This is the Well Tempered Chronicles, a behind the scenes look at the development and continued life of my tuner for the iPhone and iPad, Well Tempered.
Well Tempered 1.0
I wrote the first version of my chromatic tuner, Well Tempered, back in january 2009 when I was between jobs because of a non-compete clause in the contract from my old job. In my old job I had got to spend some time with the iPhoneOS betas, and when my boss decided there was no market for that, I continued in my spare time.
The choice of working on a tuner that specilaized in different temperaments came from my research on the topic while I was preparing to do a PhD in Medialogy at Aalborg University back in 2005. The funding for the PhD never came through, and I left to become an IT consultant.
My background for wanting to do a PhD in Medialogy was that even while I studied for my Cand. Scient in computer science at the University of Oslo, I devoted a whole lot of time to my music. I had started playing around the same time I started programming, around the age of 7, and the two had always competed for my attention. I always wanted to become an engineer, except for when I wanted to become a composer. So in the end I did one year of composition, a 5 year Cand Scient in Computer Science, and a 5 years diploma in recorder playing.
But lets forward back to 2009 again. iPhoneOS 2.0 had been out for a little while, and I wanted to apply my skills and data collection I had done during my research in 2005-2006. The OS contained the C-oriented audio framework AudioQueue, and I would use this to make a pitch fork that I could make different sounds with in the precise frequencies that were needed for tuning scales in different temperaments.
Although many users later asked for a tuner that would listen to a tone and then tell how sharp or flat it was, I really felt that having a reference tone to tune after was far more precise, so this is where I chose to focus. Working with musicians that played in other settings than the chamber music I was used to, or musicians that played instruments with other tone qualities than the harpsichord and recorder at my disposal, I explored different sounds to include with the pitch pipe that would suit tuning different instruments better.
User interface wasn’t something I knew much about, and honestly, the App Store was a mishmash of different UI attempts. I was very fascinated about Core Animation, and was delighted that I could make it look like I rolled and unrolled a parchment scroll, that I would use to display a description of the chosen temperament. Temperaments were chosen in a picker view. The name sounded like the obvious choice, but alas, the experience of choosing a temperament was not great. And the rest were buttons, labels and textfields, on the background of a baroque painting that I’d blur a bit here and there to match the background better.
All in all development was done in less than a week, and I was excited to see how life in the app store would be.
Back in 2009, not many people had an iPhone. I soon discovered that my target audience, musicians playing early music instruments, didn’t have an iPhone, seeing it as an interesting but oh so expensive device that was outside their budget. So sales were always slow.
While working on bug fixes and adding temperaments, I had two main requests: adding a tuner that would tune by sound and display if the played tone was too flat or too sharp, and keeping compability. When I would update to requiring iPhoneOS 2.2.1, people who had not upgraded would complain. I don’t remember exactly why, but there was a lot of resistance to upgrading back then. So it was radical for me to scrap compability with iPhoneOS 2.x when I released Well Tempered version 1.3, the last version of the 1.x series. But nothing too radical, though, I would still keep compability with the original iPhone.
Marketingwise, I had totally misunderstood the deal with Apple. It was my impression that the 30% cut of the sales that Apple would take included marketing. I clearly remember Scott Forstall saying that in the videos. I could be mistaken, I will admit I have not gone and looked it up to have a reference for you. So I did very little marketing outside the app store, and so my quirky-looking, under-marketed tuner intended for early music players who couldn’t afford the iPhone did rather poorly in the app store, probably selling around 300-400 copies from early 2009 to mid 2015.
While the first version of Well Tempered didn’t sell much, I still consider it a success, since the people that did buy it spent an average of almost 15 minutes when they did use it. And while I have bought many tuners since, I always ended up using it myself. So in terms of scatching my own itch, it was absolutely a success.
Come back for installment two of the Well Tempered behind-the-scenes story.
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