Problem 25 – Learning How to Play the Piano

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Problem

Learning how to play the piano can be difficult and many people pay a lot of money to get taught.

Possible Solution

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Piano design has not changed much since they were introduced. Technology has been implemented in some pianos to create electric and self playing pianos.

I have always thought that the music stand is not in a very good position in relation to the keys, as you cannot look at the music and the keys at the same time. This is especially difficult for people who are just starting to learn how to play. If the music was closer to the keys then it would be easier to look between the two.

One place the music can be positioned is the inside of the lid that covers the keys. Trying to squeeze sheet music onto there will be difficult, however if a screen ran along the length of it then the music can be displayed at any size and brightness. The music can then scroll along following the notes the user is playing. This takes away the need to turn pages of sheet music, and large collections of music can be downloaded to it.

A piano tutor can be implemented into this screen as well by displaying all the keys of the piano, and then showing how a piece is meant to be played by also showing someone play the piece. A camera located above the keys of the piano can then overlay the user’s hands on the screen and allow the user to see the possition of their hands compared to the tutor’s hands. Alternatively, the user can record their hands when playing a piece and watch it another time.

This design will mean that everything the user needs to look at is located near the keys, and should make the piano more ergonomic.

As always, if you think you have a solution or if you have a problem you would like me to try to solve then please feel free to comment it.

The End of Buying Music?

Presently, the top 40 music chart is based on the top 40 most purchased songs on iTunes each week. This changed from the top 40 most purchased songs in stores a couple of years ago, but nowadays is looking at iTunes purchases still a representative source? I say this because music streaming sites are becoming more popular, such as Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal, so do people still actually need to buy music?

Purchasing songs online killed off purchasing music in stores, due to the ease a song can be bought anywhere with internet and be listened to straight away. Now it appears as if music streaming is the next step, as it can be listened to anywhere without even having to purchase the song. This allows the user to discover new music easier, as instead of just buying songs that they have heard of and like, they can listen to any song without any extra cost. Music streaming services can also create playlists according to the user’s taste, meaning that the user doesn’t even need to look for songs but everything they could like is already laid out in front of them.

There appear to be more advantages with streaming music than buying it, which is probably the reason for its rising popularity. Streaming music can be much cheaper than buying for people who like listening to a lot of music. For example, songs are usually 99p each on iTunes, while on Spotify they can be free to listen to if the user does not mind the occasional advert. Sites like Youtube and Soundcloud are also commonly used for free music streaming. However it could be argued that purchasing music will mean that the song will be available to listen to even without internet. While this is true for Youtube, Soundcloud and the free version of Spotify, music streaming services are now adding offline listening so the music the user saves act as if the user has bought it. Even though this usually comes at a cost, it can still be cheaper than purchasing music for avid music listeners. Spotify Premium and Apple Music both cost £9.99 a month which equates to about £120 a year. £120 on iTunes would get about 120 songs, which is significantly less than the entire library of Spotify or Apple Music.

Music streaming is now creating more competition between rival services and will continue to do more and more so. This is when some music streaming services start offering exclusivity, which is what I think each service will have to do eventually. For example, Tidal offers their users exclusive albums and music videos at a higher quality than a typical MP3 file, however it comes at a cost of £19.99 a month; double that of Spotify and Apple Music.

I think that soon music streaming services could sign up artists to exclusively only release their music on that service. Could this mean that in the future we will have to choose which service to join depending on the artist or genre we like?

What is Music?

I was recently asked this question, and I must admit that at first I could not think of an answer. As it is an art, does that mean that any kind of sound or noise can count as being music? I think different people will have different definitions of what music is though, which is why there are so many genres and everyone has their own taste.

I think that the purpose of art is for the artist to convey their emotions and feelings to the audience. As music is an art, then it leads me to think that music is sound organised in a way for the listener to be able to feel what the artist wants them to feel. In other words, music should be able to make a listener feel a certain emotion. This can be done either by the melody or by the lyrics, or even both.

Some people say that certain genres are not proper music. The specific genre brought to me when I was asked ‘what is music’ was dubstep. I have encountered many people who do not regard this genre as being ‘proper’ music, and although I cannot say that I enjoy listening to it either, thinking about the definition of music changed my view of it. I realised that emotions are conveyed onto people in different ways, and any type of sound can do this. For example, birds tweeting usually conveys calm and relaxing emotions, while a sound like cars honking or babies crying can convey a stressful emotion. Of course not everyone will think that, and so it is possible that what some people think as being annoying can actually be pleasing to another. There won’t be many people who think against this norm, but that is where pop music comes in.

I think that pop music is the easiest for people to relate to, hence why they are popular. This might be because they have a catchy tune, and/or because the lyrics are able to touch many people. Unfortunately I think that there is a problem with pop music at the moment, in that artists are often used by record labels just to make money. This might seem to make sense and the obvious thing to do for a business, but I think that this is the wrong way to approach an art. In my opinion, the quality and passion for music should come first, and as people who share the same values come to see this artist, the money will follow.

Being a musical artist can bring a lot of money, which attracts a lot of people into the business, but I think that doing it for the money is wrong. I think that record labels and artists can sometimes produce what they think people will like and sell millions. Sure the music might be popular, but ultimately will the artist be just as happy producing something that perhaps doesn’t truly convey their emotions? Unfortunately most people will never see that money even if they produce good quality music, but perhaps the whole point of music shouldn’t be for the money. Perhaps it should be a way for the artist to let out their emotions and the money is sometimes just a consequence of that.

R&B might be Dead but Music Lives On

In the past couple of years, the phrase ‘R&B is dead’ has been used more and more. At first I did not accept this, as I thought some artist would probably come out with a proper R&B track sooner or later. Many years have passed since I thought that and, in my opinion, there hasn’t been a proper R&B track. This has caused me to reluctantly accept the fact that R&B might actually be dead.

I used to take R&B music for granted, as it was always played on the radio; it was the genre of music I had grown up listening to. In fact, it was played so much that I actually sometimes found it annoying; which I tend to still find nowadays with some pop songs. But I had the thought that music will probably always sound like this, because it was pop and the majority of people like it.

I was wrong and nowadays, pop music is leaning towards EDM and it seems like the days of R&B are over. This isn’t a particularly terrible thing in my opinion, as EDM is actually my favourite genre of music, but now R&B has been taken away from me, I want it back. I look at the music from some of the major R&B artists and my favourite songs from them tend to be from the ‘noughties’. For example, my favourite album from Rihanna is Good Girl Gone Bad (2007) and from Ne-Yo is Year of the Gentleman (2008); just to name a few. Some R&B artists have even seem to have disappeared such as R Kelly and TLC, even though they are still active and producing music, but their popularity has dramatically decreased when compared to about a decade ago. And although artists such as Rihanna, Ne-Yo and Chris Brown are still proving to be popular, their music no longer has the ‘slow and chilled vibes’ from the previous decade.

The same can be said for dance music or EDM as older dance music seem to have earned itself its own genre, sometimes referred to as ‘club classics’. I also like this genre very much, but I like its modern day equivalent just as much. They are noticeably different, but I like how dance music has evolved over the past two decades (I do not like dance music before the 90s as much).

Of course, music is constantly changing and even genres will evolve or be replaced. I am sometimes told by older people that when they were younger, music was much better than it is nowadays. I used to just think that they were accustomed to listening to music in their time and did not accept the evolution of it, however I think I now understand how they feel; even though I do not like admitting it as it makes me think I am getting old. Although I am slightly sad that R&B might be dead, I know the future will provide me with more music that I will love, and there are emerging artists who seem very exciting in terms of the new types of music they are producing, such as Clean Bandit. On a positive note, now R&B music is played so rarely, I have learnt to appreciate it and hearing it on the radio actually brightens up my day.