Founded in 2008, Noteflight is an online music application that allows users to write their own sheet music with playback, save their progress, and print their work when finished – all in a standard web browser. Yamaha, founded in 1887, is the world’s largest manufacturer of musical instruments, and one of the world’s leading on-line music stores for purchasing sheet music. Yamaha wanted to leverage Noteflight’s music notation and sharing technology to create the world’s leading sheet music store and playback experience for the iPad in order to capture the shifting behavior in their target user. For the NoteStar application, Yamaha was also able to secure content licenses from the two largest libraries of sheet music in the world: Hal Leonard and MusicSales.
The first challenge: Design for a new experience:
Rocket Farm’s first challenge was the design of the iPad application. The ‘easy’ part was designing the store: the part that would run in HTML5 wrapped in the native iOS app. The eCommerce Store was modeled after iTunes – it encourages free form browsing of the catalog while allowing Yamaha’s marketers to feature different artists or themes to their audience.
The harder part of the design was how to take advantage of the rich set of gestures and interactions that the iPad offered, as well as the high resolution graphics and audio capability to create an intuitive and graceful experience for the musician, once a score was downloaded. The player portion of the app handled scaling note sizes, allowing for changes in pitch and playback speed. The app had to support page turning by both the user and the app when in playback mode. And finally, there were other unique interaction challenges: setting loop points to practice a section repeatedly, add annotations to the score, selecting different pitches. With all these design challenges, Rocket Farm undertook separate design phases – one focused on the eCommerce store and the other focused on the playback experience. Rocket Farm’s years of mobile design and development experience helped to run a structured process through challenging waters, while actively testing user interactions as they were implemented. This approach was critical as these were ground-breaking features that required more than great paper designs but the iterative incorporation of real user feedback to get it right.As Joe Berkovitz, CEO of Noteflight, noted:Rocket Farm provided a thoughtful and innovative process that got us through a lot of design challenges in a short time. They were extremely agile in how they presented and iterated on design – whether for the HTML5 store portion or the much more expressive set of interactions incorporated into the playback aspect of the app.
The next challenge: complex engineering:
While determining how to translate a sheet music store and playback to the iPad, RFS faced several engineering challenges. The Notestar app integrated Yamaha’s eCommerce engine with Noteflight’s Publishing Server, as well as the Digital Rights Management servers for Hal Leonard and MusicSales. Moreover, Rocket Farm had to utilize the signal processing capabilities of the iPad to handle pitch correction and tempo changes on the iPad in real-time, so users could speed up or slow down playback to match their own speed. Finally, there was the graphics processing – the display of music scores with advanced animation of page turning, all tightly synchronized with the playback of one or more audio tracks.
Rocket Farm’s biggest challenge?
Orchestrating the efforts of five different companies. Rocket Farm led the way for these companies (Noteflight, Yamaha, Hal Leonard, and MusicSales.com) to create an app, accounting for sheet music, digital rights, and a store in which to compound the materials.Added Joe Berkovitz:
Rocket Farm runs a well organized process with exceptional communication. They managed to keep a very complex project, with five companies and nearly forty participants in sync and time. We were able to get Notestar to market on time for the busy holiday season.
NoteStar – setting the way:
The result of these efforts was NoteStar, an iTunes-like sheet music store, incorporating two of the largest libraries of sheet music in the world, coupled with the most advanced iPad playback experience on the market for musicians. NoteStar targets both amateur and aspiring musicians with this compelling offer. Now musicians can purchase sheet music, by the track, at the touch of a button.
Rocket Farm surmounted all of these challenges admirably, as the results indicate: NoteStar currently has a 4½ out of 5 star rating on the App Store.
Appalicious said that NoteStar provides a playing experience that feels like you’re actually in the band – restoring the fun to the learning and performance.
Rolling Stone wrote,
…Unleash your inner keyboardist in time for the Grammys with its recently released NoteStar iPad app.
RFS’s work on NoteStar demonstrates the ability to create products that are smooth running, innovative, and well designed. NoteStar is continually growing, with more sheet music added each day, meaning this highly-rated app has not yet reached its full potential. When RFS develops apps, it bring years of experience, along with top-notch engineering and highly creative development team to create a polished app for any company.