Music & Technology

Training Students to Become Active Listeners

Teaching my students how to become active listeners is tedious but a necessary step in teaching them how to practice more efficiently.

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. *

On Teaching Piano with Multiple Cameras

This week's lessons feature a fun bonus for my students - the addition of the POV camera. My last student of the evening and I had a ball working with the POV camera. By using trakAxPC, I am able to create a split-screen lesson clip. All it took was a little Virtual Choir genius ("Clap 3 times") to sync the two video clips:

Virtual Choir 3 Conductor Video (Soprano) - Water Night from Eric Whitacre on Vimeo.

Here's what a split screen lesson clip looks like:

Music lesson clip recorded with a Logitech HD webcam anda GoPro Hero2 Camera. Edited with the free program trakAxPC. Photo by R-M Arca.

This way, my students get the exact same perspectives they get when they are sitting at the bench (the straight-ahead view of the score and an HD shot of the peripheral view of their hands. trakAxPC is so easy to use. I haven't even gone through the tutorials!

Music and technology is a wonderful thing.

Make a Playlist for Music Teachers and Students

When I was preparing for my ARCT examination in Piano Performance through the Royal Conservatory of Music, I had a "normal" office job. Often, I brought my practice binder to work to squeeze in a few minutes of score study at lunch time. However, the one thing that really helped me practice away from the piano was listening to my RCM CD's as I worked. Now it's so easy for music students and music teachers to listen to various performances of the repertoire they are working on. In fact, I created music playlists on my Youtube Channel so that I can listen to what my students are working on. I've shared the link with their families so that they too can listen/watch. It's a win-win situation. Now only do they get to listen to a variety of performances that I've screened for them (saving them search time), but they get exposed to a wider range of music as they listen to what their peers are working on. It's all about squeezing in music appreciation any chance you can get.

As for me, I get to listen to them as I get some office work done. Somedays, I'll catch something I've never noticed before and make a note to focus on a particular section during a lesson. Youtube, Vimeo, Soundcloud and all the other media sharing sites are wonderful music teaching resources. Here's what I'm listening to right this minute: It's a great way to practice piano (or to practice any musical instrument) - away from the practice room.

With Music Software, Timing is Everything

I'd like to say that I know my way around a computer. At my last full-time job (for someone else), I was called one of the "super-users". However, I  have been experiencing several challenges with my Studio Lab computer. It's operating on Linux Ubuntu and it's not as easy as Mac or as familiar to me as Windows or even Unix or DOS. Linux has some fabulous apps available for education and more specifically, music education and music. For example:

  • music notation software (e.g. MuseScore)
  • audio recording and editing (e.g. Audacity)
  • drum machine (e.g. Hydrogen Drum Machine)
  • note reader trainers and more

Music and technology has never been so tempting. "Sudo apt-get install" is just so gosh-darn easy to do. Getting the sound set up and audio controls cooperating with all one another? Now there's my technical challenge. Thankfully, some super Linux users have posted some helpful tutorials. The Linux Community Forums have been good too, but having the visuals and working through the steps along with the video helped. It's just been challenging getting the time in to focus on it. The process has made me rethink my roll-out strategy for these music software programs. Rather than having them all available for my students to explore at once, I am going to just roll out a few programs at a time. I have learned that it's important to have Jack Control and those connections set up properly. 

After three weeks of on and off fiddling and re-installs, I can say with confidence that Hydrogen Drum Machine, Virtual Midi Piano Keyboard and Score Reading Trainer are playing nicely together in my computer lab.

Life was so much easier when dealing with physical midi and audio cables. Trying to set audio up in a virtual environment has really challenged my learning style.