Music instruction goes virtual

Music educator, clinician, author, performer, and music software developer George Litterst led the LSU demonstration. He showed that while the Disklavier looks like an ordinary piano, it is digitally enhanced and uses a musical instrument digital interface program (MIDI) to communicate with another Disklavier.

The pianos’ audio signals are transferred through the connection. Also, through the use of optical sensors, keys played on one piano show up as being played on the other, as well as pedals being depressed.

“It is an acoustic piano. It has hammers and strings and must be tuned, just like a regular piano,” Litterst said. “But, it has something regular pianos don’t—the ability to record and play back and to be connected to other Disklaviers.”

Litterst and Snow have been part of a multinational team working on behalf of Yamaha to help develop the remote learning program. Other members of the program are located in Texas, Minnesota, and Colorado, as well as in Toronto.

“There are many ways the piano can connect,” Litterst said. “For this demonstration, we used a built-in program called Remote Lesson. The program has been evolving over the past few years. We’re still working on some aspects of the software and hardware, such as microphone audio cancelation.”

Litterst said the schools used a telephone-based internet connection during the demonstration to link the two pianos, and operated the connection through the use of a smart phone that calls the IP address of the other piano to connect.

“Basically, we’re making a piano-to-piano telephone call,” he said.

Video cameras at each location, connected through the Apple iChat program for this demonstration, also allowed participants to communicate, as well as to see hand positions, arm movements, and musical gestures during performances. Litterst said popular video conferencing programs such as Skype or iChat can be used to provide visuals for Disklavier connections.

Laura Ascione

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