NAMM 2017: Komp, a music handwriting app for iOS, is in development

Note: All this week, we’ll be publishing short posts from the 2017 NAMM Show in Anaheim, California. It’s a huge exhibition, so we’ll focus on what we try to do best: cover the field of music notation software and related technology.

This post is about Komp, an in-development music notation app for iOS, previewing at NAMM and scheduled to be released in the first quarter of 2017.

Seattle-based Semitone, led by founder Gene Ragan, is among the latest entrants in the increasingly diverse world of music notation apps with an app poised to launch in the next couple of months. Called Komp, it’s still in development, but it’s far enough along that it was ready for a demo at this year’s NAMM show, where they’re exhibiting at Booth 201C3.

Promotional image of Komp, an in-development music notation app for iOS scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2017

I caught up with Gene at their booth yesterday and wanted to learn more about his background and the inspiration for Komp.

“I grew up in a large musical family and played trumpet and baritone horn,” Gene told me. “Much of my time in school revolved around playing in jazz band, orchestra, school musicals and pep band. The personal computer revolution was happening around me and I also spent a lot of time hacking on any computer I could get my hands on; Sinclair ZX-80s, Vic-20s, Apple IIs and more. Later on in college I learned to play guitar and also became fixated with analog synths and early samplers.”

Gene is no stranger to music notation software. “I was both VP of Engineering and then President of Passport Designs in the late 90s. I worked on Encore, which at one time was an intuitive and much-loved piece of software. It was always a bit frustrating to be tied to either a keyboard, mouse or some other type of MIDI input device. I really wanted to create a more natural way to create music notation.”

Komp founder Gene Ragan demonstrating the app at the 2017 NAMM show

Later, while working at Apple, Gene saw a prototype of a certain touch-based device. “It was then,” he said, “that I thought the time had almost come for something like Komp. I actually didn’t think it would take another ten years for the iPad to evolve enough to fulfill the vision that I had for Komp.”

Komp’s code can actually be traced back to as early as 2005, but, as Gene explained to me, “It has been rewritten several times as the product has matured. The code dealing with notation input is a sophisticated machine learning system that would have crushed the first version of iOS, but the latest software and hardware is more than capable of handling it.”

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