“One song at a time, one day at a time”

The Story of Cymbal

This article was originally posted on Jul 13, 2015 by Gabe Jacobs

When I was 16 years old I started a music blog called Lower Frequencies (now run by Brett Rosenberg). Naturally, I had my brother, Gideon, who is infinitely more articulate than I am, write the “About LF” section. He wrote:

Lower Frequencies was born out of the motto, “keep it simple.” The universe, the world, the blogosphere, life — they’re all vast, unfathomably complex webs that defy comprehension or certain definition. Lower Frequencies is basic and definable — “one song at a time, one day at a time.”

Lower Frequencies was a fun way to share some of my favorite songs. I knew at least 200–400 people were looking at the site each day and I liked knowing that some of them were getting a sense of my music taste while hopefully finding the music I picked as amazing as I did. However, after posting so much over the years, it started to feel a little stale. It started to feel like it was way too much about me. Music was meant to be shared, but not by one person. I was missing the conversation. I was missing the feedback. I wrote lots of reviews for songs, but they were not meant to just be viewed and observed. I wanted to be a part of the bigger conversation. Sure, I wanted to be respected, but not as much as I wanted a real conversation, an exchange of tastes and sensibilities. I love talking about music and enjoying it with others. So I got bored and decided to pass on Lower Frequencies to someone else.

The important thing was that someone had to run that blog. People need to share music. Music — or any art form, for that matter — survives by its trust in the people to share the pieces that are beautiful, compelling, pleasurable, and fun to listen to. There needed to be a way to help people share music as simply and easily as Lower Frequencies made it to recommend — like a Lower Frequencies where everyone’s the editor. And further, there needed to be something that gave others the chance to present themselves musically. I’ve always thought music is not just a big part of my life, it’s also an important way I define myself. I needed to find a way to show, like profile pictures do, who I am and how my brain works. The fact that I made a music blog in high school proved that I was in search of some way to show this side of me to the world. The blog was a temporary, faulty solution, but it was on the right track.

So I met Amadou Crookes and Mario Gomez-Hall in college, and we found a way to take the next step: Cymbal.

Cymbal was born out of long days and nights at Tamper Cafe and around the Tufts campus, coding and designing a better way to share, discuss and listen to music.

Cymbal is simple. Make a profile and post songs you love from Soundcloud or Spotify. Then follow friends and tastemakers — blogs, artists, smart people. Follow by follow, you create a timeline: a playlist of songs, one from each of your friends, of the song that means the most to them this instant. Your timeline becomes a constantly-evolving, personally-curated channel of great music to check out. Clicking play on any song allows you to explore exactly what each of your friends are dancing to, one by one — “basic and definable.” We want to emulate the experience of exploring a record store, back when those were a thing.

These are the songs that get you going in the morning, the songs that you keep coming back to. These are your anthems. They are, in a way, you.

Let me back up: Obviously there is more to someone than the one song that defines them in the moment. Our lives are made up of many of these discrete moments, and it would be a shame to disregard those that have passed by. What your Cymbal profile does is create a record of those moments.

Your profile spotlights your current song of the moment, your cymbal. Below it lies a collage of album covers, each representing a past loved song. As a whole, your profile represents your musical history.

There are many other musical services out there, but we felt that none were able to capture the way we felt about music as identity. Your “music profile” is not the playlists you’ve created, or even the songs that you have listened to. Rather, your “music profile” is what you have decided to curate. What better way to do that than by posting your favorites?

When we finally released Cymbal within our friend groups at Tufts, we started to see people using music in a really different way.

screenshot of comments for the song “Billions of Eyes” by Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, posted by myself

Our friends actually began talking about music. They would listen to each others’ cymbals and then discuss what parts they liked and where they were playing shows next. It’s something I really wished had happened on Lower Frequencies, but it made sense that it was only possible if others had the option to share too. Every voice matters.

We’re most excited about the world of possibilities we envision for Cymbal. We feel like there is a lot missing in the music-tech world and we want to find a way to explore those options. No matter our future directions, we are committed to staying true to the idea that behind every song is a person. And no matter how corny that sounds, or how “medium-posty”, that may be, it’s a simple truth that human connection makes everything more meaningful. It is what makes the sounds we hear resonate. It is why we have smart phones and why we stay connected. Both Lower Frequencies and Cymbal are attempts to provide a more simplified and more meaningful way to digest music. Slowly and carefully — one song at a time, one day at a time.

— Gabe

P.S. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook!