Exactly 4 years have passed since I first released what was then called, iReal Book for the iPhone.
In 2008 the iPhone app frenzy was in full bloom. As a jazz bass player who had always been intrigued with technology, I was trying to cram PDFs of the Real Books on the little screen of the iPhone using the Photo app. Bad idea. You couldn’t see anything and you couldn’t find the songs you needed. I realized that all I needed were the chords and that’s how the iReal Book idea was born.
I hit the computer programming books pretty hard for a few months, and by the end of 2008 the original iReal Book was launched for iPhone in all its low-fi, home-made programming glory. It was pretty basic and contained 500 transposable songs – that’s all.
During 2009 the editor was added and I launched the online forums where a growing community of musicians, students and educators could connect and users started sharing songs with each other. With growing popularity, the following year saw iReal Book being optimized for the iPad and a basic version for Android was also created. It was a busy year with a significant milestone in the app’s development being the addition of the play-along feature, which attracted much attention and acclaim from beyond the modest following of fellow music nerds and woodshedders who had kept me motivated to keep creating new features. Things became very real, and I realized that my little hobby was now a serious business. In 2011, the team at Technimo (yes, ‘I’ became ‘we’) released the Mac OS X version, and the player also finally became available on Android.
Then, the excitement and growth of the app came to a grinding halt in March when we received a ‘take down notice’ from Apple. We were offline for two months while we dealt with the murky issue of copyright. Long story short, we knew we were no financial match for the major publishing houses of the world to fight the good fight. T he experience made us want to pre-empt any potential future issues, so not only did we remove the previously included songs (now available in the forums for free), but the app was re-birthed as iReal b. A setback for sure, but with the new identity we now feel more freedom to develop the app beyond the spirit of the original Real Books. The forums have since become even more activated with users sharing charts and creating playlists, the functionality and usefulness of the app has surpassed the iReal Book of old, tenfold.
With the troubles of the past year behind us, 2012 saw the addition of more accompaniment styles and some useful features for learning guitar and piano chords and scales. Currently the iOS version of iReal b (4.4) is the most advanced while the Mac OS X version will get to the same level with all the same features with version 2.7 – coming out in a couple of weeks, pending Apple approval. The Android version lacks a few features like looping, guitar/piano chords and scales but we are working hard to bring it up to par with the other platforms.
All in all, it’s been 4 amazing years of hard work, late nights (mornings), frustration (the iReal Book to iReal b debacle), but also laughter, fun and much, much satisfaction. I want to thank the amazing people on our team for helping me make this one of the most rewarding experiences ever – in no particular order: Warren, Niki, Alessandro, Miranda and Ferenc. I also want to thank all of you for sharing your songs in the forums and for spreading the word about iReal b among your fellow musicians and friends. Most of all, it’s your enthusiasm and inspiration that keeps this circus running.