Colourful card games provide the key to unlocking how music works

New Innovator: Guitar Cards are suitable for a very broad market from solo learners to families

Arden Counihan plays guitar and has always loved music. However, he found getting to grips with the theory side of things a challenge as he doesn’t do well with traditional learning methods.

He knew that understanding theory would greatly enhance his enjoyment of music and having taught himself the rudiments with visual cues, he has gone to develop Guitar Cards. A game-based learning system for guitar and piano that makes it easier to get to grips with musical concepts.

“When it came to the theory, it was always in one ear and out the other no matter how hard I tried,” Counihan says. “For some people, music theory just doesn’t sink in from the words alone. Guitar Cards are designed to help people get past this and to make learning piano and guitar faster and more enjoyable.

“Personally, I learn best by picking things up and playing around with them and I started pairing cards with chords and colours and arranging them. As my knowledge grew, music finally started to make sense to me and I could see how useful it was to be able to understand the fundamentals.

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“This inspired me to explore the idea further and the result is Guitar Cards which are designed to help anyone who is learning or loves music and wants to grasp the theory behind it in a multisensory, interactive way.”

Counihan studied business at Sligo Atlantic Technological University (ATU) and has also completed courses in design, film/video, music and fine art. He has been working on Guitar Cards for some time and says that starting a business has taken him well out of his comfort zone. But with strong local support, he has been able to push forward and launch the cards ahead of schedule.

“Doing the New Frontiers programme at Sligo ATU was like a rocket: the mentoring and support have been crucial in keeping the whole project on track. The way the programme is constructed and run is so well thought out and this helped me to prioritise and stay accountable despite my own ADD [attention deficit disorder] symptoms,” Counihan says.

“I also had support from the Bite the Biscuit creative community and from Sophia Murray of Flowermoon Studio whose work really elevated the quality of the cards.”

Guitar Cards are suitable for a very broad market from solo learners (around age seven upwards) to families who would enjoy playing the musical equivalent of Snap. There is also a musical version of Poker for older players.

Each card is brightly-coloured and split between information for the piano and the guitar. So, for example, the notes that make up the chord of G major are shown for the piano picked out in different colours on a keyboard while the finger positionings for the guitar chord are also highlighted by colour to make the harmonic relationships immediately clear.

“The decks come with an instruction manual and parents can use them to help their children learn simple chords, bands and orchestras can use them to learn about mixing and matching chords and scales and they will also be useful for guitar and piano teachers,” says Counihan who estimates investment in the bootstrapped business to date at around €15,000.

“Of course, there are already lots of great apps, courses and teachers out there but Guitar Cards actually complements and pairs very well with all of them, helping those who aren’t the strongest verbal learners to learn more ‘hands-on’ with their favourite teachers,” Counihan says.

The full commercial launch of Guitar Cards will take place in early in 2024 when the cards arrive in volume from an overseas manufacturer. But before this, they will be available in limited quantities via a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. This is scheduled to start imminently with the decks (which sell at €18.99) delivered in time (within Ireland) for Christmas stockings.