A few months ago I discovered the Groove Pizza App made by the NYU MusEDLab: a circular rhythm app for creative music making and learning. This app is also great for learning and u...
For those who don't know Flat, welcome and here is a quick recap for you. We launched our startup on January 2015. We developed a collaborative platform for composing and editing music scores. Our product is designed for musicians from all around the world, but also for music teachers who can use it with their classes. We aim at changing the way you can learn, teach and make music today. Our answer is Flat and this is the story of the release of the 8th version of our platform.
Do you remember Flat one year ago?
Probably not, unless you follow us from the very beginning and (or) have a pretty good memory. So let me tell us our story on this special day. 😀
One year ago, we spent a long summer in our garage and were delighted to announce the release of the 4th version of Flat. It was such an achievement for us. With Mathias, our new product designer on board, we took Flat to the next level. We were also very happy with the growing engagement between a fantastic community and our platform.
Thanks to the feedback you gave us everyday, we learned a lot about what you expected from us:
- The Engraving
- The Audio Playback
- Flat for Education
- The Editor Experience
These four points alone were already a tremendous challenge, along with all the projects we had at the moment. So we had to be better and stronger. Then, we decided to grow the team to 10 and started a race against the clock. 🏁
We set the deadline of one year for us to reach the ultimate goal. We wanted to prove each musician that Flat was the game-changer for music composition and editing. And we made a promise: we will reach this goal and build this fantastic platform by ourselves.
Going forward, beyond the technical challenge
We acknowledged very early that the first difficulty of this challenge was technical. Learning to read and play music is hard. Creating a software to make composition smoother is even more difficult.
But music composition software isn't just about complex engraving and tons of music notations features. It's also about going further. So we came up with:
Heading to V8: a brand new editor experience
What we love with our users is that they are exigeant. Just like we are. Overall you were happy with the improvements we made. But you thought we were capable of doing even better. We agreed. At Flat, we don't settle for good but for optimal. 🏆
So we focused on creating amazing new features before realizing something important. The DNA of our product, and the whole community gathered around us, lie in a single thing: the genuine editor experience of Flat.
And it became clear that we were not done with our initial mission. So we stopped everything and started to concentrate again on the editor, along with the engraving and a drastic improvement of the entire platform.
This was a fresh start for the team but time was running out... By the month of July, we understood that the amount of work was way bigger than we thought. We loved to compare the challenge to the image of the hydra: when you finish a feature, three other ones show up. 🐉
So, no vacations again for the team! Summer was going to rhyme with strong iterations on the product.
Now that you have the background of this big update, here is a complete list of every single change we made on Flat since the beginning of July.
First let me introduce you some of the feature we're really proud of:
In our journey to make music composition easier and accessible to the most, we acknowledged that knowing music theory well enough to compose isn't something easy. That's why we have been working on algorithm that will allow you to play freely and get you music score written for you.
We believe that every performer around the world is unique, which means that it was impossible to work on a dedicated algorithm that would work for anyone with our current resources. So we decided to take the problem from a different angle and we have been working on an algorithm that will learn from you and adapt after each calibration you'll do!
We are proud to be the first to do this and we are convinced that we are going in the right direction. MIDI players, give it a try and let us know what you think about it!
Many of you didn't like the way the FAQ was organised. So we decided that the best help that we could create was a smart help section included in the editor. We wanted it smart in order to create something adapted to your actions and your experience on Flat.
The new Editor Help will learn from you and select up the most appropriate cards according to the way yo use the editor. In case you're not satisfied with the answer provided, you can use the search bar to ask your question. And don't forget we will always be there to answer anything, so please don't hesitate to drop us a line. ✉️
After each improvement of the platform, we were happy to see the number of collaborative sessions grow exponentially. With the introduction of the score comments, we noticed that many of you used this feature to leave comments about a specific range on the score.
The next step for us was to add inlines comments, just like on a Google doc. To all the teachers on Flat, we think it can be a game-changer to evaluate the assignments given to your students.
- New selection modes
We simplified the whole interface to remove the notion of tools and modes. We wanted to make it more intuitive to allow more elements to be interactive.
- Keyboard shortcuts
Since we removed the notion of mode based on the toolbar, we had to rework on all our shortcuts. We finally introduced one of the most awaited shortcuts: the 'R' that allows you to duplicate a selected range or note. To give you a full perspective we created a dedicated cheat sheet. Just press '?' and enjoy!
- Range Selection
Two weeks ago, we introduced a first version of our range selection experience. We were happy to receive great feedback about it. Then, we kept working on it and spreaded it to the entire experience. You can now select a range of notes and apply transformations directly on it.
- Copy / Paste
Along with the range selection, we have introduced an improved copy/paste feature. You can copy/paste range of notes instead of sets of measures but that's not all. From now on, you can also copy from one score to another or from the history. Bonus: you can even copy from one of your browser's tab to another!
- Tabs user experience
We also reworked completely our guitar tabs experience to turn it in a productive tool. You can now use the keyboard to navigate through all strings and set them directly with your keyboard.
- Tuning for all plucked strings
As we had created a much better tabs experience, we decided extended the tuning to many more plucked string instruments. It comes with a lot of presets as well.
- Staff edition
At last! Many of you have been clamining it for months. Now you can edit every instruments staves freely. Add, remove, move around staves: now you can do all these things on Flat.
- Swing and reverb with the playback
We have also added a first set of improvements to the playback and you can now swing you eighth notes and add reverb on your instruments
Regarding the platform, we told you earlier that we had decided to focus on the editor and the engraving. But we also took the time to introduce customized profile pictures. 😋
(Fun fact: many of you didn't wait for the announcement to change their own!)
We also simplified the entire score creation process. From now on, you'll just have to set your instruments and the score name. Then, you'll be able to use all the available tools to make the appropriate changes!
Notation & Engraving
Finally, Cyril and Romain worked pretty hard to drastically improve the engraving and brings you such a beautiful update. The biggest challenge was the multi-voices composition. Our very first version was very basic and a bit messy. Look at this Gif: isn't it much more simple now?
You will find below a list of many of the new notations they added within the last two months. We can barely believe that they have achieved so much and I am very proud to work with these two crazy guys!
They will come up with a large set of blog posts about every single one of these, in order to explain how to use them and what the next improvements will be:
- Double dotted
- Lyrics right connections
- Chords (degree modifications + completion)
- Hidden voices
- Ritardando / Accelerando
- Rehearsal marks
- Jazz articulations
- Enharmonic switch
- Choice on tremolo type
- Hide the tempo on export
- Ties for upitched instruments
- Better display of ottava
- Hammer on / pull off
Along with the V6 launch, we announced that we were working on a dedicated mobile app. With this huge update, we had to stop working on it so that the entire team can fight against what we previously called the hydra release. 🐲
We are aware that some of you can't wait about it. Yet, we are convinced to have made the right choice for the company, the team and the Flat community. Now that the update is released, we will focus again on this new challenge. 😉
In the end, this update was a big step for us in terms of understanding and anticipating your needs and expectations.
We know that we have to keep working hard on the editor to bring you more great features that will enhance collaboration and creativity.
We have also identified our next priorities:
- End to end testing
- Even better user experience
These are the new heads of the hydra and we are ready for the next battle. 💪
This is one of the longest posts I have ever written in my life. I will conclude by saying how much I am proud and honoured to work with such an awesome team.
One year ago, we decided to double the size of the team to achieve great challenges together. And when I look back at all that has been done for the V8 release, I'm more than satisfied with my decision.
This is just incredible!
To finish, I will speak in the name of the entire Flat team: a HUGE THANK YOU to all of you for being part of the journey and making all of that real.
The V8 is a major step towards our ultime goal: change how we learn and make music today.
So thank you again for shaping the future of music with us. 🎤
Pierre & The Flat Team