• An Interview with Tunefox's Bennett Sullivan


    The advent of the internet heralded a wide variety of ways for us to embrace and learn the language of music. From video subscription services to one-on-one video lessons, web sites and apps, the number of ways students engage in education is vast. Much of this is not new, but can be confusing. As part of a conversation with Tunefox CEO and Founder Bennett Sullian we found an individual that communicated clearly and viewed an opportunity to educate our readers about one company helping lead the way for web-based education for mandolin, guitar and banjo.

    What follows is a basic interview where we allowed Bennett to share what kind of educational activities Tunefox was engaged in.

    What is Tunefox?

    Tunefox is a web and app (Apple iOS only) based learning tool designed to help people learn bluegrass songs and licks for guitar, mandolin, and banjo. Each song in Tunefox has 3 versions - Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced - and each of those arrangements has switchable licks.

    For example, let's say you get a basic arrangement of a tune under your fingers. With Tunefox you can shuffle the measures of a song to create a new solo based on the original you just learned. We think it's a great way to approach improvisation. Included are all of the normal practice tools - tempo slider, backing tracks, chords, and looping/measure selection as well as special tools like speed up, hide notes, and memory-train.

    What's the point?

    To help students become real musicians. We don't want you to just learn an arrangement of a tune and then only be able to play that arrangement. There's so much more to a solo and a lot of it has to do with hearing the bluegrass vocabulary and then learning how it fits into a song that you know.


    What made you decide to create Tunefox?

    As an educator, I'm always looking for ways to help people become their own instructor. Generally in lessons I focus on learning by ear, creating arrangements, and developing basic musical skills like playing with the metronome and with backing tracks. The co-founder, Jiri Markalous, is also a musician. We spent long hours trying to determine what would be the best means for people to become more creative musicians with a foundation for improvising. The lick switcher really takes understanding a tune to the next level. On top of that there are ‘special' practice tools that we've developed with learning by ear in mind.

    There are a lot of video lesson subscription websites on the market now (I personally run one). These can be great tools for learning but Jiri and I wanted to make something a little more focused on the technology and how we can help people become better practicers and creators in their own time for a minimal monthly investment.
    How is it doing?

    Banjo players love it! Ha, we've had a lot of success with banjo because I have a following of banjo students that have enjoyed the app and have shared it. We also beta tested with a banjo-only version of the app so I think some people are under the impression that it's a banjo-only app. It's not! We think it can be a super powerful learning tool for any instrument.

    What is the cost for a subscriber?

    Tunefox is a monthly subscription of $9.99 for all instruments. This will give you access to all songs and licks and eventually, lessons (more on that below.) There are monthly song, lick and feature updates so you'll never run out of material to work on.

    What's coming along in the future of Tunefox?

    Lessons. We launched Tunefox in September 2017 with a song library. The most recent change is the lick library, which features single measure licks that are referenced in the songs. Our most exciting update is Lessons! To start out, there will be 10-12 beginner lessons for each instrument. These will include some new technology that we're so excited about but can't share just yet.

    Later this year, we hope to expand the lessons to more than just the beginner level. We also are looking forward to launching more instruments and eventually branching outside of the bluegrass genre into jazz, pop, classical, etc. as well as incorporating more instruments and standard notation.
    We'd love the Mandolin Cafe community to come try Tunefox out and we'd like to offer a special discount. Use the promo code MANDOCAFE20 to get 20% off the monthly price.

    About Bennett Sullivan

    Bennett Sullivan a North Carolina-based educator and performer in bluegrass. Bennett has toured with some top musicians in the industry and has dedicated himself to creating multiple learning platforms for the bluegrass world. He can be contacted directly at bennett@listenlearnapp.com.

    Additional Information

    Comments 6 Comments
    1. Mark Gunter's Avatar
      Mark Gunter -
      Checked out the free tunes on the web version ... this is a fun app.
    1. mando_dan's Avatar
      mando_dan -
      Plans on an Android version?
    1. Kris N's Avatar
      Kris N -
      +1 on Android version. This is awesome (and I'll use it on my iPad), but I'll never understand why anyone would build an app first for a phone with less than a 13% market share.
    1. bsullivan89's Avatar
      bsullivan89 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
      Checked out the free tunes on the web version ... this is a fun app.
      Hey Mark, so glad you dig Tunefox! Thanks for checking it out.

      - - - Updated - - -

      Quote Originally Posted by mando_dan View Post
      Plans on an Android version?
      Hey Dan,

      Not yet, but the web version Tunefox is optimized to work on Android tablets. Let me know if you have any more questions.

    1. bsullivan89's Avatar
      bsullivan89 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kris N View Post
      +1 on Android version. This is awesome (and I'll use it on my iPad), but I'll never understand why anyone would build an app first for a phone with less than a 13% market share.
      Hey Kris,

      We're glad you dig Tunefox! An Android version would be great to have. The reason for iPhone is just because I have been an Apple user since I started using smartphones and when I came up with a concept for our first app (Listen & Learn: Banjo) I looked for a developer that specialized in iOS because that's what I was familiar with. Back then we weren't looking to start a business at that point so iOS vs. Android didn't matter too much to us.

      2.5 years after our first app we created Tunefox and have since brought a web developer in. But we just haven't had the resources to bring an Android developer onto our team. I think it would be amazing to add this and as we grow it'll definitely be a priority.

      Hope that helps.

    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Some cool info in a Tunefox email blast just now. Most interesting to us, a new item How to Learn the Mandolin Fingerboard with Jacob Jolliff and Sitting on Top of the World for Mandolin [FB Live Recording].