Stay on Top of Emerging Technology Trends
Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Learn to play the leaf trombone, perform your repertoire before a global audience, and prepare to be judged.
Since the App Store’s launch last year, Smule has been steadily building an impressive portfolio of sound-based social apps for the iPhone. With Dr. Ge Wang — an assistant professor in Music and Acoustics — at the helm, among a smattering of clever and fun sonic toys, their biggest hit to date has been the multi-award winning Ocarina.
Smule’s latest app, Leaf Trombone: World Stage, is a social musical instrument designed specifically for the iPhone. Players can download new songs and perform before a judging panel of other leaf trombonists.
Leaf Your Troubles Behind
In terms of igniting the musical imagination of touch and iPhone owners around the world, Smule’s standout moment has been the creation of Ocarina. The app is an enchanting recreation of the palm-size wind instrument, incorporating several features that take advantage of the iPhone’s tech to connect instrumentalists around the world.
Leaf Trombone: World Stage takes the wind instrument concept even further than before. For musical beginners, Ocarina was a serious toughie, whereas playing the leaf trombone is a breeze for musicians and fresh starters alike.
There are two methods for tooting on your leaf trombone. For beginners, there’s touch mode. Simply tapping and holding on one of the vertical note-markers plays the note. Advanced players can take it further by blowing in to the iPhone microphone — ideal for adding nuance to a performance.
Despite having just been released, there’s already a stack of tunes ready to toot in the song library. The selection on offer is constantly growing, too, as Smule’s provided a song composition and submission platform on their site.
There’s something for everyone in the library. Classical picks like “Ave Maria” and “Auld Lang Syne” sit alongside rock and metal renditions, such as “Iron Man” and “Through The Fire And The Flames.” Notably, there are video game tunes in the mix, too, with several pieces from Legend of Zelda already on offer. The only major drawback with the library is that there’s no way to differentiate between pieces for beginners and more accomplished players.
If you’re familiar with rhythm action games like Rock Band or Tap Tap Revenge, it’s easy to get your fingers around performing the songs. Once the track begins playing, accompanied by a dainty Mario-esque music box, leaves begin floating towards the different note-markers. The note-markers glow when a leaf collides, meaning there’s a clear guide to playing the correct note at the correct time.
There is, like any musical instrument, an initial period of getting comfortable holding and touching the leaf trombone and familiarizing yourself with the interface. However, actually playing a complex score should be surprisingly intuitive, even for non-musicians.
World Stage – Judging & Performing
Fire up your leaf trombone for more than a few minutes and there’s a good chance that your solo soliloquy will be interrupted with an invite to be a judge on the World Stage. As a judge sitting on an “American Idol”-esque panel with two other players, picked from across the globe, you’ll critically appraise a fellow leaf trombonist’s performance.
Represented by three smiley-styled emoticons, the judging panel listens to the performance — posting comments and changing the emoticon to reflect opinion and mood. At the end of the song, you’re invited to score the performance and provide closing thoughts.
Playing the role of judge is an excellent twist on traditional multiplayer gaming. There’s something deliciously addictive and downright fun about judging — whether you’re praising, encouraging, or just laughing at someone’s trombone tooting.
Judging a performance also earns you Leaf Tokens, the currency of the budding Leaf Trombonist. Each performance on the World Stage costs one Leaf Token, an exceedingly cunning solution, on Smule’s part, to ensuring players are involved in both performing and judging, and also encouraging performers to practice a solo before playing online.
Performing works slightly differently compared to the judging. After selecting a song from the library, you’ll perform alone. Once you’ve completed your performance, the judging panel is then selected to appraise it — meaning you’re able to initially perform without being distracted by a shower of praise, or worse, an onslaught of criticism.
Leaf Trombone: World Stage is everything we’ve come to expect of Smule. The instrument part of the game draws non-musicians in — it’s so easy to get satisfying results and is enjoyable to play (plus endearingly individual with its comedic tooting and parping).
And it’s daring, too, linking players up for social fun a refreshing way: Being part of the judging panel is compelling fun and performing on the World Stage — and getting right — just feels good, too.
Leaf Trombone is a wonderful instrument and an incredibly accomplished social toy. Furthermore, like any musical instrument, it’s something that you’ll delight in playing and growing with over time. Smule’s ability to manifest pure gold out of a downright silly concept, earns this app TheAppleBlog Gold Award.