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MS: Can you explain Skoove in one sentence?

FP: Skoove is a fun and effective music learning platform offering truly interactive online piano lessons.

MS: What makes Skoove unique?

FP: We launched Skoove with one goal in mind: to offer the easiest way to learn piano. We have a unique pedagogical approach, and Skoove's platform ensures novices and more experienced piano players can learn to play, refine their skills, and develop their music theory knowledge, simply by using a browser and a piano or keyboard.

We have an extensive collection of curated courses, with guided lessons delivered in small, easy steps. Skoove's adaptive learning system matches the student's pace and provides instant feedback. Students can start playing their first melodies after a few minutes.

We make use of cutting-edge browser technology and a sophisticated sound algorithm co-developed with experts at the renowned Fraunhofer IDMT research institute: Skoove can determine whether students hit the right notes and chords simply by listening through the computer's microphone.

MS: How was Skoove 'born'? What gave you the idea? Where does the name come from?

FP: More than half of the population of developed countries would like to play a musical instrument (58%), but currently only a fraction actually do. My co-founder, Stephan Schulz, and I are both music freaks and veteran music tech entrepreneurs. Inspired by successful language learning platforms like Duolingo and Babbel, it was natural for us to explore how we could develop a music education platform that allows more people to realize their dream to play a musical instrument.

'Groove' is one of my favourite elements in music and we played around with the world 'skill' as a key element of the learning experience. So the name Skoove was born.

Florian Plenge with a student
Florian Plenge with a student

MS: Do you have a musical background, a technology background, or both?

FP: Both. I was previously responsible for the Traktor DJ Division at electronic music instruments and DJ gear market leader Native Instruments. I learned guitar as a kid, then played the drums for 15 years in trash metal bands and am learning to play piano today while I continue to DJ at anything from Berlin minimal parties to weddings of friends.

MS: Who are your current students and where are they based?

FP: Skoove is aimed and beginner and intermediate students from teenage onwards. Skoove is available worldwide in English and German. The majority of our students are based in the US, UK and Germany, but we also see students from Afghanistan to Zambia learning with Skoove.

MS: Do you focus on specific musical genres?

FP: The beginner and intermediate courses teach a mix of classical music and chart hits. More advanced players can choose from courses specialising in classical or pop, focussing on the relevant skills like score literacy, expression and dynamics in the one and chords and improvisation in the other. We also offer more specialised courses like keyboard playing for electronic music producers.

MS: How do you design your course materials? How do you test them?

FP: We've developed a unique teaching method we call 'Listen Learn Play'. This carefully integrates the essential elements of piano-learning, such as aural training, music theory (sight-reading, chords, etc) and playing technique into each lesson, adapting to the students' pace and giving them real-time feedback. The method has been developed by Dominik Schirmer, former professor at Paul McCartney's Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts.

The students' learning success is the ultimate motivation for us as the creators of Skoove. We test learning success in multiple steps. From day one, we invite students to our office to watch them and listen to their thoughts while they learn with Skoove. We regularly interview our users and survey their feedback to understand what works well and where we have potential for improvement. Finally, we anonymously measure how students interact with Skoove's lessons and courses using software-based tracking and monitoring. This gives us a quantitative understanding how music learning is taking place over time.

There is nothing more gratifying than to see how beginners are successfully advancing their piano playing with Skoove!   

MS: Is Skoove designed to replace face-to-face teaching, or can it work alongside more traditional teaching models? Do you face any resistance from teachers?

FP: We want to motivate more people to make the move and start to learn a musical instrument. Two thirds of our students have never played a musical instrument. We believe that Skoove provides the ideal start for beginners and refreshers - either as a complete stand-alone learning environment or as a resource to complement studying with a music teacher. Ultimately, I strongly believe that Skoove will result in more students enrolling with schools and teachers.

MS: How much does Skoove cost for students?

FP: Learners can try Skoove out with free lessons and then upgrade to Skoove Premium to enjoy full access, one-on-one learning support and exclusive content with new lessons and music theory tips added every month. Skoove Premium currently costs £7.95 per month for UK learners.

We see great interest also from schools, universities and music teachers. We offer Skoove for free to our educational partners and also offer educational licenses for their students.

MS: Do you have plans to offer Skoove for other instruments, or will your focus remain on piano?

FP: We plan to offer Skoove also for guitar.

MS: How has the company been financed during the start-up phase?

FP: We were founded in August 2014 and completed a seed funding round led by the largest German early stage fund, the High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF), in 2015. Skoove is a graduate of the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in Berlin and is supported by the Microsoft Ventures Alumni Program globally. Skoove is also supported by the European Union through a fund for regional development.

MS: Do you work – or plan to work - in partnership with other companies or organisations?

FP: We are working with music instrument retailers and manufactures to offer Skoove together with the instruments. For example, Amazon bundles Skoove with all keyboards and Alesis just announced a new entry level e-piano, the Recital, bundled with Skoove.

We are also in discussion with numerous universities and schools regarding research and teaching partnerships.

MS: As a German-based company, do you notice any cultural differences with international subscribers? Are there any specific challenges you face?

FP: We haven’t experienced specific challenges based on international cultural differences. Music is again confirmed to be a language that connects globally!

MS: What are your expansion plans? Where do you want Skoove be in five years’ time as a business?

FP: We plan to add more languages and regions in the coming months. China especially is a very interesting market. No other country is selling more pianos. Regarding technology platforms, we will release Skoove on iPads later this year.

Our goal is to establish Skoove as one of the key players in online music education enabling more students to start playing a musical instrument and adding a fun and effective learning solution for music teachers.