Former Lawrence developer aims to revolutionize learning guitar with Soundslice

So, you're trying to learn to play guitar. Odds are, you'll start by picking up tabs.

Then, after maybe trying to find tabs on the Web or even transcribe your favorite songs into tablature, odds are pretty good that you'll give up.

Or at least get frustrated, because tabs — finding them on the net, transcribing them on your own — are notoriously fiddly and difficult, despite being the gateway to most rock playing.

So, a lot of people take to YouTube to learn to play (heck, to learn just about anything), and a new Web app aims to solve all kinds of problems by letting you play YouTube videos at the same time the tabs scroll across the screen just below.

Chicago-based developer/guitar-player Adrian Holovaty is the man behind the project, launched last week and called Soundslice.

Holovaty is also the creator of EveryBlock, the hyper-local news early adapter/micro-local blogging site sold to And he's one of the Beneovlent Dictators for Life of Django, a highly popular Web framework he and several other programmers built while working at the World Company.

So far, Soundslice has gotten some rave reviews for not only being well-built and pretty, but just a darn good solution to a widely had, rather tedious problem.

Here's an example: A audio from a YouTube post of a Django Reinhardt (he's a favorite of Holovaty's) song plays while corresponding tabs scroll below, almost "Guitar Hero" style.

In a screengrab from Soundslice, founder Adrian Holovaty shows the program's design.

In a screengrab from Soundslice, founder Adrian Holovaty shows the program's design. by Alex Garrison

As the Soundslice manifesto puts it, the program takes existing kind-of ideas for learning guitar (transcribing yourself, finding tabs, watching YouTube) and puts them together for everyone's benefit — a way of "taking advantage of the Internet."

The tabs are still based on user-uploaded transcription, so there's still the big potential for error. But the goal of combining the nuance-free tabs with the sight and sound of someone actually playing is well achieved.

The app (it's Web-based, best in Chrome, but also available on the iPad) is free, though Holovaty has strongly hinted at creating a "freemium" network of free, basic features and a paid subscription for more advanced capabilities.

Holovaty has said in several interviews that this is a more ideal way of learning to play. I personally don't play guitar, though I like the idea of Soundslice. If you do play (or are itching to learn), what do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments.


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