music technology

Using Waveforms in Music Lessons

This week, I tried a new idea out on a student who has trouble playing steadily (and hates the metronome). I showed him our waveforms.

Using Multiple Cameras in a Music Lesson Demonstration

After reading "On Teaching Piano with Multiple Cameras", one of my readers had mused how wonderful it would be to see a demonstration of using multiple cameras in a music lesson. My student Dylan and I were happy to oblige.

Here we are working on a short chord progression from U2's "Stuck in a Moment". I used the three claps at the beginning to synchronize the videos (à la Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir).

We used the following cameras for this demonstration:

  1. POV Camera on Dylan's head (Top Left): GoPro Hero 2
  2. Profile Camera on the Studio Desk (Top Right): Microsoft HD LifeCam 3000
  3. Pedal Camera (Bottom Right): Canon PowerShot 5S IS (I can't bring myself to retire it completely because it's still a good camera)
  4. Overhead Camera (Bottom Left): Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910

I took a photographer friend's advice and turned off the auto-focus on the two webcams. Another thing I do is try to minimize the number of background programs running on the computer when recording video.


The profile view is essential for checking posture and hand position. The overhead view gives you the musician's peripheral of the keyboard geography. The pedal view is essential with students who are having issues with timing their pedal changes. As for the POV camera - isn't is just fun to see how another musician sees when they play? It's also good for checking where they are focusing.

I will probably swap the positions for the pedal and profile camera.

Now, when a student working on something new, I can show them various perspectives that they can review at their leisure at home. Or perhaps they'd like to show off a newly polished piece to their relatives across the country.

Students, "Record & Review" has never been so easy to do at home. Use any of your portable devices, such as a smart phone, iPod, tablet, netbook, laptop, camera. You can place them at various positions as we have here.

Find out more about how to incorporate webcams into your studio here.

* Special thanks to my student Dylan and his family for granting permission to record Dylan for this demo. *

Using Webcams in Music Lessons

Last year, I purchased an HD webcam for my music studio. My students, their parents and I have enjoyed how easy it is to take a quick video clip or photo of either a hand position or drilling a troublespot in their music. They get to review it as many times as they need to at home as an unlisted Youtube video.

Computer assisted instruction aids music practice. Photo by R-M Arca

Some of my piano parents really like the overhead camera as it gives them the same view that pianists see when they look at their hands.

This year, we are moving full-steam ahead with computer assisted instruction. Thanks to Memory Express and Best Buy, I was able to take advantage of their huge sale on webcams. 

Webcam #2 is positioned to give that all important profile view. It's great for checking posture and ergonomic movement.

Technology in music can be as easy as a $30 HD webcam. Photo by R-M Arca.

It took a while for some of today's students to find Webcam #3. I have a few students who need the pedal view.

Having multiple camera views for computer assisted music lessons is ideal. Photo by R-M Arca.

My beginner piano students were pretty eager to test how well my computer could handle recording from two cameras simultaneously. It turned out all right. I'll have to fiddle around with the audio settings a bit, but at least my students and I are having fun with these toys as we explore the exciting world of music. Once we get a better handle on things, Skype piano coaching can't be too far away.

World Music Exploration - German Trance Music

Trance music isn't something you'd normally hear at a piano lesson. However, since the idea is to expose students to a wide variety of musical genres, why not?

Wisegeek defines trance music as: "an art form that relies heavily on the use of electronic equipment and a specific tempo range, typically 130-160 beats per minute (BPM), to create a musical arrangement that is understood to have somewhat hypnotic qualities." It came onto the scene in the 1990's.There is a set form to trance music. The repetitive melodies are "connected by a series of crescendos and breakdowns." Sounds a bit like minimalist music in a way.

Here is an example of trance music from Germany. Enjoy!
(c) Musespeak(TM), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

World Music Exploration 2010/11 Week 14 - Modern French Music

The Christmas season is usually a bit more hectic for musicians (all those performances). So when I stumbled upon these video compilations covering several musical genres, I jumped on it. There is quite a variety - from rock to pop and from folk to and techno. It's an excellent way to get a taste of the different styles and artists who are firing up the charts.

The compilation is in two parts:

Very catchy grooves. The Youtube poster kindly included the titles and the artists for easy reference.

We will be taking a hiatus from our musical exploration for the Winter Break. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and best wishes for the new year.

(c) 2010 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

Using the Camera During Music Lessons

As some of my readers know, I have been doing audio and visual recordings when I am teaching. At the end of the night, I upload the files to their special recordings page and fire off an email (Thank God for email templates), saying "Your Lesson Audio/Video Clip is up!" It's been working very well since moving to this format. All they have to do is click on the link and they can get a refresher anytime they want. They can even show off to family and friends, near and far.

Getting into position. Photo by R-M Arca.

This week, my students and I discovered something truly amazing. I was trying to figure out a better position for the tripod. Previously, it sat beside my desk with the camera catching a profile shot. That works well - most of the time.

However, this week, I wanted to capture a better view for my students struggling with hand position and keyboard topography. The amazing discovery? Turn the student into a roving camera person when I'm demonstrating (or I'm the roving camera person/interviewer as I get them to piece together a practice plan for the week). Then they can go all around me and zoom in on whatever they feel they need to capture as I explain and demonstrate a practice strategy to them. Now I admit, some videos don't offer the best view. There's a few moments, when the lens is panning the floor or the window but the twinkle in their eye just from being in charge of the camera is something to behold. They have also started to even take photos during the video to capture a hand position:

Working through the 12 Bar blues form. Photo by R-M Arca.

Some advice: make your students use the neck strap, use a camera that they can handle (and that you're comfortable using for recording lessons) and finally, for really young beginners, pass the camera to the child's parent. After all, it's for their benefit that you're doing the video.

(c) 2010 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

Using Video Tutorials in Your Studio, Starring Your Students

In my entry, Piano Pedagogy & Technology Musings, I unveiled my grand plan to create an online audio/visual library for my students to use to assist with their at-home practicing. So far, my students have enjoyed laughing at my How to Sit at the Piano video, in which I use one of Maestro's giant stuffed dogs to demonstrate. Likewise with my Troubleshooting video, which showed that even teachers need to drill trouble spots repeatedly to iron them out. A few of them actually ask, "Can we make a video clip of that?" so they can watch us working on one of their pieces at a later time.

I initially set out to make 12 videos but it looks like there will be at least 15 in all as I or my students get ideas of what else to shoot. However, I am sure that my students don't want to watch just me for all 15, so I've gone recruiting.

If this is something that you're thinking of trying your studio, I highly recommend having your students star in some of your video tutorials. Six students have eagerly stepped up to the plate to date with several more waiting for their turn. One student demonstrated how he practices his memory stations, one shared how she started learning a song in lead sheet form, while four shared stories they made up to go with their pieces. They're finding the whole experience a blast, while I am getting my share of laughs of smiles.

All you need is your digital camera (if it takes video) or a video recorder. Make sure you have at least 4 GB on your SD card (I have 8 GB). As far as movie editing software goes, I've just been using Windows Movie Maker, which has lots of tutorials and help menus. A tripod is a bonus.

As an alternative to posting them on your website, you could burn your videos onto a DVD-R or DVD/RW or share them with your students via memory stick or ftp. Mind you, if you and your students are on Facebook, all you'd have to do is create a group for your studio and post your videos to the group. Of course, there are sites like Youtube and Vimeo.

Next on the horizon are the videos on Outstanding Openings and Fabulous Photo Finishes. I think I'll go recruiting again to get students to demonstrate each of these.

(c) 2009 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.