Make music with student-created app

It’s called Sketch-A-Song. It’s free, and it’s designed to make music creation accessible to everyone — even people without formal musical training.

The Sketch-A-Song app in use.

Jacob Zax, a senior majoring in political science, and classmate Adam Segal, an English literature major, both in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, are members of a team of seven friends who devoted last summer to creating the app.

The men all attended Denver East High School in Colorado and are pursuing degrees ranging from computer science to English at different universities. Zax answered questions about Sketch-A-Song via email, three days after their app’s soft launch. The app allows users to touch buttons to choose musical elements, such as horns or guitars, along with the timing for including such sounds in a song.

Q: Can you tell me a bit more about your friends and co-creators?

A: The group of co-creators are best friends from high school. We were very close in high school and have stayed best friends throughout college. Towards the end of last year, we decided to forgo internships to spend one last summer together working on a project.

Q: How long have you been working on this app?

A: A total of nine months. We worked full time for two months during the summer and almost released when we returned to school. We weren’t quite ready though, and after a lot of deliberation, decided to make the finishing touches to the app over winter break (making progress during the semester was unrealistic due to our other commitments). Those improvements ended up taking us into the start of this semester, but they’ve made a big difference in the app’s quality.

Q: What was inspiration for Sketch-A-Song?

A: Adam and I took a class called the Hatchery (a course that helps students develop business plans) in the Washington University (Olin) Business School in the spring of 2012, which was designed to nurture students’ entrepreneurial ideas and ambitions. While our project for that class was quite different from Sketch-A-Song, the experience helped inspire us to commit our summer to our own venture and convince our friends to join us in starting a business. As a group, we had a passionate collective belief that we could learn a ton from working with one another towards a common goal. Also, my friends are just inspiring people — and the thought of sharing a summer with them in such a meaningful way was exhilarating from Day One.

As for the concept of music creation, all credit goes to our co-creator Zack Sulsky, who is a great musician and music theorist. He was the one who convinced us that we should aspire to creating a product that would allow anyone to make pleasing music.

Q: Do you plan to make money with the app?

A: We made the app because we wanted to give people a way to express themselves musically that was fun, intuitive and accessible. We explicitly chose not to include advertisements because we didn’t want to detract from the simplicity of the creation process or the app’s overall aesthetic.

However, we do have in-app-purchases as a way to unlock additional content and while our NoteNotes (that’s our name for the in-game currency) are moderately priced, and can also be earned by making songs, we do expect to make some money as people become familiar with the game and want to explore additional instruments and sketchpads.

Q: What are you guys going to do this summer?

A: As graduating seniors we have a variety of plans, jobs and traveling to look forward to. I will personally be taking the lead on promoting Sketch-A-Song before exploring other career opportunities. Adam will be training to become a teacher with Teach For America. While the team is headed in many different professional directions, our commitment to Sketch-A-Song will continue to unite us.

Visit Sketch-A-Song’s website and download the app for iOS or Android devices.