A new kind of harmony: Technology is transforming a McMaster music classroom
'This technology allows McMaster students to learn and perform for the full length of a class,' says assistant professor Matthew Woolhouse, who specializes in music cognition and theory. 'The difference is transformative.'
A cross-campus collaboration between the School of the Arts and Research & High-Performance Computing Support is transforming the way students perform and learn about music.
In assistant professor Matthew Woolhouse’s keyboard-harmony class, students are seated at two rows of digital pianos with accompanying headphones.
Those pianos are now linked to a new, networked system designed by Woolhouse and Mark Hahn from Research & High-Performance Computing Support.
Using the system, students can not only hear themselves in the headphones, they can also listen to their peers, perform together in groups or listen to their instructor perform.
By comparison, traditional keyboard-harmony classes are taught individually or in small groups, and students work with professors for only a few minutes at a time.
“This technology allows McMaster students to learn and perform for the full length of a class,” says Woolhouse, who specializes in music cognition and theory.
“The difference is transformative.”
The instructor in the class can operate the system using a touchscreen interface, selecting a piano to single-out or arranging groups of performers together. Or the instructor can take over and demonstrate concepts to everyone in the class.
“It is tailor-made for the needs of the students in the classroom,” says Woolhouse.
Other systems exist that can network together keyboards — but they aren’t designed based on classroom needs and tend to be extremely expensive.
The system was created to be low-cost, using off the shelf components such as a single Linux-based PC, digital pianos, USB cables and hubs and a touchscreen interface.
Students are already learning to use the current system, and the creators are excited to explore future possibilities such as analytics and performance recording.