I recently caught up with Eric Carraway, who is the founder of a great new tool called percuss.io. I wish something like this existed back in my playing days. I’ll let Eric explain how percuss.io works below in the interview, but essentially it is a tool that allows you to watch an excerpt being played while simultaneously seeing the sheet music go along with it. This is seriously one of the coolest things out there to help a student learn something new. I’m really excited to see more from Eric and watch percuss.io grow.
Hey Eric, thanks for sharing your story with The Tap Off.
Thanks for the opportunity, Spencer! I saw your previous interview with Eric Carr and figured I’d reach out. Who’s next in the alphabetical order? 😉
It’s a pretty typical background for someone in the band world: I was really involved in high school, I did a few years of DCI and WGI, and I majored in music.
The plot twist is that a decade into my career as a high school band director, I decided to become a software developer. I’ve been coding professionally since 2014.
Yeah, but I like to think of it as an industry change. It’s less scary when framed in those terms.
A lot of people considering a career change think they’ll be abandoning their current skill set. Many things transfer from a background in music.
It was hard in that it was time-consuming. My drum corps experience taught me that with consistent effort over time, anything can be learned.
I’m a foolish idealist in that I think talent is a myth. This mindset makes it easier to deal with “beginner struggles” – whether that be in learning to play an instrument, learning to code, or learning to be an entrepreneur.
How did you come up with the idea for percuss.io?
I’ve been doing passion projects at the intersection of percussion and tech since forever. I bought the domain name in 2014.
“.io” is popular with tech companies and startups because it’s a reference to “input/output.”
The original idea was to build a portfolio site to share my side projects and experiments in percussion education software. After getting feedback from students, I pivoted towards building a platform and community for learning drumline licks.
percuss.io is a web-based percussion education platform featuring videos synchronized with music notation. On any web-enabled device, students can learn by
1) Starting anywhere by clicking on a barline
2) Looping musical chunks
3) Slowing the video down to a practice tempo without changing pitch
How long have you been working on creating the site? Did you do the coding and development yourself?
I built the front end; our interactive player is powered by Soundslice. I first reached out to Adrian Holovaty, the developer creating Soundslice, in 2014. Soon after that, percuss.io became a licensed partner of Soundslice technology. I spent a couple of years on demos and prototypes before officially launching percuss.io in February 2017.
This seems like a great tool for DCI or WGI groups to engage with their fans and will allow people to easily learn some of their licks and features. Have you partnered with any groups to get their content on the site for people to learn?
We have an educational partnership with The Battalion Drum & Bugle Corps, a DCI group based in Utah.
Details about the educational partnership are in this press release.
If you’re auditioning for one of our DCI or WGI partners, you’ll soon be able to purchase interactive audition packets. Instead of just a PDF packet, notation for exercises and show excerpts will be synchronized with video.
Can anybody be a contributor? How would I go about being a contributor and adding my own videos and sheet music to the site?
How long would it take for someone to contribute their own footage and music to the site? Is that a complicated process?
We’re fast. It was a challenge at first, but we get better with every new upload to the platform. People are often surprised to learn that all we need is a video link and a notation file.
George Torres III is the Community & Content Manager for percuss.io – he helps contributors get their video and notation in the proper format. George has an expert level understanding of how percussion MusicXML is handled differently by various software programs; he can answer any questions contributors may have.
If you have a vid that you’d like to see on percuss.io, reach out to us on social media!
Could you see this tool being adapted for wind instruments or something other than percussion in the future?
To start, the focus of percuss.io is percussion and our unique community. We’re planning to expand into wind and colorguard content soon.
The percuss.io platform utilizes hashtags, search function, and user accounts. This feature set will remain lightweight and minimal so that we can focus our energy on building the community and uploading lots of new content.
The Soundslice embedded player is updated frequently with new improvements. A recent update allows our users to select which scrolling algorithm they prefer. Here’s a side-by-side comparison featuring the quad line from Impact Percussion.
What’s the most frequently asked question you get about percuss.io?
How do you pronounce percuss.io?
In all seriousness, it’s, “Where can I get this app?” There’s a false assumption that this is something to download from one of the app stores.
We’ve had a hard time conveying that this is a website, platform, and community. You can access percuss.io on any device with a web browser. Simply open Chrome or Safari and type in “percuss.io”!
Since our focus in on education, we’re hoping to keep it free for students and independent content contributors from the community.
Eventually, a small percentage of content from percussion music publishers may cost money. Licensing and copyright are the biggest challenges to overcome here.
percuss.io is based in San Antonio, Texas. We love that this city is so meaningful to members of the marching band and drum corps activity.
San Antonio is building an ecosystem for tech entrepreneurs, and the Geekdom community is at the center of this effort. I recently participated in Geekdom’s “Startup Weekend” competition. It felt like my first November drum corps camp with all of the awkwardness of putting myself out there and auditioning in front of experts.
percuss.io advanced to the finals round and received an honorable mention for the product pitch!
How can people interested in percuss.io get in touch?
Social media is best. We like interacting with our community out in the open because it helps other people who might have similar questions or ideas.
But if email is more your thing, we’re hip to that, too. Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org – We’re friendly! 😉