Music in my life Lassi Vapaakallio

Music In My Life: Meet Lassi Vapaakallio

We sat down with Lassi, Musopia’s talented Unity Developer in the New Apps Team, to find out why Musopia is such a great place to work from a developer’s perspective.

What is your area of responsibility at Musopia?
New Apps development. I do whatever our current app prototyping process needs, from building early prototypes to refining them for release, from testing apps on my own to running in-house testing sessions and documenting the results.

What is it like to work in a new apps team, and how is it different from the JustinGuitar and Kala Ukulele teams?
I’ve worked almost exclusively in the new apps team, so comparing it to the Justin and Kala teams is hard. Still, the main difference is that the Justin and Kala teams keep refining the same products to get better and better. In contrast, we make a lot more bold moves and need to be used to significant changes in direction and even give up on projects if it looks like there is something more important to work on instead.

What is most fun about your job?
Having to get up from the computer to get an instrument to test the latest thing I’ve been working on. 

How have you been able to develop your skills as a unity developer in your current position?
I came to Musopia from the game development world, and the way music apps are made is somewhat different, so getting back up to speed with the latest software development thinking has been very useful for me. Also, the company’s staggering amount of musical expertise has taught me a lot about making and playing music.

The company’s staggering amount of musical expertise has taught me a lot about making and playing music.

How does it feel like to sometimes “kill your babies”?
Over my studies and career, it has gone from painful to fun, which sounds horrible. But what I mean is that after making a few dozen games and apps, I’ve started to see that the best thing I can do for a project is to cut out everything I can, leaving just the very core of the experience. Then, I can start building on that. This applies to the type of prototyping work we are doing. If the core of the experience is not strong enough, it’s better to move on and find something more important to do. Of course, sometimes it would be nice to keep working on something fun. Still, if continuing can’t be supported with data or any other reasoning, it will probably end in heartbreak anyway, so it’s better to end it early.

What is your most surprising learning outcome during the new app development process? 
Like in any development and design work, it’s when users do something completely different from what you expect;  that you realize some of your assumptions weren’t based on anything real. To me, the most surprising and a bit frustrating are the ones where you think, “Okay, let’s just try the most obvious thing, but people will see right through it, and it probably won’t work”. And then it works incredibly well. And then, at other times, the obvious thing that everyone else is doing doesn’t work at all. So, the most surprising thing is repeatedly learning that you never know until you test something.

Lassi Vapaakallio at the Musopia Peace & Love Music Festival

When creating new app concepts and ideas, what sparks or ignites those initial ideas? 
We have many creative people with varied musical interests and ideas, so we have built up quite a catalogue of ideas over the years. They come from every department, and we try to pick the best ones to develop further and test. Then, when we see user reactions in testing, we learn and come up with even more ideas to test. Most often, the spark is as simple as “I wish a musical app like this would exist” or “I have tested all the learn-to-XXX apps, and none of them worked for me.”

How do you evaluate the new app ideas? 
It depends on how far the prototypes get, but we do internal UX testing, use user testing platforms, release test builds into the world, and collect all sorts of data. We have some criteria per idea that we want to hit. Sometimes, it might be how the users feel during the experience, sometimes it’s how long users stick with the app, sometimes it’s how the data compares to other apps we have, and sometimes it’s just feeling like there’s some more we could still learn from the project.

What do you like best about working in Musopia?
I’ve always loved experimentation and music, and that’s the majority of my work, so there’s a lot to like. It’s also great to have a shared interest in music throughout the company and the facilities to make music. I’ve even given a bunch of drum lessons at the company studio, and that’s a joy that couldn’t happen in almost any other workplace.

I’ve always loved experimentation and music, and that’s the majority of my work, so there’s a lot to like. 

What is the meaning of music in your life? 
Music has always been a big part of my life. My parents have worked with music their whole lives. I’ve played in different bands for over 15 years, and even while writing this reply, I can count about half a dozen instruments around the apartment. Even in my sports and games activities, I always gravitate towards musical ones, so currently, I have multiple dance classes going on, and it’s pretty likely to spot me playing Beat Saber at the office after work. 

Do you play an instrument yourself?
Yeah, I’ve been playing drums since I was 11, and a few years back, I picked up bass. I even got to play it on stage at Musopia’s Peace & Love Music Festival. My current project in terms of music is learning to sing, but that is still relatively early.

What is your guilty pleasure song, the song that you secretly love?
The more I’ve learned about music, the less I’ve felt guilty about listening to any of it. So, I’d pick Spice Girls- Stop to choose something that would’ve embarrassed me ten years back. I learned to love the song while figuring out the saxophone and trumpet parts with our old party band. That song also opened my ears to many wonderful pop songs I would have disregarded before.

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