Everybody likes playing a music instrument, though a lot of us don't really know how to. That is partially why game consoles that make us feel like we know what we're doing are so popular. Learning to play a real instrument is much harder and is definitely more tedious: you have to practice a lot before you can play a Beatles song. That is why Ovelin, a Finnish start-up, decided to develop Wild Chords, a computer game that is played with a real guitar. We talked with Chris Thür, co-founder and CEO, to find out more about the game and the company behind it.
Wild Chords is an iPad game aimed at beginners that is played with any real guitar, be it acoustic or electric. The game takes you to the virtual city Ovelin, where the animals have escaped from the zoo. The player has to walk the streets and catch the animals by playing the right chords to the animals (like in 'The Pied Piper of Hamelin').
Crocodiles are caught with the C chord, elephants with the E chord, and so on. If the chord is played correctly, animals start following the user, if not - they remain still or do something nasty like steal your wallet. The played chords are recorded through the iPad's microphone, so no additional equipment is needed to play the game: just an iPad and a guitar.
'The main goal of developing this game is to motivate people to play the guitar. Games like Guitar Hero are great fun, and make users feel like rock stars. But what you learn with such a game is of little use in the real world. With WildChords we want to keep people motivated to practice on their guitars, so they will actually learn a skill they can also enjoy offline”, shares Chris.
When creating the game, the team worked together with music teachers and several music education institutes. 'We discovered that people do not learn playing music in an engineering way. For example, if guitar students know the fingering of a chord, they often can't match them with the right chord's name. So we decided to use strong images to connect the chords to their respective names. Catch several crocodiles with a certain chord, and it’s a small step from crocodile to C chord', Chris elaborates.
So how do people react to a Guitar Hero for a real guitar that features animals? 'Interestingly, especially people our age seem to love the animal idea. They play with Angry Birds, so why not with other wild animals? Sure, some people ask why our game doesn’t look like Guitar Hero. But let's face it: at that stage, you ain’t no guitar hero (yet). So after you caught some animals playing with your real guitar, playing with those plastic toy guitars feels actually a bit silly', comments Chris.
The game's one-minute-long exercises make it easy to start and stop playing, so you can pick up your guitar and
play the game for a few minutes, whenever you have a moment.
WildChords is currently in closed Beta, and the launch is coming up in autumn. The game itself and the first exercises will be free, and users can purchase additional exercise packages. 'We want to let people try the game before buying anything. If they like it, they can buy more difficult exercises. So you only pay for it, if you like the game and actually get better at playing guitar', says Chris.
Ovelin, the company behind Wild Chords, was founded in 2010 in Tampere, and currently employes 7 people. WildChords was chosen Best European Learning Game 2011, and they have won several other awards. The team has also participated in the Startup Sauna where they were picked among the top 3 winners. This gave them a working space for 6 months and a 2-month trip to the Silicon Valley in autumn.
'We already went twice to the Valley during the Startup Sauna program and it was an eye-opening experience', explains Chris. 'We are really excited to go there again and be part of the vibrant Silicon Valley start-up scene. Our goal is to make WildChords known and find US partners and investors. Of course we also would like to get some famous musicians to play with our game. In that spirit, one of my favorite songs in the game is called San Francisco', Chris concludes.