Tido Music launched in Hong Kong in March 2019. Phoebe Ng finds out more about the revolutionary digital music app from Tido Founder, Brad Cohen.
Most musicians have their stories of page-turning disasters. It’s a difficult job to do well. A slight mistake can ruin a concert – particularly with contemporary or 20th-century compositions, which rely heavily upon the efficiency of the page-turner.
Ever since tablets and iPad became a thing, developers have been creating sheet music apps with hands-free page-turning features. However, users still have to turn pages with some sort of external help, most commonly using a page-turning pedal connected by Bluetooth. It still requires extra planning and concentration though and many musicians, like me, often find it easier with printed scores.
Now, with the arrival of the next generation of software, the sheet music app game is getting more intense. Researchers are building algorithms and systems to track a musician’s location in the score and assess if a page turn is necessary. One of the rising stars of this new technology is Tido Music – a digital music subscription service and app with an array of multimedia content – which holds the promise of making cumbersome page turns a problem of the past. The service has already attracted institutional collaborators including the Royal College of Music, London, and Wellington College International Shanghai.
Tido Music’s ‘smart listening’ technology enables users to choose how long before the end of the page they would like the page turn to occur. Finally, musicians can focus on what they are meant to be doing: making music.
But Tido Music doesn’t stop here – it’s only one of the steps the company is taking towards creating an immersive environment for learning music and eventually transforming music education.
‘Music is a very rich domain. You’ve got stores that sell recordings and sheet music, you’ve got streaming platforms, downloads and DVDs, you’ve got libraries that have reference materials. All of these things actually relate to the same pieces of music but just in all these different silos,’ says Tido Founder, Brad Cohen.
Cohen founded Tido in 2013 with a simple mission: to break down the silos and create an environment where all aspects of the musical experience are connected in one place.
A musician himself, Cohen has been editing operas for publication for a long time. One of these was an edition of Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles which was published by Edition Peters. So, when he had the idea for developing a digital platform for sheet music, he naturally approached the classical music publisher and Tido was born.
‘I had the idea when the first iPad came out in 2010. I did my research for a couple of years and took the idea to Edition Peters in 2012,’ says Cohen. ‘Tido was officially formed in 2013 as a collaboration with Edition Peters, a very respected music publisher. The project would not have been possible without their fantastic support from the very beginning.’
From there, Tido created the ‘Mastering the Piano with Lang Lang’ app with Faber Music in 2015 and eventually launched the flagship Tido Music app in late 2016.
Nine years on in 2019, Tido already has over 8,000 piano and vocal pieces and over 200 videos from publishers, exam boards and labels – including Bärenreiter, Edition Peters, Faber Music, Naxos and Trinity College London.
‘We started with piano for obvious reasons – it’s the most popular repertoire with the greatest number of players,’ Cohen explains. ‘But ultimately we want to do all music.’
While there are other apps with automatic page-turning features, most are not embedded at the core of their architecture and commonly require a ‘training session’. This involves recording the player performing the piece and doing the page flip. Tido’s app, however, knows exactly where a player is in the score. It can understand the audio signal coming through the microphone in relation to the notation.
‘That’s kinda what our secret sauce is and we are very proud of the technology,’ says Cohen. A veteran conductor of over 25 years, he is confident this feature will be able to change the choral and orchestral landscape.
‘Imagine if the score were projected onto the screen, behind the conductor’s head: everyone would have their chest open, their faces up,’ he adds. ‘They would be interacting with the conductor, in an open space without the burden of books. You could just be in the music.’
Reinventing music education
As a learning space, Tido would not be complete without other sophisticated features, including masterclasses shot from multiple angles and related readings.
‘The Tido environment is a real opportunity to reconsider what education means,’ says Cohen.
‘There is a lot of exciting research about music pedagogy and a lot of that has not yet been incorporated into learning practices within conservatories.’
He points out that a lot of kids start learning instruments and stop after a few years. That’s clearly a major problem and he believes Tido may be the solution by blending pedagogical findings into the technology.
The key is in intelligent practising. For example, the app will be able to give feedback to say, for example, a player has practised so many hours this week, or alert them to a particular piece or page they have not covered.
In addition, Tido can potentially do a lot of data analysis to give users information about their actual musical outcomes. And it creates a virtuous feedback loop for people interacting with the device – for example, telling a player whether they are doing more rubato now than when they were practising on Tuesday.
‘Tido has a way of taking that information and giving you good feedback on what you are doing,’ says Cohen.
But will we get to a point where we are calculating too much?
‘Technology enables us to be more aware and flexible in our music-making. Any teacher who tried to control the amplitude or the tempo is micromanaging, and that’s not really good teaching.’
It might be a cliché but it’s nonetheless true that technology itself is not the problem but the way it is used.
As Cohen says, ‘Tido has at its very heart the attitude that music is a humane practice. It should not be mechanical. We are pretty much the only people who are doing this, and it is very exciting.’
About Tido Music
Tido Music is a digital subscription service offering an immersive, 360-degree experience for anybody discovering, learning and performing music. It connects an array of multimedia content, from sheet music, audio and video to text, images and interactive tools.
Users are invited to access Tido Music’s free 30-day trial using the following links:
IOS iPad app:
UK subscription prices are as follows:
- iPad app – £4.99 per month
- web browser – £4.99 per month
Hong Kong subscription prices are as follows:
- iPad app – HK $43 per month
- web browser – HK $43 per month
Rest of world pricing is based on UK and is shown in local app store and web.
Tailored packages are available for schools and organisations. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for enquiries.
About the author
After completing a Masters degree in Journalism at Newcastle University, she returned to Hong Kong where she works as a news journalist for Radio Television Hong Kong.
Phoebe is active in the Hong Kong classical music scene.