. It tells you your accuracy, hits, feel, etc. We also have a leaderboard that you can share with your friends. This allows us to analyze the data and provide the user with valuable information about their playing.
We also give you feedback within the lesson as you are playing. It’s that real time feedback that we have found to be so useful for our users.
I think it’s incredible that you don’t need any external devices in order for Jamstar to work thanks to the audio recognition algorithms. Can you explain a little about the polyphonic algorithms and how that helps to set Jamstar apart from other apps out there?
We have a patent pending technology that listens to what you play in real time. There is a big problem with latency in android devices. What our team has done, is create a virtual zero latency environment. We are the only application on the android platform that has polyphonic audio recognition. Jamstar is a true, cross platform solution…we work on iOS and Android devices, and the web.
Can you explain a little about Jamstar for teachers and the benefits it provides? How does a user upload/create their own lesson?
We expanded our existing application, and created a SaaS application called Jamstar for Teachers. It’s a practice tool. It’s a way for a teacher to monitor and motivate their students outside the lessons. What Jamstar for teachers enables teachers to do, is upload their own personal lessons into the platform. Plus, it automatically creates a playback for your lesson. From there, your students can practice when they’re not with you. The teacher can then login to the backend editor and see when the student practices, and where in the lesson they had difficulties. It’s meant to provide additional information for the teacher to help educate their students more effectively.
We’re actually working very closely with DR strings on this program. If you noticed, we have colored strings in the player. DR has a new line of colored strings that are phenomenal. Not only do they look good, but they sounds good, and they feel good. One of the reasons why they did this, is that there have been a lot of studies done that shows color increases the learning process. We felt by incorporating the color strings into the player, and coupled that with using a guitar that uses the colored strings, it helps with the rate of learning. We really thought this was a natural fit to use colored DR strings with our platform. DR strings are incredible when it comes to music education. They work closely with music schools and stores that have music education programs. They have also done a very good job at explaining about the correlation between their multi color neon strings and the Jamstar app. We’ll even be demoing Jamstar and Jamstar for teachers out of the DR Handmade Strings booth at NAMM. To talk for a second about DR, they really do make the best strings out there. Players including Sting, Adam Clayton (U2), Bootsy Collins, Trey Anastasio (Phish), Derek Trucks (Allman Brothers/Tedeschi Trucks Band) etc….all use DR strings. They are great strings…and even better are the people behind them. I really enjoy working with them on this project!
Speaking of guitar teachers and education. We actually created a few courses for Jamstar with Marty Schwartz from guitarjamz.com. Marty is the #1 guitar teacher on YouTube…with nearly 300 MILLION views! He developed some blues courses for us and we would love to do more with him in the future. He’s such a fantastic teacher and player.
What do you think is the key to keeping a user engaged to learning a new instrument?
I think it has to be fun. People want to learn how to play musical instruments because it is fun. That’s the key with Jamstar. We want to make our courses fun and interactive for the users. I also think it needs to be easy and convenient for students to practice.
Jamstar is designed around the guitar player, but it seems as though the instrument possibilities are endless. Does Jamstar have any plans to incorporate bass, drums, and vocal lessons?
Yes. The technology is instrument agnostic. Meaning, that this software can work with any instrument whatsoever. We hope to incorporate other instruments in the future.
If you could have dinner with one musician, dead or alive, who would it be?
We can’t thank Jonathan for FREQ’n out with us. We welcome him to the Tone Freq family with open arms. We wish him and the rest of The Jamstar team nothing but the best on their future and can’t wait to see what’s next!
Make sure to stay connected with Jamstar with the following links! While you’re at it, DOWNLOAD JAMSTAR!!