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Teens invent online teaching for future guitar heroes

Thursday - 4/3/2014, 4:00am  ET

guitarclubsoftware.jpg
Local high schoolers have invented a new online way to teach guitar (PickupGuitarClub.com)
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WASHINGTON -- While many teenagers are satisfied to live rock-and-roll dreams through Guitar Hero, two local high school students have channeled the video-game excitement into an online method of teaching people to play real guitars.

Jack Ross and Brian Abod, seniors at Gonzaga College High School, in the District, are set to launch a Kickstarter crowdfunding effort Saturday for PickupGuitarClub.com

Ross, who built his first tablet at age 12 and published his first iPhone app at 15, says learning through PickupGuitarClub.com is browser-based and doesn't require any hardware.

A user plugs an electric guitar into a laptop, desktop or tablet, or plays an acoustic guitar into the computer's built-in microphone or an auxiliary microphone.

"Our note-recognition algorithm listens to your guitar as you play and lets you know if you're playing what you're supposed to be, and corrects you where you need help," says Ross.

Ross says he developed the process after asking Abod, a self-taught multi- instrumentalist, how he learned to play guitar.

"He told me he learned through songs," says Ross. "I thought that was a great way to do it because traditional lessons I always found kind of boring."

Making real Guitar Heroes

To make learning guitar more enjoyable, Ross and Abod decided to borrow from the nearly 10-year-old phenomenon of teens spending hours playing Guitar Hero for their teaching method.

"It's very similar to a video game, in that notes flow across the screen and they highlight when you hit them or turn red when you miss them," says Ross. "And then after each song it lets you know your progress and your standing."

Players/learners get instant feedback, which Ross says is imperative in maintaining user interest. PickupGuitarClub.com's software tallies how many notes are hit, how many in a row are correctly hit, and specifies Strengths and Weaknesses, in categories including Chord Transitions, Timing, Alternate Picking, Finger Speed and Hammer-Ons.

"It's just like playing Guitar Hero, but with a real guitar," says Ross.

It takes a village to play a song

Ross believes the social aspect of playing guitar is important to young people remaining motivated to learn.

Like most successful digital enterprises, users can also share their experiences and successes through social media.

"It's designed like this from the ground up. We didn't just throw social on top of it; we built it with it," says Ross.

He adds, "When we were choosing our name we decided to go with PickupGuitarClub, because music is really a social experience. It's something you perform with others and you perform in front of audiences. It can be personal when you're practicing, but it's much more enjoyable when you're doing it with a community."

Ross says friendly competition will spur young people to excel.

Ready to rock

The PickupGuitarClub.com project goes live on Kickstarter this weekend.

Ross says the money raised will be used to film the teaching videos that will accompany the lessons, and beef up the project's website.

In return for financial support, donors will choose between a year-long membership, a guitar, or dinner with Ross and Abod.

See how PickupGuitarClub works:

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