Ocarina, Leaf Trombone lead big parade of iPhone apps

Smith raised $5.5 million from local investors and says his target was to do $100,000 in the first six months.

Instead, Smule did $500,000. The sales target for the first year was $1.6 million, and Smith says that will be exceeded, too.

A musical connection

Stanford student Rob Hamilton (a teaching assistant who, like many in the CCRMA program, also works at Smule) helps out with the mobile phone and laptop orchestras.

Students use ChucK on Apple MacBooks to make sounds and tones, tilting and twisting them to alter the pitch.

"People come and listen to the crazy music we do, and come out of the concerts shaking their heads," says Hamilton.

Hamilton says that as a professor, Wang "brings a lot of energy to the classroom. He's really bubbly and gets students excited about their work. He shows them how to use technology to create whatever musical fantasies they have."

For Ocarina and Leaf Trombone, Wang's wildest dream has come true: He wanted to see the world latch onto an instrument and share the love of it in a social setting.

Within the iPhone app, you can listen to other folks playing the Ocarina and see where in the globe the music is coming from.

Fans have posted sheet music, showing how to play popular songs on the instrument.

"This is a new type of social fabric," says Wang.

Leaf Trombone takes it a step further. Wang has added American Idol-like competition — you can judge performances on the phone, or just watch others playing songs such as Battle Hymn of the Republic or The Blue Danube waltz.

"Here's an opportunity to combine music with technology, where anybody can play," says Smith. "You don't have to spend 10 hours in a practice room learning how to play. With the iPhone, anyone can do it."

And for Wang, this is only the beginning of music on mobile phones. He won't commit to a complete digital instrument portfolio, but says there is much more to come.

"The phone is such an intimate piece of technology that, for better or worse, it has become a natural extension of ourselves."

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