Hum, then tap: Egyptian app creator wants you to make music

Humtap enables users to create fully composed music just by humming and/or tapping into an iPhone

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Remember the name “Humtap” as you may hear a lot more of it in the future. Ambitious plans are being put in place for this brand new iOS application, with its Arab founder aiming for it to become as big as Instagram.

The brainchild of Egyptian-American entrepreneur Tamer Rashad, Humtap enables users to create fully composed music just by humming and/or tapping into an iPhone. All you have to do is log in with your Facebook account, create music as a solo user or combine your tunes with other members of the community.

“Everybody listens to music – people consume music and audio more than they consume the written word and online users have become very comfortable with posting and sharing their own content creations. What’s missing is that people are not sharing music; at the moment, people are only sharing music that’s not their own,” Rashad tells Al Arabiya News. “We created Humtap to allow anyone to be able to create professional-quality music in something like 10 seconds. We’ve taken a once-complicated multi-stage process and made it simple enough for anyone”

The app first launched in the United Arab Emirates - for free on the Apple App Store - before being distributed and made available worldwide.

“We are providing a new type of content; our goal is to do for music making what Instagram has done for photography,” he reveals.

The app’s beginnings

Work on Humtap began in the first half of 2013, after which Rashad created a 15-person team comprising PhD professionals from some of the world’s top institutes. While the app sounds simple enough, it required years of research, with Rashad pointing out that it wouldn’t have been possible for the product to launch even a few years ago.

“Even though I was working with one of the best teams in the industry, we started with the assumption that it wouldn’t be possible to create as it was very ambitious. It was a scientific/engineering challenge,” he says, before recalling: “I once presented the idea to a CEO in Silicon Valley and he told me: ‘Tamer, what you’re describing is like a flying shoe. It sounds fantastic, but can you do it?’ In a way, it was like comparing it to the Hoverboard in ‘Back to the Future.’ Everybody wants one, but will it ever become a reality?”

How it works

While Rashad avoids going into the exact ins and outs of how Humtap works, he explains that all the music created is original and not composed ahead of time.

“The app is very complex, especially comparing it to the technology you see in most apps. The amount of processing we use here is exponentially higher than what needs to happen on a phone which is why we are using the cloud,” he says. “We aimed to make the creation of music ubiquitous and simple, so we stayed away from anything that would require you to know how to make music. For example, a keyboard layout is not something you recognize unless you are musically trained. However, people hum and people tap – these two ways are our starting point for capturing the expression… a creative thought of a person.”

He continues: “The music that is created is completely original; we’re not using any samples or any libraries. The music is composed in real time, which is a complete scientific breakthrough, and never before achieved on a commercial level. It’s royalty-free with no copyright infringement.”

As a result, the company recently filed patent applications to protect its proprietary technology.

“We have seven patents and more pending. It’s a very complex technology created thanks to research of about 50,000 hours with a team of researchers from the likes of Stanford and other top educational institutes across the world.”

Expansion plans

With the app set to launch on Android in the coming months, Rashad’s team is now focusing on increasing Humtap’s capabilities, as well as the musical genres it offers. With bases in both Silicon Valley and Berlin, Germany, the company received funding from professional investors and venture capital firms.

“That actually validates that you are doing something the market needs,” Rashad points out.

He continues: “We are expanding our technology to utilize motion, for example. And we’re also expanding on the genres, so you can eventually have any type of music, such as Turkish, Arabic or even Bollywood for instance.”

While Rashad is not keen to go into details of how he plans on monetizing the app, he does acknowledge that there could be room for commercial collaborations with artists in the future. For example, should singer-songwriters use Humtap to create music, download it and then add their vocals to the composition before distributing/selling the song.

“We would love for people to do that, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it eventually,” he says. “We want people to be able to make music and then we can have commercial arrangements with them. Musicians could use this app on the fly to capture musical ideas, but that is not really our target market.”

He goes on to add that, ultimately, the app would be a great social tool for celebrities or high profile figures to connect with the fans in a very unique way.

“Looking from a marketing and social media standpoint, this app is great for celebs – and not just musicians. If a TV personality or footballer goes on the network and makes music, then users can collaborate with that famous individual,” Rashad says. “Essentially that celebrity is creating music with their fan base. You are making something unique to each one – no two tunes will ever be the same.”

Should musicians watch out?

So will apps like Humtap spell the end of the musician? Should we all stop playing or learning to play a musical instrument when we can just create a tune using our mouths? Not exactly, as that’s not the aim of the app, Rashad points out.

“I am an amateur photographer; I just do it as a hobby. Do I compare myself to full-time professionals? Do I consider myself a threat to them? Of course not!

“Music is my passion, and I love creating music in my own studio. But not everyone has the means to do that,” he says. “Just like Instagram and Vine allow people to be expressive and creative, I feel that there should be a similar app for music.

“This would have been impossible to achieve three years ago as the technology simply wasn’t there. But now it has become a reality.”

Humtap is available for free on the Apple App store. Its Android version is coming soon.