Music lessons in a pandemic: How one Edmonton company is offering AI-led music courses

Greg Burlet realized that physical distancing rules during the COVID-19 pandemic could create problems for private music lessons.

Because many aspiring musicians can’t attend lessons in person, the Edmonton developer created AI Music Lessons, an app that uses artificial intelligence to teach music.

The courses are offered through Frettable, an AI music transcription service that Burlet created. 

It uses the microphone on a laptop or tablet to listen in on a user’s playing, then offers immediate feedback on which notes were played effectively, where timing was off and which parts should be practiced at a slower speed.

“It’s intended for beginners, so it will teach you everything from how to hold your instrument to how to play Wonderwall on the guitar, so you can play it on your balcony and get the attention of the girl or guy next door,” Burlet said Monday on CBC’s Edmonton AM.

An Edmonton developer has created a new smart-program to help people learn music from home. 5:40

The app offers courses or tutorials on how to play individual songs for guitar and bass, with plans to offer courses soon for piano as well.

Many private music lessons have moved to online video chat services during the pandemic, using apps like Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts. But Burlet said those can create problems with latency when instructors are listening over a video call rather than in person.

His app isn’t meant to replace music teachers with computer instruction, Burlet said.

“It’s meant to be a supplemental practice tool so you can really dig into specific exercises and songs and just continue learning from home,” he said.

“A lot of people still really value one-on-one instruction, and a lot of people are completely fine with self-directed learning. So it kind of depends on what you’re comfortable with.”

Frettable offered the music lessons for free from May to July and helped host the International Blues Camp for Kids, which was forced to move online this year.

Students learned the fundamentals of playing blues music on guitar and bass before meeting online through Zoom to play together and show what they’d learned.

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