Chromatik’s new iOS app just made sheet music cool again

Sheet music may not exactly be what comes to mind when you think of technology changing the music world — but Los Angeles-based music startup Chromatik thinks that its app can be as disruptive to the hobby musicians as Spotify has been to the music fans of the world.

Chromatik relaunched its self-titled iOS and web apps Thursday, which now offer access to sheet music titles for thousands of popular songs, including titles like John Legend’s All Of Me, Beyonce’s Single Ladies and Adele’s Rolling In The Deep. And the best thing? All of those songs are free, thanks to a sponsorship model that let companies like Apogee foot the bill.

Chromatik offers users arrangements for the most popular instruments (and yes, your singing voice is one of them), and instantly transcribes titles when necessary. The app also includes videos for most titles to give users a way to listen in on the original rendition or jam along with Pharrell Williams if they want to.

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There are a couple of other useful tools, including a metronome as well as the ability to annotate any title, but two features are worth singling out: Users can record audio or video of their practice sessions to review their progress, and then share highlights with the Chromatik community, or even with their friends on social networks, which adds a neat social take on the otherwise pretty solitary act of practicing music.

The other feature will make anyone happy who has been playing music for a while: Users can also import existing sheet music titles by simply snapping pictures of each page, and then storing them in the cloud to be available through the app.

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I first met up with Chromatik’s CEO Matt Sandler two and a half years ago in Los Angeles, when the company was still in the process of getting ready to launch its first app. Back then, Chromatik was looking to target schools and music teachers as a way to improve music education. When I reconnected with Sandler this week, he told me that Chromatik found it hard to grow in the education market. At the same time, it saw huge interest from consumers — but most of them had a hard time getting access to sheet music.

With its new app, Chromatik hopes to give amateur musicians what they want, while also bringing new value to the music itself. “We are adding hundreds, if not thousands of titles a week,” said Sandler. Music publishers will get “a substantial amount of revenue” from the use of their titles, he said, but also benefit from people spending many hours practicing to play their titles. Listen to a song a few times, and you may be a fan. Learn to play it yourself, and “you become a true evangelist,” said Sandler.