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Interview with Yair Lavi, Founder and CEO of Tonara

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As many of the music start-ups that I have interviewed within in the past year struggle with funding and licensing issues, it’s always good to hear a success story.

Tonara is an interactive music application that displays your sheet music, listens to the notes being played and uses its algorithm to turn the pages for you automatically. The start up recently received $4 million in Series A funding and has secured a partnership with print publishing giant, Hal Leonard. Below is and interview with Yair Lavi, Founder and CEO.

Where did the idea to create Tonara spring from?
One day while I was perusing my PhD in Physics, I was playing the piano to break from my intense studies. Playing the piano has always been a passion of mine. While performing a classical music piece from Bach, I began thinking about how I could apply my scientific background to develop interactive tools based on the sounds I was hearing. I thought if I could develop a tool that will understand what I was playing I could enhance my playing experience. Days later Tonara was born.

What has changed since TechCrunch Disrupt 2011?
Since launching the company at TechCrunch Disrupt 2011 to strong consumer and media fanfare, Tonara has experienced significant strides forward. In a year’s time, the company has greatly increased its digital downloads, signed top publishing partnerships, raised a strong Series A funding round, received top recognition from Apple as the ‘App of the Week’ in several major countries and gained worldwide recognition in the musician’s community, among other important accolades.

Tonara seems like it would work well for music instructors. Do you have plans to target schools and music education programs with this app?
Absolutely. In the future, Tonara plans to release a music education version with several exciting advanced features. However, today we already provide musicians with the ability to receive feedback on their tempo. Tonara users can also record their performances and share them through social media.

How did the deal with Hal Leonard come about?
Hal Leonard is the largest sheet music provider in the world, and we had our sites set on working with them from the beginning. Interestingly enough, when we first contacted Hal Leonard, we were happy to discover they were already using and had great things to say about our application. The partnership started as a ‘meeting of the minds’ and progressed easily from there.

It’s a natural partnership for both sides, and the Hal Leonard team is great and fun to work with.

What songs are some of your best sellers?
Since solidifying the partnership with Hal Leonard, we’ve seen many songs gain traction within our community of users across several genres. For instance: John Lennon’s Imagine; What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong; Beyoncé’s Listen and Coldplay’s Viva La Vida are all very popular. Also, classical music best sellers are Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata; The Entertainer by Scott Joplin; and Gymnopedies by Satie.

What do you think about the current state for music start-ups?
We believe it’s very clear to the entire music industry that a digital revolution is taking place. There are many music related start-ups, in the web and mobile spheres, doing tremendously innovative things. This is an extremely fun environment to work in.

We believe that Tonara is leading the digital revolution in interactive sheet music. It’s a very exciting time for music, and we anticipate many more things to come as the digital age continues to interact with the music industry worldwide.