How Today’s Technology Can Improve Your Musicianship

How today's technology can improve your musicianshipI’ve been teaching since the year 2000, and obviously started learning way before that… in the early 1980s. Looking back, and while teaching now, I can see just how great modern technology is for musicians. 

I’m not quite sure how it happened, but in the late 1990s I somehow became involved in the underground music scene in Tasmania when I lived there. This was very unusual, particularly for a classical music student.

With the help of my partner, I recorded a tape (yes, a cassette) of experimental music. A fair amount of it was on my flute. And some was done using the computer. It was pretty wacky. I heard that someone in South Australia had their first car accident while listening to my tape. One of the tracks was featured on a compilation album, then all of us artists from that album got together in Melbourne to perform some crazy wall of noise to the audience, who were seated in darkness.

Now, of course, all of that probably wouldn’t seem quite so weird. I mean, with so many musicians’ blogs, YouTube, Soundcloud and iTunes, anyone can release a track or a whole album for the whole world to hear.

Since nearly everyone has a smartphone, or a computer with a microphone, we can all record ourselves. Listening to yourself play gives you invaluable feedback. Often you think you are expressing yourself with a great dynamic range, yet when you actually hear yourself, you realise it’s not coming through as you thought. Everyone can benefit from regularly recording themselves to make sure you are playing as you intend. If you want something that records at a higher quality, you might consider a small Zoom recorder.

Listening to other people perform is easier than ever. I always recommend listening to recordings of pieces you are working on. Firstly this gives you a good idea of how the piece sounds. Secondly, listening to several performers gives you several different interpretations, and can help you form your own interpretation of the piece. In the past, listening to many recordings involved going to the library or purchasing the music. Now we can simply hop on YouTube to find recordings from all the internationally acclaimed artists and orchestras. We can also download single movements or single pieces from Amazon or iTunes when we want to own the recording and listen to it anywhere.

I use YouTube almost weekly in my teaching studio. When we need to confirm the tempo for a piece, when a student is notating and playing a pop song by ear and has forgotten a section, or when I just want to quickly find my favourite interpretation of a piece to show a student, then it’s YouTube to the rescue! Whatever music you’re working on now – YouTube it!

Over the past 15 years or more, you can really see how technology has changed the way music is learnt and taught. For me, as a teacher, I think it is absolutely fabulous that we all have easy access to technology to help us in our musical pursuits.

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