Music & Technology

While most people have been able to overcome the issues that COVID 19 brought to the world, some are not problems that are easily solved, instead most people have found other ways to teach.

For music teachers, these last few months have been extremely challenging, even more so when it comes to teaching how to play a new instrument, because not every method of teaching can be translated into an online format. This began to worry many music teachers around the world, and some even talk about the “lost generation of performers”.

According to an article by the sandiegouniontribune.com, it’s said that:

“Research has shown that an arts education improves school climate and culture, and increases student and parent engagement — ultimately contributing to improved academic achievement,”

But it all changes if there is no shared experience or school climate, and the fact that many of the music students out there don’t really have access to computers, internet or an instrument. It’s easy to say that we can overcome the difficulties of covid with the internet but there are two bumps on the road. First, as stated before, not everyone has access to stable internet in order to engage in a music lesson. Second, there is no way to replicate the experience that music students have in a class room, even with instruments, and perfect internet connection.

The lie is that everything can stay the same when in this conditions, and while we may come out of this soon completely, there is still the need for online lessons for now and the future, for many different reasons.

One of the good things we can take out of this experience is learning how to work with what we have when there is no possibility of going to music school.

“The mantra is: Let’s try. If we can make the best of this situation, we’ll all — students, teachers, parents — be better people when we come out of it.”

Motivated to Learn

While there are many aspects of the class itself that are lost during online sessions, there’s one thing that we usually say we don’t have enough of it, that is time.

Yes lessons won’t be as engaging because students can’t interact with the enviroment, friends, and teachers the same way, but there is enough space for students to find themselves as musicians or maybe just give up.

In normal circumstances, it doesn’t matter how much classes a student attends to, or how good the teacher is, if music is not his or her thing, there will always be a missing piece. This “piece” is what determines if music is the thing someone should pursue or if it’s just for fun. That can’t be taught, everyone must find out on their own.

Imagine a music student with too much free time, that doesn’t have an internet connection, or any kind of instrument, but loves music, chances are this young musician will find the way to get an instrument, or sing in order to practice.

The point is, there is no need to worry that much about that “lost generation of performers” if anything, it could be a filter when it comes to students who are in the world of music because the want to be, and students who are told to study music just like any other school class.

A Different Approach

It’s obvious that an online session is very different than being in a regular classroom but it’s not all bad.

A teacher could find an oportunity to encourage creativity and composition since students have a freedom that is not available in a traditional music class. Focus on the few benefits and there may be a whole new unexplored experience.

There is no need to worry, music is not going anywhere, and aspiring musicians will be more encouraged than ever to learn.

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There are some people that say that music has already completed a full circle,and that new music is just about mixing things that were already made before. Others say that music keeps evolving, and it always bring something different through better tools like the click and new technologies.

In the late 70s there was a shift in how music was made and enjoyed, in some ways the rhythm became more important than the melodies and technology made it possible to play with samples and electronic sounds that were very different from the very organic and complex melodies of the 70s.

The amount of variety and possibilities in music in the 1970s was very impressive, but not only because of how many genres were thriving but how artists went beyond any expectation.

David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Led Zepellin, The Bee Gees, Barry White, Stevie Wonder, Kraftwerk, Elton John, and the list goes on. The thing about all these names is that every single one is legendary in music history, not to mention hip hop was also born in the 70s.

There is no denying that a lot of the music that came after the 70s owe a great deal to all of the artists that flourished in that decade, but is it enough to say that the 70s was the pinnacle of many genres in music?

There was something that happened in the 80’s which led some people to believe that music became less human, due to all the technological advances and tools in music. Many bands were used to record live and depended on the rhythm of the drummer for example , which gave everything a more organic feel to it.

In many ways a lot of the music used samples and the whole idea of samples is re-using sounds or melodies that were already made by someone else.

As we go further into the 80s, 90s and 2000s we do see that music took a turn for the worse and for the better at the same time. So many possibilites out there but at the same time too many people dismissed the potential, and just used the tools given to them to make perfect pop music that didn’t translate that well live, but that didn’t matter.

The Click

Click

The click is a digital metronome that is very commonly used nowadays in music, and while it can be good, it represents something bigger in music.

Drummer Greg Ellis wants listeners to begin thinking about sound like food—as something they physically ingest that has a quantifiable impact on their wellbeing. These days, he believes most people are consuming the musical equivalent of McDonalds: processed, mass produced, and limited in flavor.

qz.com

While it may seem as a production thing that has nothing to do with the composition itself, it makes sense that it does affect it. If we take Ellis’ word about food and music, try to compare a McDonalds burger with a home made burger. Even if they have exactly the same ingredients, the process is different, the result is different and it tastes different.

While the click was originally intended as a tool for precision and cohesion, Ellis says its perfect uniformity ushered in an expectation that the rest of musical parts should follow. Suddenly singers, instrumentalists, and drummers were expected to sound like machines. When vocalists were slightly off key, they could be auto-tuned. If a bass player wasn’t perfectly in-time with the drummer, their parts could be processed in a recording program that syncs them up. Of course, that’s if a live musician is used at all—many producers in pop, hip hop, and R&B now use samples or synthetic sounds generated by computers instead of using their human progenitors.

qz.com

Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age talked in an interview about how it is important of letting go from these things such as the click.

Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age performs at the 2017 KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas at The Forum on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, in Inglewood, Calif. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

Everything is just played so if you add stuff you have to follow the groove of that, and what I like is you know, sometimes click can be good for music (metronomo) but other times it’s not because it harnesses the emotion instead of letting it go. Someone would say “oh the chorus is faster” I’d say yeah! it’s fucking that’s what’s called energy and humanity and imperfection, it’s not supposed to be perfect that’s ridiculous, why is it supposed to be perfect?

Josh Homme

The Post Modern Way

The idea should be to go against these types of restraints and understand that there is a little bit of truth in the fact that there is so much music history that is very hard to make something new from scratch, that is why new sounds come from unlikely combinations and inspirations. The way it is, is that there are so many genres, structures, and sounds that can be combined with all of these new technologies, and the combinations are almost endless.

The thing is that these same tools that allows musicians to rediscover inspirations, are the same that can keep musicians from making the most of their potential.

Make technology human, not humanity artificial.

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There is a special kind of feeling when it comes to listening to your favourite music while driving on your car, in a bus or any form of traveling from one point to another, music on the road gives a sense of determination , nostalgia and it cranks inspiration to a maximum level. This is very interesting, it’s a context that makes the power of music feel a lot stronger, wether it is seeing things passing by (nostalgia) leaving from one place to another (determnation) or taking a road trip with friends (happiness) it’s a thing we all love to do.

On The Road

Road

There are so many songs that are associated with being on the road, there are hundreds of playlists in YouTube, Spotify and more that it would be curious to have a closer look into what makes it such a particular pleasure.

Country is a genre that fits almost too perfectly with this “on the road” vibe, it’s no surprise that one of the most famous country songs is called “On the Road Again”. Of course one could argue there are some contexts that ask for different types of music in order to feel more of what the music wants to offer, for example: if a person is driving in the city a night, the lights and reflections work nicely with jazz and electronic house music. On the other hand if you are on the open road maybe country or rock works better. In the end this may not matter depending on the musical taste of each person, but it does show that different genres evoke different feelings and not every music is fit for every moment.

There have also been studies that show how much impact music can have in our driving. According to directauto.com:

We know that music alone can make us feel good. Whether you’re listening through your headphones at the gym or a pair of speakers at home, there’s evidence that music produces the same feel-good hormones you get when you hug a loved one. It’s also associated with immunity-boosting antibodies and can be an effective treatment for a variety of conditions like premature birth and Parkinson’s disease (to name a few).

Similarly, studies have found that listening to music you like while driving can help influence safe behavior, positively impact mood, lower breathing rate, reduce driver stress and aggression, and help drivers focus. Additionally, driving performance in high demand situations was not found to be negatively affected by music. Music fans, rejoice!

However most people don’t listen to music to focus, they listen because the love the music that’s playing, want to sing along or just want to entertain themselves during traffic.

According to another study:

Listening to music could be […] a preventive measure in favor of cardiovascular health in situations of intense stress, such as driving during rush hour.

Prof. Vitor Engrácia Valenti

Volume Safety

There are also a few things that should be avoided, since music can also be a distraction.

One of the things that makes music a distraction is high volume, because there are too many things happening around us when we drive, and while it also depends on being on a highway or the streets, it’s always good to be able to hear what’s happenning around you.

This mostly happens with teens that are having a good time, but good times have to be tempered in order to prevent any accidents.

So listening to music while behind the wheel or as a passenger is in general very good in many ways, it’s fun to play around which songs are best for the day and which are the best at night, some of them will make you relax and focus, but remember safety first, and safety often means volume control when it comes to music on wheels.

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