(Ahead of time: open up Finale to the Cueca.Smartmusic to Accent on Achievement,Zumgaligali. Open Firefox.)Today I will be talk about technology for the studio musician. Broadly speaking, the word technology refers to the ways human beings use material objects, so we can actually think that our musical instruments themselves were once technological inventions. However, today I will be confining myself to talking mostly about computers and computing technology in the use of musicians who teach private lessons.
Recently I read an article about technology. The writer divided the world into three kinds of people: those who love technology (who think that the world has never been better), those who hate technology (who think it would have been better to never have it), and those who are philosophical and complacent about technology (such it ever was). The latter category reminds us that after every wave of innovation, from the invention of the printing press on, there have been both cheerleaders and naysayers.I personally probably fit into the first camp most of the time. I love new gadgets! I tend to fall prey to just about every new thing out there. But even I recognize that one of the greatest technological inventions of the last century has had huge impact on the lives of performing musicians: that of recorded sound. I recently researched the life of a very famous clarinetist, Miguel Yuste, who grew up in Spain toward the end of the nineteenth century. He was an orphan, and was taught to play the clarinet in an orphanage. Orphanages often trained students in music. Why? Because a trained musician could count on making a modest living. The need for musicians was that great. What a different world it was. And not only has the technology of recorded sound affected our job prospects, but it has also affected the use of music in our cultures. In the 1800s, people commonly made music in the evenings. Now, people rarely sing and make music in their homes. I recently read of someone who is teaching mothers of little babies how to sing! Why? Because ordinary women feel that they are terrible singers, and they are not comfortable singing. And these mothers play CDs to their babies. And of course, babies don’t care so much about hearing other people sing! They want to hear the voice of their own mothers. But we have a society brought up on the perfection of the recorded CD. And not only that, listeners’ ears are numbed, because recorded CDs do not have anywhere near the quality of sound of a live performance! I’m clearly getting going on a long rant! I must be part of the “better never” group after all. Let’s move on.
Today I’m going to be giving you a whole host of ideas of software and websites. My goal is to give you some ideas that will support you in three ways: support you as a teacher, support your interactions with your students, and hopefully help you as we join together in inspiring the next generation of musicians. This whole presentation is on my website, by the way, mpingostudios.com.
First: Support for You as a Teacher.Even though I had a great deal of training in how to play the clarinet, I found that my education focused on how to increase my skills as a performer. There was very little that prepared me for teaching students, one-on-one, how to play the clarinet. I learned in two ways: how I had been taught, and by experience.Social networking adds a third way to learn more about teaching. I have used this to connect to other teachers. Twitter, in particular, is a social networking site that interests me a great deal. I learned about several of the sites that I have talked about in this presentation from tweets on Twitter. This first link is to a chat that is held on Monday nights during the school year. The second is a list of music educators to follow in twitter. Facebook is in pretty common usage now among musicians I know. How many of you use Facebook? Many musicians are using it to keep connected to each other even after they switch schools or jobs, as well as to promote ensembles or list rehearsal times. This final link is to an elearning website that covers all sorts of subjects. The 2.0 refers to web 2.0, the idea of the second generation of the internet that facilitates information sharing. Search on music education and you’ll get a lot of information.
Blogs are great for communicating with other teachers. There are a number of good blogs out there. I’ve listed a few that by music educators here. The idea of the quote “music is not for insects” is that insects specialize; musicians don’t need to. The author of the blog believes that performers should be educators and educators should be performers.
I find it harder to find blogs of performers than it is teachers. Also, beware of the issue of content – quality vs. quantity. Most blogs are DEFINITELY skewed toward quantity.
Now. How can technology support the music lesson itself?So, let’s talk about specific aspects of music lessons. Music lessons are typically an hour long, or a half-hour or 45 minutes for young students. Typically, a student comes into your studio, and perhaps as they are getting their instrument out you chat with them a bit about their week. Then you work with them on music issues. Perhaps you listen to some long tones and work with them on sound production. You listen to them play a piece of music, and give suggestions on how they can improve their performance. You show them some new music to work on, and talk about issues they will need to work on when they practice. This lesson is very individualized. However, music teachers who have been around for awhile will tell you that they are often saying many of the same things over and over.
How can you improve your lessons? There’s nothing like Google. You know, when the first Harry Potter book appeared in 1997, it was the year before Google was launched. Has anyone read the Harry Potter books? Seen the movie? In the book, Hermione goes to the library to find out information, such as how to make a potion. She goes to the shelves and finds a book in order to learn how to make her potion. The author, JK Rowling, in spite of all the magical things she dreamed up, did not or could not dream up the idea of having a magical pad where she could just inscribe what she wanted to know about and have the answers just magically appear. That was just a bit too much magical shtick. Too unbelievable. That is exactly what Google does.I ask my students to Google musical terms and the composer of the music they are working on.
(Click on this site) Naxos.com is a site that I highly recommend. If you buy a subscription to Naxos, for about $20 a year, you can listen to any of more than 53,000 cds, with a huge emphasis on classical music. In addition you can purchase a studio subscription (for a higher price) so that your students can listen to the music on Naxos.com. Besides the music itself, you can read the cd notes and read composer biographies. There are several other perks, such as libretti for opera, musical terms, music-exam playlists for the British ABRSM, and more. There is a very informative weekly podcast about new cds, with samples of the cds, commentary, and interviews.
Yesterday evening our clarinet quartet played a work that I arranged. I used Finale. Notation software is notoriously difficult to use. Notation of music presents computing problems that are actually quite difficult. However, with some investment of time it is not difficult to be able to produce music. This is useful not only for producing original compositions and arrangements, but also for teaching. I had a student recently who wanted to play a particular song that I did not have the music for. It was a rather simple song, so I just put it into the software, during the lesson, while I talked to him and he played for me. I was able to use the copy feature to copy portions that appeared more than once and was able in about ten minutes to put the simple song of 32 measures down for him and print it out. Using notation software is also extremely useful for writing out and printing exercises for students to work on – and having it for the next student to use.
One of the areas that we teachers of applied music are rather ambiguous about is the area of music theory. If your students are getting training in written and aural music theory outside of your lessons, then you can afford to teach only your instrument and theory issues as they come up. But I find many private teachers, especially of young students and high school students, are that student’s only teacher of music. In this case I feel responsible for introducing the student to theory and also music history.
(Click on top one). Some of the software sites cost money to use. Emusictheory.comis a pretty good one, but it costs: 25 students or fewer: $9/ month, 26-75: $19/month.
(Scroll down to Schubert. Click on Theme and Variations).If you have a textbook for a music history course, you may also have access to a publisher website. Publishers are developing a great deal of content on their websites. This is the McGraw-Hill website for music appreciation. I taught this course a couple of years ago, and I still have access to the website! So I use it for my students.
One of the greatest innovations for musicians is simply the availability of sheet music. Our needs parallel those of the book world in some ways, and like the world of book publishing, sheet music publishing is changing in tremendous ways. The first site is The Clarinet Institute. They have, in addition to clarinet sheet music, music for other wind instruments (they advertise that they maintain the largest collection of tuba music on the web!). The second site is Sheet Music Plus. You have to pay for downloads of music on this site, and you can also order music by mail. The last site is the Petrucci music library. Petrucci was an Italian printer commonly credited with printing the first music in 1501. This site has a tremendous amount of free music.
But perhaps the greatest innovation of the Ipad is very simple. It’s so light that it fits on a stand. And with a bluetooth pedal (which I did not bring with me), you don’t need your hands to turn pages. Furthermore, if you are in an ensemble, such as a quartet, you can turn pages any time you want to, so – guess what! – you might as well work off the score!Now I’m going to take a few minutes to talk about the Ipad. I’ve included a list of apps for the Ipad. Ipad apps are all over the place in quality. My favorite app is forScore, which displays scores. You can download pdfs, or create your own by scanning in your score and printing it to pdf format, which most printer software will do. PianistPro has been heavily promoted, including on IPad advertisements on TV. Beyond that, I haven’t seen anything terribly interesting, but there is tremendous potential. Nota is sort of a rudimentary music theory program: note names, scales, etc. Symphony Pro is a rather rudimentary notation program. LickofTheDay is for guitar players, but it’s pretty good, and shows what the Ipad is capable of. Like many Ipad aps, it’s free, with free samples, but you can subscribe for more. Classical I is ridiculous: it’s a series of classical music recordings, most of which is in the public domain. Clarinet Guide is also ridiculous – just a few pages of sort of random notes. Clarinet in Reach is a bit better – it’s videos, but not many.
Smartmusic is a piece of software that I find very helpful for my work as a music teacher. I’m going to demonstrate it. I’m going to pretend I’m a student. I sign on as a student. Here are several assignments that my teacher has sent me. I click on one, and play along with the music. The music accompanies me, and records it. The software assesses pitch and rhythm. Then I send the recording to my teacher, who can listen to it.I find this is most useful for children, who enjoy trying to turn all the notes green, and enjoy the accompaniments. However, there is also a great deal of music for the intermediate and advanced player. For instance, an advanced clarinet student can learn the piano part for one of the Brahms sonatas by playing along with the Smartmusic accompaniment.
In addition, the world of videosallows a teacher to demonstrate something once, and then students play the video over and over. The teacher may demonstrate a concept, or may do a call and response, for the student to practice imitating. Or, the teacher can start a metronome as a click track and ask a student to play a duet with them.
And of course there are numerousplayalong cd, tuning cds, and other recordings. I think as teachers we sometimes don’t utilize these possibilities like we should. I often assign my students to play along with recordings.
And finally, there is using Skype so that the student does not have to actually be in your studio. With Skype you have the potential to reach students who would never be able to travel to your location to take a lesson. Many rural areas in the U.S. do not have many high-quality instrument teachers. For this the student needs a computer, high-speed internet, a microphone, webcam, and a free Skype account. Of course, the students has to own, In addition to the instrument, this equipment. So a certain level of affluence is required. However, my experience is that a certain level of affluence is required to be able to afford the lesson and instrument anyway.
This talk would be remiss without some just plain fun stuff. I think these sites are not just fun, but they are also inspiring. People want to make music. We love sound, and we love to express ourselves. The first site, Explorium, has some great interactive articles about sound production and other musical aspects, including this little piece of software, which is essentially an electronic mixer. Here’s a video of LangLang playing the Ipad.The YouTube instrument is an instrument. Plork, the Princeton Laptop Orchestra, has been around since 2005. This orchestra is a class at Princeton, so the students change every semester. The students are required to have some musical background, but are not required to read music well. I especially like this video because of the use of Wii-motes! Wiimotes simply transmit data, which video games use. The data can be used to produce sound. You may be familiar with how Google frequently puts up an image based on the word Google, to commemorate certain dates. This is affectionately known as the Google Doodle. On June 9th of this year Google put up this doodle, to commemorate the 1915 birthday of Les Paul, who pioneered the electric guitar. I recently read that an estimated 186 million dollars have been wasted in people spending time on this site.
I also much mention the dark side of the Internet. Watch out for the riff-raff. This first one, Clarinet Discovery, has lessons that are supposed to be about playing the clarinet. There are lessons about note names and note duration. There is absolutely nothing on it, however, about playing the clarinet! And it costs money! The second one – a list on About.com – some of this might be okay or even good, but a great deal of it is terrible. And here is a link to Internet tutors – teachers who for $10 an hour are tutoring online. Is this the future of education? And this last one is how to “play piano in a flash.”
So. The new private lesson allows for a structured curriculum, where the teacher sends the assignments electronically, along with individualized video and audio recordings that the student can listen to and watch over and over. The student then sends the assessments and recordings back to the teacher. For intensive interactive sessions, the student and teacher can sign on to Skype. Skype, by the way, can also be used for group lessons, with several students signing on.
What is good about this new lesson? It’s still individualized, just as a traditional lesson is. But in addition, the teacher is building a library of videos. Imagine a library, like the Khan on various aspects of playing your instrument. Videos on various tonguing exercises. Videos on tone production, with exercises. Explanation of tongue placement and embouchure. How about videos on particular pieces? What if you could get a video on a piece you are beginning to work on, where your instructor marks up the score and demonstrates particular phrases? In addition, if we had a library such as this, we would also have the means to have far more teacher interaction. As a teacher, you could explore, for instance, videos on early tone production. You would get some tips on teaching it to your young students. This library of videos would help teachers every bit as much as it would help students.
This is already happening in fields outside music. This is the website of the Khan Academy. Has anyone ever heard of this? I’m going to scroll through the lessons here. There are over two thousand videos, being translated from English into ten different languages. This fellow, Salman Khan, was featured on The Colbert Report, a television program in the US a couple of weeks ago. He has delivered 58 million lessons. Each one is about 10 minutes long. His face is not on the lesson at all. They are simple demonstrations of particular concepts. He wants to change how education is done: you watch a video at night to get the concept, and then you use class time to get help with homework that you are doing. Interesting.
I’ve included a link to the Indiana University Music Informatics website, so that you can see the technical issues that computer geeks are trying to work with: music information retrieval is the idea of being able to access a database by humming the tune. Great strides have been made in this. There are several Iphone apps that take as input a particular song and can tell you what the song is. Music recommendation is what last.fm is trying to do. It’s actually a very difficult issue – if you’ve been listening to a certain type of music quite a bit, do you really want to keep listening to that type of music? Lots of people would prefer to branch out. Another huge issue is to generate real expressive music with a computer. This is being approached by the Rencon Workshop. Another problem is Optical Music Recognition. We would like to be able to have a computer “listen” to music and produce a score. Simply scanning in a score is much easier, but as anyone knows who has tried to scan a score into Finale, it is itself fraught with issues.
Which brings us back to our first question.Is technology really better? I think some things have the potential to be, yes, better. But perhaps the best answer is that, just like all the technological innovations of the past century, some things improve and some things change for the worse. And such it ever was.Thanks for coming today. Please look for this information at mpingostudios.com, and please send me your thoughts and links to innovations that you have discovered. Let’s have a dialogue and teach each other.
Music education and technology<br />for the studio musician<br />
Blogs - Education<br />Music is not for insects<br />Free technology for teachers<br />Playing less hurt<br />Thomas J. West<br />Deborah Smith<br />The Savvy Musician<br />Teaching music in the 21st century<br />
Lessons across distance<br />Computer<br />High-speed internet<br />Microphone<br />Webcam<br />Skype for one-on-one and group<br />
Fun stuff<br />Explorium.edu<br />Lang Lang Flight of the Bumblebee<br />The YouTube instrument<br />Plork<br />Google Doodle Guitar<br />
The Dark Side<br />Clarinet Discovery<br />About.com<br />Internet tutors<br />The piano guy<br />
The new private lesson<br />Structured curriculum<br />Teacher sends assignments electronically<br />Individualized video and audio recordings<br />Student sends assessments and recordings back to teacher<br />Skype used for intensive one-on-one issues<br />Skype used for master classes / group lessons<br />