Behind the glory of an applauded performance on stage, musicians throughout history spend thousands of hours of not-so-glorious practice sessions in loneliness. But with the newly-launched practice app Tonic, practice sessions are evolving toward interactivity and modernity for the better.
Publicly launched on Feb. 6, Tonic is a collaborative initiative by violinist Ray Chen and computer engineer Rose Xi to renovate boring practice sessions with interactive virtual practice studios that allow for audience feedback and progress reports. These innovative features attracted thousands of new users immediately after Tonic’s launch announcement, as well as garnering a partnered practice challenge event with well-known music publisher G. Henle Verlag.
Available to all users at no cost, the development of Tonic stemmed from a genuine passion to share the love of music. Now, into its first month since official publication, Tonic prospers in its mission by enriching music practice with efficiency, community bonding and active improvement.
To support its growing band of musicians ranging from beginners to professionals, Tonic’s newest updates improved its communicative function by adding a feedback box to its virtual practice studios, allowing musicians to post specific requests for feedback. And while this added feature may seem redundant when a chatbox already exists in the virtual studios, the addition of a feedback box supplements the encouraging interactions in the chat box with constructive criticism to push for efficient practice sessions.
Violinist Lily Rivers at Peabody Institute, one of Tonic’s earliest users, shares her thoughts.
“Through Tonic studio, I was given the opportunity to receive feedback from multiple perspectives,” Rivers said. “[This] really opened multiple doors for me when exploring interpretations.”
After mastering tricky passages in the company of a supportive studio audience, Tonic musicians strengthens their bonds even outside of virtual practice sessions: In themed group chats that include topics from “Goals and Motivation” to “Tonic Artists,” musicians’ diverse interests and talents shine in creative conversation and spark unforgettable friendships which occasionally translates into in-person meet-ups.
At violinist Ray Chen’s recent concert in Pittsburgh, Chen facilitated a “Tonic Meet-up” via Tonic’s group chat feature. The meet-up during intermissions of the concert gathered a room full of like-minded musicians and nonstop laughter, showcasing the bonding magic of music in action.
Nevertheless, serving thousands of practice studios simultaneously, Tonic’s periodic programming bugs have also caught the attention of some users who subsequently opted to receive feedback and interactions by practicing on voice channels on Discord, an online messaging app.
Among the concerned users, one violinist by the username “Visual” explains his dissatisfaction with Tonic’s technical errors.
“Tonic is a good app overall,” Visual explained. “But it is too glitchy and sometimes when I enter the repertoires that I am practicing, it disappears.”
Moreover, some users have also found the unrestricted interactive features of Tonic’s virtual practice studios distracting, impeding the effectiveness of practice sessions.
In response to the troubling glitches and user criticism, the Tonic team opened bug report forms and Discord forums to address commonly reported issues such as missing repertoires, blackouts and lost practice records. Suggestions for new features, events, and improved usability are also welcomed.
Additionally, users who prefer to record their musical progression in undistracted privacy are offered the option to practice in private studios to accommodate individual needs.
Matching up to its iconic motto, “Better together,” Tonic embraces a spirit of constant improvement and continues to enhance users’ practice experience with more trailblazing updates to come, including personalized studio icons and an upcoming feedback hour event with flutist Jasmine Choi.
Overcoming the obstacles of pioneering a path untaken, Tonic’s passionate commitment to the music community sets an example for more educational apps to come, especially in a technological era where convenient distance learning is increasingly favorable. And fueled by sincere passion and community effort, Tonic not only sees a bright path ahead, but its success also lights a hopeful future for accessible educational resources alike to prosper.