So it’s not a game exactly, but we recently released our first app, ‘we’ being me and my business associates at Lola Productions.  I’m writing about it here mostly for self-promotion, but there is a neuroscience perspective on its design.

TuneOut! is a very simple entertainment app: you select songs from your own music library and then tap along; your taps generate drum and percussion sounds along with visuals.  Presently, there are four sound packages included, a djembe sound, a traditional drum-set sound package, a latin package and one we call ‘bag of goodies’ which is just an assortment of percussive sounds, including a bang on a pot sound.

The app is meant to tap into that natural tendency people have to engage music they are listening to.  People like to sing or hum along, play air guitar or, often, tap and drum their fingers. . . on their pant legs, the steering wheel, their desk. . . or here, on the iPhone.  It’s a way to get involved and participate in the music.  There is no game to it. . . no points, or score, or competitive aspect . . . just the sheer joy of drumming along with your favorite music.

In designing the app, we avoided images of drums and percussive instruments.  Being confronted with a set of drums, even virtual ones on an iPhone, creates a pressure of ‘knowing what to do.’  Which drum do I hit. . . I don’t know how to play drums.  Having virtual instruments can be inhibiting and make a person self-conscious about their ‘performance.’  We opted instead for no visual images of the drums, just a blank screen that responds with a sound and a simple visual when you tap.  In this way, the challenge of facing a set of drums and not knowing what to do is replaced by discovery.  That is, you just tap.  You tap according to the music and your rhythmic response to it and as you tap you discover different sounds located in different regions of the screen.  In this way, instead of being faced with a snare drum and cymbal and trying to play a basic rock rhythm, you start to learn that when you want a cymbal sound, you tap over ‘here’ and when you want a cowbell, you tap over ‘there.’  As you learn these locations, they come to represent a learned repertoire of movements and sounds that you deploy to fit the sounds and rhythms you are creating.

Anyway.  If you happen to read this, try it.  The first 10,000 downloads are free.  If you like it, let others know. If you don’t like it, let us know and we’ll make it better.

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