With Apple’s new GarageBand ’09, you can watch celebrity musicians like Sting and John Fogerty show you how to play the guitar, and that’s nice — but can you look over their shoulder to make sure you’ve got your fingering technique just right? That’s pretty much the value proposition for iPerform3D’s online guitar training videos: the instructors’ performances are motion captured and rendered into animated, interactive, 3-D graphics. (They’re generated through the Unity graphics engine, a plug-in that’s mostly known for rendering 3-D games for the web.) You move your mouse to zoom and rotate the camera position around the guitar-playing avatar, as desired.
Developed by MTW Studios, the application was inspired by conversations with music teachers, who “universally felt that allowing a student to move around them to achieve an optimal view of the material…was the key to successful learning,” Founder and CEO Robert Miller told me by e-mail. While each lesson also comes with real video of the instructors (mostly established studio musicians), Miller claims customers consider the virtual versions better teaching guides.
The service is subscription-based (a beginner’s course will set you back $39.95), which may be a tough sale in recessionary times. There’s also that 800-pound competitor called GarageBand to contend with. Miller argues that Apple’s entry into the music education space confirms MTW’s belief there’s a market for computerized music education. iPerform’s gamble is that would-be musicians will learn more from virtual guitar heroes than real ones.