The story behind Syncopate.it
Composer Aaron Gervais grew up playing percussion and always had a natural sense of rhythm. A few years ago, he was doing research for a new composition for student performers. As part of that process, he looked into the rhythm methodologies used by other instrumentalists.
Percussion etudes misunderstood
To his surprise, many musicians told Aaron that they used percussion method books to learn rhythm, clapping through the exercises. They didn’t have any rhythm books designed for their instruments.
Aaron immediately saw a problem there.
He had used many of these same books himself. But those methods aren’t really about learning rhythm—they’re about learning drumming technique.
Using them to learn rhythm on another instrument is a bad fit.
Existing rhythm methods were lacking
After a bit more digging, Aaron confirmed that there are very few rhythm methods for non-percussionists. Those that do exist are not very inspiring: they often make you clap through short rhythmic patterns, or play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with dozens of rhythmic variations.
He wanted to create something better, inspired by his own musical training and his experience of teaching student percussionists how to “feel” rhythm.
Developing a new method
Aaron wrote out his methodology and organized it into a series of progressive skills to be learned. He then composed a few example pieces and tested them out with a studio of young violin students.
The students loved the pieces, and they learned the rhythmic ideas quickly and easily.
Encouraged by these successes, Aaron started working on a fully fleshed duet book. However, six months later he had to set the project aside for a few years to write an opera and finish a few other major compositions.
When Aaron returned to the duet book, mobile apps had really taken off, and he began to think it might be better to publish the book as an app instead. That would allow him to include built-in practice tools.
Aaron began looking for a development partner and eventually came across Wil Macaulay. A violinist and programmer, Wil hosts a weekly Celtic jam session at a pub near his home, and he has created other music notation apps in the past. The two decided to collaborate on the app, with Aaron providing the music and concept and Wil providing the software.
Meet the team
Aaron Gervais grew up in Edmonton, Canada, and is now based in San Francisco. He is a composer of modern classical music whose work is performed across North America and Europe. In addition to his compositional background, Aaron studied percussion extensively, including classical, jazz, Afro-Cuban, and West African traditions. More information at aarongervais.com.