This app will teach you to play violin

The CEO of LinkedIn and other investors are betting on an app that aims to put a music teacher in students' pockets.

Todd Winters

Sam Walder


79彩票注册网址Growing up in Oak Park, Sam Walder was a student of the violin beginning at age 4, but as he made his way through the elite Illinois Math & Science Academy and later the University of Illinois' engineering program, his attention drifted in the direction of computers. What if he could marry the two disciplines?

The 24-year-old Walder, who today plays a half-dozen instruments (including banjo and mandolin), has done just that as the co-founder and CEO of Trala in Chicago. Together with co-founder and roommate Vishnu Indukuri, who has the title of chief technology officer, Walder has created a phone app that teaches both novices and advanced students to play the violin. Strum the wrong note in a passage, and a little bleep on an Apple phone will sound, along with a graphic displaying clear instructions on how to return to the right note.

79彩票注册网址The challenge has been monumental. "We had to write a code that would take in sound and recognize not just an F sharp but also the duration of the note," Walder says. "We built it to run on a phone instead of a desktop computer so that students would always have a teacher in their pocket, yet it had to be powerful enough to give them real-time feedback and keep up with the most blazingly fast violin compositions."

Also on the app are tutorials from famed violinists demonstrating such basics as the correct position of the wrist in midstroke. The app accommodates a wide range of musical tastes, from classical to Eastern European folk songs. Since its start two years ago—about the time the partners graduated together from college—Trala has garnered 150,000 downloads and emerged as the leading app in a crowded field of at least eight other violin instructional programs.

Investors are eager to expand the business, which generates income by charging students an average of $20 a month for online lessons (private teachers start at $70 an hour). A year ago, Trala raised $1.4 million from a group that included Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn. Walder plans to add to his staff of seven employees and keep improving the violin app while adding instructional programs for 10 more instruments, including brass, within two years.

79彩票注册网址"These aren't just a couple of violinists. They are world-class computer engineers," says Logan LaHive, an investment adviser who has helped bootstrap Trala. He looks forward to the addition of instruments like the guitar to the firm's roster. "There are multiple guitar instruction companies already valued at more than $100 million each," he says. "Trala can accomplish that and much more. No reason they can't be the largest musical education company in the world someday."

79彩票注册网址Curiously, teachers in even the staid world of classical music don't see Trala as a real threat. Trala encourages students to take lessons from teachers at least once a week, then use its app to sharpen skills between sessions. Nune Melik, a New York-based concert violinist, teaches students around the world on Skype in real time and is also teaching through Trala. "The company is bringing violin instruction to a wider audience than ever thought possible, and that's an admirable thing," she says. "Trala is reaching people in remote places who might not otherwise have access to music instruction."

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