Retire And Take It Easy? You Must Be Joking.
Hello. I’m Julian Wright and I originated and developed the Music Reading Trainer for guitar.
The free taster version is called iReadGuitar and the paid one (£1.99) is called iReadGuitar Pro.
I started to learn to read music when I was twenty-one back in 1967. From age fifteen till then I played pop, folk and hill-billy guitar and didn’t really need to read.
But then I fell in love with Spanish classical guitar, all written down in conventional musical notation, and I realised I had a mountain to climb.
I struggled through piece after piece, trying to decipher the peppering of symbols, working out what each of them meant. And in the process I discovered the three basic principles of sight-reading – what all good sight readers actually do:
Don’t name the notes as you play them.
Keep your eyes on the music, not your hands.
I thought, maybe, that other guitarists like me who hadn’t had the advantage of music lessons from an early age, would fancy learning to read music if the right training method was available.
But how could I put these principles into practice in a training course? It seemed to need a slide-show of bars, so how could I display them?
Clockwork? Don’t laugh. We’re going back nearly fifty years. A lot of wristwatches were clockwork then and so were all metronomes.
The decades passed. I explored the possibility of video. This might have worked but it was very laborious artwork-wise.
Then six ago I was listening to the radio and heard a feature about the latest fad: apps. This was it! I had found the way forward!
I wrote the course. I wrote the spec. I asked for an estimate from a certain centre of software programming. Yes, they could do it. For a thousand pounds… (well…) a day. (definitely not!)
I realised that only one option was open to me. I would have to learn to program and do it myself. Another mountain. I must like climbing.
I bought (and read!) several books for dummies covering Java and C++. I nearly understood some of it, which was encouraging. Then I enrolled in a night-school class and did six all-to-brief sessions learning about a language called Lua.
After five years, in January 2016, I had a working prototype. Well, I’m a slow learner!
It still had plenty of glitches but I was able to show it around at a start-up cafe meeting at Leicester University where this website’s creator Paul Wilson very kindly offered to build my website www.LinwoodApps.com for me. His patient and enthusiastic collaboration are typical of the generosity of spirit I have found throughout this project and for which I am profoundly thankful.
Shortly afterwards, Ben Ravilious asked me to present the app at his start-up event at the DeMontfort University’s Innovation centre. This resulted in the equally generous offer of pro bono supervision from expert coder David Chan. We have been meeting most Friday afternoons ever since and it has been a revelation to me.
His patient mentorship has encouraged me to revise my approach to the basic design of the coding.
For example, instead of ‘hard-coding’ – leaving variables scattered around the active do-stuff part of the programme – they now appear once in the passive data files or in the main file. It’s so much easier to make changes.
Another light-bulb moment happened when I realised I didn’t have to record/edit/test hundreds of chords for the accompaniments. I synthesised thirty single piano notes and wrote a programme which compiled them into any chord I needed simply by writing it into data. It simply collects the individual notes of each chord and plays them together. Magic.
My original prototype became streamlined. What was pages and pages of rambling hard-coded print-out is now a few elegant paragraphs.
Now it’s on Google Play. I can hardly believe it.
It’s been a great journey, full of hope, despair, elation and upward slog. I’ve loved every minute of it.