image

The Next Big Thing

Karaoke for kids who play instruments: Hong Kong’s TapTab.io helps music teachers build virtual classrooms in students’ homes

Start-up offers accessible online tutorials, with students mimicking teachers’ performances so parents can track their progress

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 November, 2015, 8:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 November, 2015, 8:09pm

A Hong Kong-based start-up is bringing new technology to music teaching. It has created a do-it-yourself platform that allows teachers to upload videos and music scores so students can follow them at home or elsewhere - a bit like karaoke with the emphasis on instrument-playing.

TapTab.io was founded in June by former IBM employees Patrick Fan and Jessica Yeung. They drew on their shared passion for music and the belief that music teaching has not kept pace with technological advances.

The company’s app and online platform is now being used by 21 primary schools in Hong Kong to enable music students and members of school orchestras to practise at home while watching their teacher’s rendition on-screen.

“Nowadays, a lot of students learn music by watching YouTube videos or music apps, so we found the student behaviour had changed,” said Yeung.

“Teachers are also seeking a new way to provide this kind of multimedia interactive material ... to attract their student’s attention.”

Music lessons for kids rank among the most sought-after extracurricular classes among parents in Hong Kong, with about 147,000 active music learners in the city, Yeung said.

YouTube tutorials and apps that teach chords or tempos have become increasingly popular in recent years, but Yeung said TapTab.io is the first platform that lets people upload their own multimedia teaching materials online easily and cheaply so they can connect with students.

READ MORE: Top 5 most promising Hong Kong start-ups

Developed by Fan, the software allows users to upload audio or video files of their performance. These can be automatically synced with the original music score they are teaching.

Students can slow down the piece as they first start to learn, and add other instruments to mimic playing in an orchestra.

To help them focus on one part of the composition, the authors added skip forward, rewind and replay functions.

Schools sign up for an annual subscription and pay between HK$150 and HK$300 (US$19 to US$39) for each student account. Uploading a new score costs from HK$200 to HK$400, depending on its complexity.

At first, piano player Yeung and guitarist Fan developed an app allowing musicians to record and rate their playing ability. But market research highlighted a gap in the market for more easily accessible software that can help teachers extend their virtual classrooms.

The app also lets busy parents monitor how their children are progressing.

“For me as a teacher, it allows the parent to know how the music sounds from my own demonstrations,” said Ernesson Chiu, director of Centre Stage music school.

READ MORE: Music for your ears - Hong Kong start-up says Aumeo pocket device first to customise listening to people’s unique aural signature

“The parent will also get to know what’s happening during the lesson as I can bookmark specific comments at particular places while the student is playing.”

Yeung said the company is working with a Taiwanese music publisher which plans to use the platform in place of the music book and MP3 recording format it currently uses.

It will start expanding to Singapore and Canada in the coming months, with a numner of Asian countries to follow next year, according to the founders.

The start-up was one of 10 finalists at the EYE accelerator programme run by Google and the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Entrepreneurship.

TapTab.io is also an incubatee under a scheme launched at Hong Kong Science and Technology Park.