String Skipping & Picking Up and Down. Yousician, you’ve got it all wrong, again.

Yes, by some miracle, I am still working with the free version of Yousician. No, I will not be investing in the paid version. My opinion of the program overall hasn’t changed, but there’s enough there that, while I can’t make myself work with the program daily, I do spend a few days a week crossing my fingers that I don’t run into any glitches. Lately, it’s been on pretty good behavior on that front. (Okay, it is constantly telling me to check my tuning, but I’m pretty sure that has more to do with me being a shitty guitarist than anything else. If you miss more than 5 notes in a row it assumes that your guitar is the problem. Nope, just me sucking at this particular lesson.)

I’ve spent a good amount of time going backward to lessons I’ve cleared but not achieved a star in, and have, over the past week or two, been gaining stars in the lessons behind me. Gold stars? No, not always, but still, it was affirming to see that enough improvement is happening that I’m progressing through some missions that were almost impossible for me before, which is proof that even when we don’t notice it, progress is being made.

That said, tonight’s lesson was pretty abysmal, and as I look at the melody section, it seems to me that they’ve got two of the lesson blocks backwards. Maybe I’m nuts, but, personally, it seems absolutely insane to teach picking up and down before string skipping (owing in huge part to the fact that you are heavily using string skipping in all of the picking up and down lessons, before you unlock the lesson block that covers the subject. Wtf is that about?)  So, you’re bumbling through string skipping for huge chunks of lessons before Yousician ever feels inclined to discuss it. By that point, either you’ve figured it out, or if you’re like me, are still pretty horrible at it, and have bungled your way on sheer dedication and dumb luck through the last block of lessons on the understanding this is just something that is going to require WAY more practice before you’re able to do it respectably.

So, you go through these picking up and down lessons (many of which, for the record, you can get through rather easily without actually picking up and down, at all.), and then you unlock the next lesson about string skipping, and I won’t even joke: it feels like the program is mocking you, or at least doing it to spite you. If the picking up and down lessons didn’t utilize string skipping so heavily, I wouldn’t have a problem with it, but there are some fairly quick switches and some fairly significant jumps in the picking up and down lesson set, so to follow that by saying ‘oh, that thing you’ve been doing that we didn’t feel like discussing with you – for no reason – I guess we can talk about that now’ is nonsensical.  I’ll have to see how the lesson set evolves, but at a glance? Choosing to put these two lesson sets in this order just makes no sense.

Until Next Time, still have a Hate/Almost Vaguely Like relationship with Yousician. The drills are handy, but beyond that, I’m really not convinced the people who write the lessons actually know how to play any musical instruments, let alone the guitar.

13 thoughts on “String Skipping & Picking Up and Down. Yousician, you’ve got it all wrong, again.

  1. Knowing how to play and knowing how to teach are two very different skills. But, based on one of your previous posts, its possible that the Yousician developers are reading this and might make adjustments if it looks beneficial. I do that with our software. I poll clients weekly (different clients, so I’m not getting on anyone’s nerves) and get input. A lot of that influences my design.

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    1. One can hope; I don’t actually take pleasure in talking smack about a program I’m using (in spite of my low threshold for stupid. Lol), but if I’m honest the only real value in it is drilling exercises in real time with my acoustic.

      I have a guitar buddy who jokes that the people who designed Rocksmith can’t play, but I can see what rocksmith is doing: some of the progressions are overcomplicated to challenge you.
      That’s not the case here, though. Here, they have you doing something, sometimes in a way that requires reasonable proficiency, for four levels of lessons before you even have access to the lesson block that talks about it. Where is the sense in that?


      1. I don’t think they’ll necessarily think you’re talking smack about it. You point out why its not working for you, give an explanation as to why and make suggestions. If you’re critical about it, its because you’re making a point. I have clients that say far worse, and I have others that are much more constructive and who I’d actually like to recruit for my team, because their logic and ability to convey user experience is so good.


      2. True, but they’re a company, so they most likely have a team of developers, even if its a small one, who look at feedback together and bounce ideas and responses back and forth between themselves. At least, that’s how we work, and from what I’ve seen meeting with other companies, how others operate as well.


      3. Yeah, just given my previous unexpected interaction with them, I do have to wonder. It was a very subtle attempt to ‘blame the user’ for a system problem.
        If there is one thing I’ve learned from working with IT guys, it’s this: even when the user is wrong, the user isn’t wrong, because a strong system should be designed to not permit major errors, in spite of the crazy stuff the user is doing.
        Obviously, a program designed to recognize sound is going to have it’s fair share of quirks, but even so, if your users experience a significant error, that’s something you need to figure out a way to improve on.
        Now, I see they’ve added piano to the repertoire (why that next? wouldn’t bass be a more logical next step for a guitar learning program? Kind of an unusual choice…), but meanwhile, has the sound recognition error been fixed? I haven’t tried it without my rocksmith cable in quite a long while to confirm, but it just doesn’t seem to be a priority. If it was, I think they’d mention having dealt with it.


      4. It sounds to me like Marketing is controlling the development schedule. Marketers are notorious for encouraging feature bloat and for looking for buzzwords and features to tout instead of making systems stable. I’ve had arguments with ours in the past and have heard the same from other companies.

        Most likely, they found some numbers that convinced them that piano will make more money than bass because there are more potential users, so they pushed that way, and because there aren’t enough people complaining about certain bugs, correcting them becomes priority 2 or 3.


      5. Also – sometimes it IS the user’s fault. I’ve caught people doing thing incorrectly – on purpose – to try and shortcut things in our system, even though they know from years of use that they shouldn’t. Its mostly out of laziness, but it catches up with them eventually. In my field, its primarily doctors and social workers. The other clinicians seem to stick with procedure and don’t give us any significant problems. When they report something, its generally because something actually IS wrong, not because they were trying to game the system to save work later and then got caught because our system keeps them honest (you’d be shocked to learn how much date and time manipulation they try to get away with, and *I* have to lecture them on regulations and simply being *honest*).


      6. The logic our IT crew works on is that a truly stable system won’t permit major problems even if they try to game the system.
        We happen to have a truly outdated system that it’s insane to try to run a company our size on. We get record locks just because, so users have been lectured, tons, but at the end of the day, users are going to make errors, but a truly stable system will have preventatives in place. That’s essentially their logic: if the problem is windows, well, Microsoft isn’t going to fix it, so how is our programmer going to make it work.

        Whatever camp you sit in on the subject, though, if the system has a significant problem, odds are high the programmer knows it, or knows the potential for it exists, so talking down to the user like they’re stupid is still bad form.


      7. You’re right about “stable” systems not permitting major problems – but that’s not universally enforceable if users are actively trying to find a way around something.

        Its tied to complexity. With a simple system control is easier because what users can do is limited, so the program only needs to accept a limited type of input.

        A more complex system changes things. Specific types of of input within a specific timeframe from people with specific access that affect other parts of the system and have to link out to other vendor’s applications or to government systems (all of which are proprietary or trying to shoehorn data into “universal” data standards) make for a potential headache… and then if the system has to receive data BACK from these outside sources, some of which are competitors that purposely divide data sources or alter its format, it can get worse.

        There can be a lot going on in the background that makes things that are simple in concept harder to execute. I have arguments with Development about this stuff weekly, because I drive design and what makes sense from a user side can be difficult or impossible to implement (and is sometimes flat out wrong, if you get it from a user who’s more myopic with what they want to see and don’t consider broad access).

        Also – the thing with significant problems being known. Its 50/50. There are things that we discover from testing and from polling users… then there are things that we discover only when we’re onsite and directly in front of the users. A lot of them just live with problems and don’t tell us anything. They find workarounds. Some, don’t have much computer experience and don’t understand that we want to actually change what’s bothering them (if it makes sense to). Others are just cynical and don’t believe things can change. I’ve found that these are often the users who feel repressed at work – it tends to be an institutional thing. When I get them to spill their guts, I end up playing the role of therapist for a while, but they do have useful feedback that I’d never get any other way… along with tons of dirt on the facilities they work for. Its just a strange dynamic. But, I guess the point of that is that developers don’t always know. The ones I work with are very smart, but not necessarily in-tune with a variety of users’ workflows. We map out what we can, but there’s always going to be something that we miss. People’s minds are simply too diverse to account for everything, unless we’re strictly limiting how they can interact with the system or what it can do with their data.

        Damn. Sorry about the length of that… and it had nothing to do with music or bass.


      8. It’s cool. I think you touched on the point in all of that anyway. Much of our system relies on text fields where it should demand date fields, lets you enter letters where only numbers should be allowed, so people screw up; they’re people, so that’s going to happen, and the system can go completely mental across 16 stores if someone hits an “I” instead of a “9”, becauuse the system allows that. But, we’re not talking about an ambiguous or hard to detect issue here. It is a central need of a music program that it is able to hear sound. When that stops periodically for no reason, the problem is clearly not user error, and “use our competitor’s cable” is a cop out, not a fix. It’s fine to talk hypotheticals in complex systems, but this is a case of one of the basic components failing to function properly, so it doesn’t really apply. Now, they have people paying a monthly fee to use the program, so I can guarantee they knew about it before I mentioned it on the blog, but they choose to add features over ironing out kinks. This just seems like a lot of very poor planning to me.


      9. That thing with date fields vs text fields – they should be able to correct that, especially if its a browser-based application. There are field masks which you can specify formats for, like text or types of numbers (real, integer, etc) and date fields. We don’t have those types of problems in our system because we specify that stuff right from the get-go. I’m actually super-anal about that. Its the manipulation of the actual dates (like lying about when you saw a resident, or starting an assessment in January but not actually completing it until March, and then wanting US to help cover it up – there are regulations and specific timeframes for this stuff, not to mention… professionalism) that puts me at odds with some users.

        But, I know exactly what you mean about loose systems not filtering for the right type of data, and record-locking. That was a problem for us maybe 10 years ago, but one of the first things I did was document the hell out of every instance I came across and get it all resolved. It was like a witch-hunt for me. I was actually harassing my primary contacts at each facility for weeks to make sure I had those all locked down. We’ve not had a single instance of that happening in a decade, and that’s even AFTER switching from a client/server delivery system to cloud and rewriting the whole thing from PowerBuilder to .NET.

        If I can do it, and I’m only one person, then larger companies have no excuse.

        The Yousician thing is harder for me to speak to. Its only because we don’t deal with hardware like that. Its something of an analog-to-digital conversion, I’d assume, and its real-time, and my guess would be its also transmitting that data to their servers for analysis/recognition and then reporting back. I’ve never dealt with that kind of stuff, so maybe its as good as they can make it with that kind of delivery system? Or, maybe they’ve just discovered a second source of revenue with piano and are trying to grab the market before someone else does.

        Techs tend to want stuff to be logically functional, so my feeling is that this is still a marketing directive.


      10. It’s based on a platform they were using in 1970. Unfortunately, our main system is designed by the antiquated and incompetent. We have an amazing IT crew that works miracles around it, and a programmer who sees no end to designing programs that do things our main system should be able to, or to fix screwy exports. It’s a sad state of affairs. You can actually record lock yourself in our system. I remember also a while back, our AP girl was voiding a check (which took over 8 hours), so no one could enter invoices for that vendor all day because of record locking. Voiding a check should not make an entire vendor inaccessible. It’s the system from hell.

        And, I agree, but it’s frustrating, because it would be a pretty good learning tool, if they would just iron it out.


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