Music & Technology

One of the most complete instruments is the piano, this means that even by itself, it produces a full sound filled with bright tones and a great bass due to its incredible range.

It also feels very good to play, which goes beyond just sound. Pianist John Cage talked about hs works in 1930s with the Federal WPA and how he included bones and special percussion as instruments. He used to say that everything has a spirit that can be heard if the object is set into vibration and even about practicing piano with mutes for playing.

It’s interesting to see the origins of how this amazing instrument came to be and rememeber that it is actually a string instrument if we trace it back to the monochord and see how it works.

The monochord is an instrument that has its origins way back in 6th century BC in Greece. It has a single string stretched over a calibrated sound box and having a movable bridge. The string was held in place over the properly positioned bridge with one hand and plucked with a plectrum held in the other.

Then came the polychord which as its name states, it had more strings.

However the piano also has some of the things that make a percussion instrument, which is also why it sounds so full. In this manner another precursor of the piano is the Dulcimer. This instrument share the same mechanism. The sound comes from the vibration of the strings after a small hammer hits them.

Clavichord and Harpsichord

Piano

These two instruments were the direct precursors of the piano as they both already look a lot like a piano and have the sort of the same mechanism in order to produce sound. In a way the clavichord also got some inspiration from keyboards like organs which draw their sound from air.

There are of course some differences between these two instruments

Colin Marshal from Openculture.com says:

The clavichord strikes its strings like a modern piano, but the harpsichord plucks them, using a series of “tiny little guitar picks” called plectrums. Schrader explains this while offering a look inside the workings of these instruments.

Then after a long history of strings and percussion, air and tubes the piano was invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori in Italy.

In short, the piano was basically an instrument that would be a direct evolution from a harpsichord that could play soft and loud sounds, thats where the name piano comes from. ” clavicembalo col piano e forte” was the name that it was first given, which meant “harpsichord with loud and soft noises” and then was shortened to just “piano”.

The Future of Piano

In an interview WHRB with Alison Pao, pianist Emanuel Ax commented on the future of the piano as a musical instrument.

Pao: I’m not sure if you’ll have an answer to this question, but do you think that the piano as an instrument is finished evolving, or do you think that in the future, there could still be more changes to your instrument?

Ax: Well, I just played on a piano that’s being made in Brussels – or rather, in Bruges – by a man named Chris Maene. And it’s a piano that instead of having cross stringing – all the modern pianos now have strings that go one way and then other strings above them that go diagonally across, so two levels – well he’s made a piano that’s straight strung. So no crossing, but big: it’s like nine feet, six inches. It’s a huge instrument but at the same time it’s strung the way the old ones used to be strung, so you’re creating a different sound again. So I think we’re not quite done, I’m not sure. And it depends what different composers will write for…maybe there will be a composer who imagines pianos working differently and we’ll have to adjust the piano to that. Beethoven did that to some degree. He was always looking for pianos with more sound and a bigger range – lower bass notes and higher treble notes. That changed the instrument itself! So, we may not be done.

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A question so simple that could be answered with “just look for it” may be a bit more complicated. While there is too much music out there, probably only half of it or even less is easily available to everyone, due to all the complicated business, marketing and recording side of things.

Today, music distribution has changed quite a bit from the traditional radio and TV experience. Nowadays the main way to go about it is through the internet, but the difference is that we choose what we want to listen to, or do we?

Algorithm

Youtube, Spotify, Deezer and other music platforms provide some sort of algorithm that allows for recommendations to be made based on the history of music played.

Writer and Musician Sasha Frere-Jones says:

Discovering music does not frustrate me or cause me to have takes. (I don’t listen to Pandora, which might make that happen.) I like it when SoundCloud drops into autoplay mode and delivers a sequence of songs tagged as related. I like it when YouTube does the same thing. I’m happy to learn what Spotify Discover thinks I want to hear. I learn names; I hear songs.

gq.com

While there is still control about what is being played and what is being ignored, it’s hard not to pay attention to so many recommendations, in a way the hook is curiosity, the same as it always has been. When you used to tune in to MTV and began watching a video, you could just change the channel, but you stayed to see what happened, this “control” aspect makes things even easier, since you can skip the songs you don’t like and have everything at your disposal.

Best Of… Lists

Another way to discover new music from any time period is just to search for tops, either genre based, time based or any other category. The internet is filled with these, and while music is not something you can easily it’s good or bad, it may be a good starting point to begin a music research.

It’s all about doing a little research, depending on what you would like to listen to, either good guitars, drummers, good jazz, or electronic, there are top 10s about pretty much everything. One tab with a list, another with YouTube, and you might just find some interesting music.

Soundcloud/ Bandcamp

If you are really craving for something new outside from all the mainstream famous artists, it may be a .good idea to spend some time in Soundcloud and Bandcamp, since it’s now the starting point of new artists.

Bear in mind, many of the artist may not have the best production there, since they are free and easy to use, they’ve gained popularity as a safe haven for independent artists wanting to share their music even if their production quality is nothing beyond a home studio.

Nevertheless, there are some amazing projects floating around those platforms so it may feel as a breath of fresh air.

Old School

Maybe you don’t spend too much time on the computer or cellphone, well, there is a world outside the internet, and it is still very much alive. There is nothing like the magic of going to a bar or a club and seeing a new artist perform live, sometimes to fall in love, others just to enjoy the moment without getting too attached to the music.

The radio still has some interesting ways to show some new music to people, but sometimes, you can’t seem to remember the artist, the song or they just don’t say it. In this case there are very useful alternatives like “Shazam” which is an app that can recognize a song through the phones mic.

Or maybe just the oldest way of them all, just talk to other people.

Teenager Vicky Sko was asked about how she discovered new music, and aside from apps she said:

I’m fortunate to have lots of classes with friends so we listen a lot during class by sharing our headphones with one another. We also love to listen to music at lunch and have gone to a couple concerts together. Spotify also has a great feature that allows you to stalk what your friends are listening to, and I use this to my advantage a lot.

gq.com

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While it’s getting more common to use the internet as a way to connect with students in many areas, it can still be a bit strange for teachers that are not used to doing online sessions, even more so if it’s a music lesson, due to the fact that there is a lot of techniques and sounds to deal with.

There are a few things to remember before starting to teach online that will make everything an experience worthwhile.

Connection

One of the most obvious things to have in mind is a stable internet connection, this will be the base of good comunication and a good class.

A good connection can change due to the places, type of connection, (Wi Fi, LAN, Mobile Data) and traffic, so it’s important for both the teacher and the students to keep these things in order.

Sound

Being music lessons, the second most important thing is the sound quality. It’s important to be able to hear each sound as clear as possible in order to maintain a good line of comunication. If the sound quality is not terrible but it’s not as good it can bring confusion and sometimes boredom to the experience.

Time Zone

Time zones is also an important aspect that can be overlooked sometimes, but the fact is that online lessons were made to work internationally, and as such, dealing with this is a must.

Good comunication and schedule managament can help with this issue, there are many platforms and apps out there that can help students and teachers organize despite the time difference.

Video Quality and Visuals

While sound is the most important aspect of a music lesson, visual support is also very important, not just for music reading, but also as a way to keep students engaged in the lesson.

According to chronicle.com:

You don’t have to be a graphic designer to enhance course appearance. A little attention to presentation goes a long way. Do you have a lot of written lecture notes or instructions? Break up long chunks of text with subheads and space between paragraphs. Embed relevant images. Include thumbnail videos that you’ve either created or sourced from YouTube, news sites, or library resources. Aim for attractive yet appropriate

From Presence to Online Connection

Every teacher has techniques, and ways to approach their students, in a way there is a sort of performance that takes place in the classroom, where a specific attitude is taken, however the “digital enviroment” may not work so well with the same performances as it would in a classroom.

That’s why there is an important process of adaptation when it comes to bringing the experience of teaching to an online lesson.

The solution, by the way, is not to post a video of yourself delivering a standard lecture in a classroom. The physical energy gets lost in that medium, too. Instead, capture your personality and your passion in ways that are different from what you might do in person, yet authentic.

Another thing to bear in mind is that it’s more difficult to know if the students are following the class.

In a physical classroom, you can pick up on nonverbal cues. When students are taking class at home, you can’t observe when you’ve lost their attention or when your instructions aren’t clear.

It’s always a good idea to get some clues about jumping into the whole internet education business, because while it may seem easy, there are many details that could turn the session into a disaster, but as most things, with practice comes perfection, and there is no better time than today to explore this fairly new way to teach and learn.

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