Teaching rhythm to the world

The London Sinfonietta, a pioneer of contemporary classical music, approached us with the ambition to explore new ways of digitally engaging audiences with their art form. Together with Queen Mary University of London we set out to build a mobile experience based on Steve Reich’s groundbreaking work Clapping Music, a piece of music performed entirely by clapping.  

Challenges

At the beginning of the development, we identified three main challenges the project needed to address to achieve its goal of engaging new and existing audiences with the music:

Create an educational experience

The project set out to build a fun but educational music app which can teach rhythm to audiences across the world. For us it was especially important to deliver a meaningful learning experience so that users of all levels could perform Clapping Music live.

Create offline and online participation 

It was fundamental to create high user retention so it could improve users’ rhythm and increase engagement with the composer, minimalism, and new music in general. Equally important for the project was to translate the online engagement into real participation with live performances hosted by London Sinfonietta. 

Create measurable insights

An integral part to the project was the ability to collect user insight for research conducted by the Queen Mary University of London. QMUL undertook research into how the app supported people’s acquisition and development of rhythm. Therefore, we had to design the app with a smart method for collecting data. 

Solution

Our solution was to design a game, free to download, for iPad & iPhone, that delivers these core values in an interactive, mobile format.

The game improves your rhythm by challenging you to tap in time with the constantly shifting pattern, and progress through all of the variations. If you slip up or your accuracy falls too low, it’s game over. 

Our development progress was shared on a blog and a microsite to build and capitalise on user interest before launch. We explained our thinking behind the three core parts of the app experience:  

  1. The game: A score is generated based on the accuracy of your tapping, which creates a competitive element that encourages users to want to return and constantly improve their performance. Top gamers were invited to perform the piece live with the London Sinfonietta, which created an important link between the offline and online experiences. 
  2. Practice mode: The practice mode made it easy for users to hone their skills and try out individual patterns to better understand the structure of the composition. The data informed the academic research and help prove whether a digital product could help to improve rhythm.   
  3. Discovery: In-depth content such as exclusive interviews with Steve Reich, a filmed performance, and the original score allowed for greater discovery of the story behind the music. This type of content helped to create a stronger bond between user and composer and we felt this was a valuable addition to the game. 

Impact

The app was launched in June 2015 and the reception of the app was above all expectations. 

  • Since launch, the app has been downloaded over 160,000 times with users across the world. 
  • 2,500 players submitted their high score and top gamers were invited to perform the piece live at The Southbank Centre. App users from across the world  traveled to participate which showed the tangible value digital products deliver by engaging audiences in ‘real life’. 
  • The interest from international publications was overwhelming. A wide press coverage for the app included publications such as the New York Times, The Guardian, Resident Advisor, Business Insider, FACT Magazine, Kill Screen and many others. 
  • A year on a high number of players continue to return to the app and share their top scores using the hashtag #ClappingMusicApp. 
  • The data produced from the app generated valuable research results. You can read the report produced by QMUL here.

Overall, we and our partners feel the huge achievement of this project has been the general public good created and the surge of interest for contemporary music amongst new and existing audiences.  

Download the app for free here and see if you can beat the high score: http://bit.ly/ClappingMusicApp


Find a selection of the press coverage below: 

“Brilliant – and infuriatingly addictive”

“Brilliant – and infuriatingly addictive”

“Might be the toughest rhythm action game since Rock Band.”

“Might be the toughest rhythm action game since Rock Band.”

“Maddeningly addictive”

“Maddeningly addictive”

“Clapping Music is Rock Band with better music (yeah, I said it)”

“Clapping Music is Rock Band with better music (yeah, I said it)”