Review: Yousician

27.3.2017 by Sam Meyers

So recently I have been taking part in self-led study of using the application, Yousician, in an attempt to improve my playing level on the guitar. The question in mind being “Can an online app really teach you to play an instrument to a medium to high standard? More specifically could it allow you to blend in to a community of musicians who had learned instruments via other methods?’

Now before I talk specifically about Yousician, I must say that I have used a vast variety of different resources to learn about music. Be it Youtube video tutorials, music specific sites, as well as tab, written notation and 1-2-1 tuition. I am no stranger to learning an instrument, however, I always find myself skeptical of an online application as I find that sometimes, despite having the beautiful exterior through glossy looking aesthetics, they simply don’t deliver on the learning end. 

On this occasion however, Yousician has stepped up and achieved an enticing, achievable and motivating system which oozes style, progress and most important of all… music!

The interface, based around the design of a futuristic black and green treble clef is sleek upon entering the system where you are greeted instantaneously by a musical tree. The tree starts from one central root and grows out to three branches. Each of the three branches represents a different learning principle; Rhythm, Lead and Knowledge. Each equally as important as the next!

From experience I can tell you that it becomes very easy to get addicted to one area and as the excitement of success kicks in it is very easy to just continue completing lessons one after the other. This, however, means that you are neglecting two branches of the tree to pursue excellence in just one discipline. Personally, I found that working steadily through the three branches equally and simultaneously is the way to progress the most rapidly and yet affectively so as to build a competence within many disciplines on the instrument and not just to become a one trick pony. 

Yousician is currently available with 4 instruments: Guitar, Piano, Ukulele and the Bass Guitar. Obviously with each of these the lessons and their goals change dramatically. During my time that I used it to learn I was studying the guitar so it is that which I will be writing about :

The very first lesson is great for Absolute Beginners and is a walk through of the strings, notes and frets. Effectively, ‘How the guitar works’ which I’m sure we can all agree is the first thing we want to know when we lay a guitar in our lap for the first time. “How do I turn this strange piece of wood and metal into music?”

Yousician’s teaching method is based on the recipe of a very clearly demonstrative video explaining in detail how to create clearly the desired effect, to which you are then tested. The system aesthetically looks similar to the Guitar Hero layout however inverted so that it is laying on it’s side demonstrating a very clear fretboard. The string to play is shown by a coloured block on the string and it even specifies with which finger you should play the note for best technique. Yousician then uses a microphone on your device to record what you have played and in realtime can tell you if you hit the note, if you were late or even early. The first rounds are slow and then the play quickly accelerates as you are more capable to do so. You begin by practising the skill in isolation and then progress into using it in a song. 

Licks, bends, riffs and slides are all covered in this course. There is also the beginnings of basic guitar theory covering the different types of notes and their intervals. 

This is, however, an area where the website falls down slightly. Where it trains your fingers to go through the motions it does so without demonstrating how these skills can be properly implemented; that is a deeper understanding of scales, keys as well as how and why they work the way that they do. If you are thinking of using Yousician to improve your music theory then I would urge you to look elsewhere. On the other hand, Yousician is a sure way of self motivating, making yourself pick up your guitar and drilling the skills until you are comfortable and competent with their execution. 

Yousician comes with a ‘free version’ which has almost all of the same features except that you are limited to only a specific amount of playing time each day. After the allotted time period the play mode ceases to give feedback on your playing. Thus, you are unable to continue progressing and quickly grows disheartening repeating the same passages over and over again. Alternatively, you are offered the subscription mode. Admittedly it takes a moment to let yourself get over the 9.99€ per month but once you size it up against the 100€+ that you would be paying for a private tutor it works out very economically!

The final cherry on the top with this app is the ‘Play Mode’. This is where famous songs are uploaded and tabbed out so that you can practise all of your favourite licks and solos including Guns & Roses and AC/DC. These are available for all paying customers and is ultimately where all of the learning can be used and transferred into real life playing.  

My honest appraisal is that this tool could be used by musicians of all levels, especially those in the early end of their playing career in order to build the muscle memory that it takes for us to become talented at playing an instrument but also for those who are more experienced to really practise skills under isolation, using the application as a rigid training scheme to train your fingers to move faster and with more efficient movements. I would genuinely recommend this product but also remind everybody that the experience of a guitar teacher is invaluable and should never be overlooked, especially once you begin to learn scales, theory and modes. Music is a language that we now have many tools to help us learn and Yousician is one of the tools that I would recommend that you utilise. 

If you would like to ask any questions or have any comments please write them down in the comment section.