20 May 2005

Music Classes go Digital

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The world’s future musicians may soon make their first steps in the music industry with the help of a computer. IMUTUS software teaches, listens to and assesses the performances of beginners and intermediate musicians

The world’s future musicians may soon make their first steps in the music industry with the help of a computer. IMUTUS software teaches, listens to and assesses the performances of beginners and intermediate musicians. The developers are engineers from all over the Europe, backed by EU financial support.

IIsabelle is 8 years old and attends an elementary school in Stockholm. Like most children of her age, she has recently begun learning to play a musical instrument - the recorder. And she has big plans. This year she wants to surprise her family at the Saint Lucy’s celebrations. In addition to baking pepper biscuits and other traditional cakes, she wants to play a traditional Swedish song, “Goder Afton”, on the recorder. She is lucky as, along with music lessons in class, she can also practice at home with her computer acting as her tutor. This is possible thanks to IMUTUS, the latest tool for the perfection of music. IMUTUS software contains a set of music classes, exercises and games for teaching the playing of musical instruments. But the state-of-the-art feature of the system lies in its feedback capability, which provides comments on the quality of performances as well as guidelines to correct mistakes. When Isabelle wants to practice at home, for example, she turns on the computer and selects a song that the machine chooses according to her standard. Once she has finished playing, she can listen to what she has done, which allows her to self-evaluate. She can then read the feedback on the computer. This highlights the types and the places of the mistakes that she has made, and also provides overall comments on the performance. The whole evaluation is based on a skill chart, which has been created from a questionnaire of 229 music students, 34 teachers and experts in 3 countries. In addition, the system provides positive remarks and suggestions of further follow-up exercises. Check your finger positioning! Isabelle’s latest performance was quite good; she just missed a note due to wrong finger-positioning. But this is not too difficult to improve upon. In fact, the system shows in 3D how she should place and move her fingers to get the right note. This feature makes the explanation much clearer, more fun and less frustrating. Once she has played all of the songs that correspond to her standard and progress, Isabelle can then download new teaching and exercise material through the web, as IMUTUS is also Internet-based. If she wants, Isabelle could also get connected to an online teacher for further explanation or evaluation. IMUTUS has been developed by researchers from all over Europe and the project is financially supported by the EU. The technology behind it is innovative within its genre. Before it, a computer was not able to assess the performances of traditional instruments, as they did not have a ‘MIDI’ output. But now, the integration of highly accurate sound recognition features makes the conversion from audio to MIDI format reliable. For now, IMUTUS is aimed at children from 9 to 15 years old, from beginner to the intermediate level on the recorder, which is the most widespread and widely used instrument in Europe. Currently the IMUTUS software is available only in Swedish and English, however soon IMUTUS will be available for any instrument and in all 19 European Union languages. Better and quicker results IMUTUS is useful for self-teaching, but also as an e-learning platform and a supplement to classroom teaching. The tool was recently been tested for six months on half of a Swedish elementary music classroom for practicing the recorder. The pupils provided with IMUTUS have showed better learning results than the other half of the class. IMUTUS’ goal is not to completely replace traditional music tuition but rather to reinforce and supplement it, by combining it with a more dynamic approach where knowledge is acquired through the student active participation, interaction and communication. This is important in societies in which the value of learning a musical instrument is seen as of decreasing importance. And who knows, we may be talking about Isabelle in fifteen years time as the member of a famous orchestra, or as a world-renowned soloist!

WEBLINKS

> IMUTUS
This EU-funded project developed an interactive music tuition multimedia system to train users playing traditional instruments. It offers an impressive number of links to related websites.
> Enhancing Education and Training
Page of the European Commission dedicated to its policy and initiative regarding e-learning.

> E-Learning Europa
A European Commission portal about the use of Information and Communication technologies in Europe to improve learning. Includes links to schools and institutions, best practices in countries, background articles, etc.

> Musicalis
The first Music University on line. It acts as a portal for sharing and discovery of music information, software, courses, etc. (in French).

> European Association for Distance Learning
Association of non-governmental European organisations offering high quality and educationally sound distance learning. The website features newsletter, articles, links to distance learning websites in Europe, etc.

CONTACTS

Spyros Raptis, PhD
> Project Manager
Institute for Language and Speech
ProcessingSpeech Technology Department
Artemidos 6 & Epidavrou
GR-151 25 MAROYSSI Athens
Greece
mailto:http://www.ilsp.gr
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