The self-funded company uses technology to solve an amateur’s need to break down a song to make the process of learning music easier and faster
Founders: Nischey Grover and Rashmi Chaurasiya
Year it was founded: 2017
Where is it based: New Delhi
What do they solve: Extracts notes from audio and converts it to tablatures for amateurs
Imagine playing a musical instrument before a roomful of people for the first time. Nerves aside, how would you like a tool that can help convert the music to a tablature form by using Deep Learning-based technology to detect note onsets and pitches from an audio file.
This is what Nischey Grover and Rashmi Chaurasiya intend to do. Their startup - Acousterr - is similar to Google Translate and Google Docs - only, its for music. One can extract music notes from an audio, and work on it in a tablature editor application. The company, which aims to solve the problem of capturing sound itself, was started in November 2017.
“Transcribing notes from an audio is time-consuming, even for an advanced musician and most amateur musicians simply can’t get it right. Currently, there is no service that can transcribe music directly into tabs. We aim to make the music learning process easier and faster by incorporating technology,” says Nischey.
The Acousterr website also helps people make their own music and keep a tab on what they have played.
Getting the notes right
Nischey Grover is an IIT Roorkee alumnus, with over six years of experience as a full stack engineer, and has worked with companies like Rivigo, Oracle and Fair Isaac in lead engineer positions. Rashmi Chuarasiya is a graphics designer and an artist with a penchant for UX design and is also a UI developer. She has a PhD, and is doing research in deep learning-based image enhancement, and is helping develop the Artificial Intelligence (AI) for automatic transcription of music into tablature.
Nischey has been an avid music learner. He found there was no easy application to create and play back music tablature online, which made him develop a tab maker application as a hobby project while he was still working in the corporate world. He says that every music lover he spoke to said they would love it if the tabs could be automated, which would allow a musician to break down the song and get to know how to play the tune on a guitar or a piano. This is what Nischey and Rashmi set out to solve.
The challenge involved capturing multiple harmonics of a note, where the frequency spectrum and neighbouring notes interfere too, which makes the process of understanding music non-trivial. Plus, there are effects like reverb, multiple notes, and multiple instruments, which further complicate the estimation. People get into research to understand the subject of polyphonic music transcription, and in words of a Stanford researcher, it is a “devilishly difficult problem”.
“Our technology is state of the art, and aims to circumvent any estimation errors by enhancing the UX of a post-processing editor, so that the user can himself correct the errors by listening, and then proceed to get its tabs,” says Nischey.
In March 2018, Acousterr was selected for a six-month incubation under the Nasscom Warehouse programme, which aims to facilitate startups to find the right product-market fit and provide mentorship and co-working space. The company is currently developing Android and iOS applications.
Today, Nischey is working with some senior guitarists to proliferate the product. The guitarists - Aman Panotra and Sagar Roy – are promoting the product on YouTube with 173,000 subscribers and 75,000 subscribers, respectively.
“These guitarists are helping promote our applications to music learners. We are focussing on SEO and are already ranked number one on Google for keyword 'tab maker'," says Nischey.
The music industry is worth $18.2 billion, and at any given point of time, there are millions of people learning music across the world.
Acousterr is a B2C application and is open for all. So far, they have 24,000 unique visitors per month with 78,000 page views. “We have a very good return user ratio and average session time,” says Nischey.
Their first target in FY 2019-FY 2020 is to cross three million page views per month on their web application. The company wants to focus on user knowledge before selling it to global music applications for a service or a royalty fee.
Currently, Ultimate Guitar and Guitar Tuna are some of the biggest music apps available. Others include music streaming applications such as Pandora, iheartRadio, Amazon Music and Saavn.
The company has invested Rs 6 lakh so far. “In any B2C application, it takes time to acquire a sufficient user base to become profitable, and so we’ll be looking to get funded,” says Nischey. The company is looking to raise $100,000, and plans to utilise the money to build a marketing team and go after user acquisition and business.
“If the technology is solving a complexity, it still needs to achieve scale from the B2C side and must have businesses adapting the technology,” says V Ganapathy, CEO of Axilor Ventures.
There are several music applications that can show you the chords being played, and most of them are in the USA and the UK. In the USA, there is Songsterr and TabBank. These apps cost $100 for the year. At the moment, the Acousterr website is free, and they should soon be able to attract as many users as possible worldwide.