How and why emuso works


Our passion is helping you improve as a musician

We want to help you understand the many musical concepts available for generating new ideas.  So you can be self-sufficient creating your own music and improvise confidently live or on recordings.  We also know that for many, theory is an anathema.  So we present the musical concepts that theory deals with in a non-academic visual manner, with no notation, and minimum jargon. that you interact with on virtual “guitar” (“bass”, “piano”).  Rhythm is also presented and learned using a simple visual representation that you interact with.

What are the problems related to learning guitar?

We’ve been researching this for many years.  We talk with guitarists all the time on music forums, and on social media, about their problems learning guitar.  We’ve surveyed guitarists for their wants and needs to help them become better and their thoughts about using digital technogy to this end.  We follow on-going research into music psychology and neuroscience relating to music, and the research into effective learning learned over the last several decades.  Their combined learnings point out potentially signifcant issues with traditional teaching methods. We’ve also been through all the same negative learning experiences, and wanted to create something that we wish we had when we were developing as guitarists.

Emuso/PracticeSuite PRO is our response to the learnings from all the above.

The core problems reported to us

Many guitarists eventually hit a brick wall when only learning songs from TAB, along with scale and chord shapes. They can’t create their own solos, more interesting chord progressions.They can’t workout the reasons for note choice presented indirectly by the TAB.

Many guitarists find learning theory a painful experience and give up, or haven’t the amount of time it seems is required.  It’s primarily those with an intent to be professional musicans where working with notation is required, that are prepared to put the effort in.  Significantly reducing the amount to be learned, understood, and easily recalled from memory, is essential to improve the chances of success.

Issues with guitar TAB

One issue we encountered time and again was the people learning from guitar TAB. They could play songs, even very challenging solos, but they had no clue what they were doing, other than where to put their fingers on the fretboard.  Sooner or later, with no other form of learning, other than maybe scale and chord shapes, they ran into a brick wall, where their progress stopped.  They had no idea how to create their own melodies, and solos.  Their frustration was evident as they didn’t know how to use scale notes or chord tones, nor apply rhythmic ideas including phrasing.

Issues with learning theory by notation and note names

Another very obvious issue is that guitarists we encountered that try to learn music theory by note names and notation typically struggle greatly.  There is so much information to take on-board learning like this, that it causes cognitive overload. Once worlking memory is “full”, further information won’t make it into permanent memory and is discarded.  Learning works when the brain can categorise what it perceives via the senses into mental frameworks, drawing on these frameworks to try and associate with the latest information.  If the frameworks are missing or sketchy, then the new information may get discarded or result in a the beginnings of a new framework.

As a result, individual note names typically won’t get associated with theoretical aspects of music, until that theory itself is understood. Additionally, an individual note will create very different sonic effects depending on the context it is used  in (in other words, what are the surrounding notes and rhythm).

The brain deals with (musical) frequency relationships occurring over time

Science talks about “intervals” as frequency differences.  If one frequency is double the other, these two form an interval of an octave.   The tuning system used for piano and fretted instruments then breaks down the notes that can be produced in an octave to have frequencies that are from zero to 11 semitones above the start frequency of the octave. A semitone is a mathematically-derived number.  Inetrnational standards have chosen a specific frequency (A440 Hz) for a specific named note.

The brain’s system of processing sound primarily deals with frequency relationships formed between the notes the ear hears (and other parts of the body).  It detects the differences in pitch (frequency) of the sounds present (for non-percussion instruments, including the voice).  It very easily distinguishes differences between the frequencies of the 12 pitches that Western music has chosen to divide the octave into, which it can sonically group together into 12 “Pitch classes” … all the C’s, all the C#’s, all the D’s and so on.  Each member of a pitch class is some number of octaves apart from the other members in that pitch class.  The brain easily picks up which pitch class is most apparent in the incoming music, and can pick out the frequency differences with the members of the other pitch classes.  In other words, it categorises the most apparent pitch class as the “tonal centre” and recognises the other pitch classes as forming “intervals” with the said tonal centre (as it (notionally) appears in various octaves.


Our approach to solve these problems

Our answer is to present the musical concepts that theory deals with in a non-academic visual manner, with no notation, and minimum jargon, and only essential information that you interact with on virtual “guitar” (“bass”, “piano”).

We strip music concepts back to the core so there’s so much less to learn and remember, compared to learning by notation, note names, or by TAB.

Music is about relationships between sounds, these being intervals.  Much theory can be explained in terms of intervals, either for showing where chords are rooted in a scale, or for showing the make-up of a chord or scale.  So intervals are always visualised, heard, and quickly associated with shapes on interactive instrument (“guitar”, “bass”, “piano”).Rhythm is also presented and learned using a simple visual representation that you interact with.  Rhythm tracks can be linked to the current virtual instrument, so that the melodic content and chords played back can also be visualised, allowing you to see chord / scale relationships.  You can even create “memos” that present a given chord or scale (fragment) shape that appear and remain on-“instrument” during playback, say, while musical concepts being practised.  Each memo remains visible until replaced by the next one, acting as a reminder of where and what you want to play.  Exploring rhythmic possibilities becomes really easy. Adding and editing the melodic content and chords is very fast, very simple.  Editing the rhythm itself is very simple.  This ease-of-use encourages in-depth exploration of rhythmic concepts, and transposing the content makes it much easier to practice in different keys.  The shapes for the melodic content and chords follow suit.

With this in mind, chords and scales are demonstrated on virtual instruments (“guitar”, “bass”, “piano”) that you interact with, move around, and listen to.  This lets you literally see how the guitar tuning impacts these shapes depending where they are moved to.  Hearing the result after moving makes it crystal clear that the sound flavour has nothing to do with the specific notes used where the shape now is.  These notes appear as circles with coloured rims, labelled with the “musical distance” each note is located at relative to the chord root or scale start note.  When the shape moves, these musical distances are unaffected (unless open string notes are involved), and listening to the shape wherever it is makes it obvious that its these musical distances that create its sound flavour.

An additional massive benefit for reducing the learning effort and memorisation is that the same information applies to both scales and chords.  These are memorised by very simple shapes, the rim colour, and their sounds.  These simple shapes can be learned properly in a few minutes a few times a day, over a few days, and then recalled less frequently as needed.

An abstract way of learning about these musical distances is carried out on an interactive “clock instrument”, that collapses the 12 notes of Western music, in all octaves, down onto twelve clocks times, from midnight (0 AM) to 11 AM.  The same colouring and labelling is used.  The beauty of this is it makes very easy to recognise musical distances between any two “occupied” clock times, and hence visually recognise music constructs, made up of multiple occupied times.  This “visual language” can be learned very quickly, for example to see what chords are present in a scale.  The actual layout of notes on the “guitar” is immediately visually obvious on any one string (but the chord would physically have to be played one note at a time on, a la Eddie Van Halen, and his tapping technique.  On “piano”, the layout is always visually obvious.

You learn using a toolkit and interactive content which include auto-correcting tests taken the above instruments.  For example, the content may ask you to create a scale and it will check the intervals are correct, and you can ask to see and hear the correct answer if you made a mistake.



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