Leah, David and Greg reflect back on favorite moments of first season of Notes from the Staff, and chat about coming features for uTheory.
0:00:00 Theme Song
0:01:00 How David jumped in and sang a Mozart Requiem with Greg on 5 minutes notice
0:03:45 Reflecting on the 2022 Pedagogy in Practice conference
0:05:30 Favorite moments from season one of Notes from the Staff
0:06:14 Theme 1: Using multiple systems to reach learners in multiple ways
0:08:15 Theme 2: Making learning engaging
0:10:30 Theme 3: Trends in Music Theory Pedagogy today
0:14:10 Solfege Sally -- our silly Simon-like solfege game.
0:17:35 What we've accomplished with uTheory this year: a complete backend and frontend rewrite into modern frameworks, over 120,000 lines of code written (or rewritten)
0:18:20 New features coming to uTheory
0:19:00 The ability to create practice assignments
0:20:15 Consolidating all assignment types into a Learn tab, and allowing assigning of content to entire classes, groups of students or individual students within a class.
0:21:10 Rolling out the new uTheory extended curriculum: a curriculum designed to be used over a two-three year period, especially in a high school or middle school context, to allow a carefully paced introduction with ample time for building fluency.
0:22:05 The lessons and exercises will be customized for the student's primary clef, whether its treble, bass, alto or (for pianists) grand staff.
0:22:48 The curriculum will interweave written music theory, rhythm, ear training and improvisation together.
0:23:20 The curriculum will be a spiral curriculum, so that concepts are introduced at a basic level, and returned to with review and more advanced work frequently throughout the curriculum.
0:23:50 And the curriculum will be much more gamified -- with little touches like confetti, badges, and games like Solfege Sally.
0:24:30 With these changes, configuring lesson and assignment order will become as easy as dragging and dropping -- one of the most frequent feature requests we hear from teachers who are using uTheory.
0:25:40 Practice vs Mastery Assignments
0:30:00 The new curriculum should make it even easier for teachers to use uTheory with their classes and students, because it will do even more of the work of customizing the learning for individual students.
0:31:00 Previewing a new game, "Pitchy Fish" to help teach pitch matching and vocal control.
0:35:30 Previewing some of David's new music theory songs which will make appearances in the new curriculum: Where the Half Steps Live, and Black Notes on Pianos
0:38:50 Chit-chatting and signing off for the summer!
0:00:00.0 [Theme Song]
0:00:21.2 Leah Sheldon: Welcome to Notes from the Staff, a podcast from the creators of uTheory, where we dive into conversations about music theory, ear training, and music technology with members of the uTheory staff and thought leaders from the world of music education.
0:00:34.6 Greg Ristow: Hi, I'm Greg Ristow, founder of uTheory and Associate Professor of Conducting at the Oberlin Conservatory.
0:00:40.8 LS: I'm Leah Sheldon, head of teacher engagement for uTheory.
0:00:44.6 David Newman: I'm David Newman, and I teach voice and music theory at James Madison University, and I write code and create content for uTheory. A quick thanks to listeners for all your comments and episode suggestions. We love to read them. Send them our way by email at email@example.com. And remember to like us and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
0:01:06.3 GR: So it's episode 11, and it's our last episode of the first season. Today, we're gonna look back at some of the highlights from our first ten episodes. We're gonna chit-chat a bit, and we'll share a preview of some of the things that we're working on for uTheory. David, Leah, how are you guys doing?
0:01:24.3 DN: Good.
0:01:27.4 LS: Great.
0:01:27.5 GR: Leah, I think you know this, 'cause you saw it on Facebook, but David and I had this delightful experience this weekend, where I was conducting a concert at Oberlin and a big alumni and community performance of the Mozart Requiem. And about five minutes before the show started, I walked out into the lobby, and who do I see but David Newman there.
0:01:50.7 LS: Did you know he was coming?
0:01:53.2 GR: No, I... I knew he was driving through, 'cause David, you were at a conference, right?
0:01:57.7 DN: Right.
0:01:58.6 GR: So, he was driving through from Virginia to Ann Arbor, Michigan. And I... We'd seen each other when David was on the way there, 'cause he has to drive right by Oberlin, but I didn't know David was gonna stop in on the way back, and... Anyway, so I was like, "Hey, wanna jump in and sing?"
0:02:15.1 DN: And... And I did. I didn't... I didn't know you were gonna have a concert on the way back, and when I saw that I was gonna arrive near Oberlin around 1:30, I thought either it would be shameful for me not to go and sit down and take a break from driving to attend [laughter] a performance of the Mozart Requiem, but instead, I got to sing it, which was great fun. So.
0:02:39.1 GR: And I don't know if you know, but you were actually standing basically right behind my dad, who said he was just delighted to have your voice behind him.
0:02:44.4 DN: [laughter] Ah, I did not make the connection.
0:02:49.2 LS: And for our listeners who don't realize, it's not very often that the three or even two of us are together in person, frequently.
0:02:58.1 GR: That's right, yeah, we're in three different states.
0:03:01.1 LS: So this is very exciting. [chuckle]
0:03:03.3 GR: Yes. [chuckle] Anyway, David, thanks for jumping in. That was... That was... That was...
0:03:08.3 DN: Well, it was my pleasure, and... And... Yeah, it really was a joy, and what a great thing to be a part of. And... Yes, as anyone who saw my Facebook post knows that... I also think it's cool, because my great-great-grandfather was the pastor of the other congregational church in... In town, where the Oberlin Conservatory now stands.
0:03:34.4 GR: So that was second, yeah. For anyone who knows Oberlin... Oberlin history, that was second church, yeah, and that's... My office is right on top of where the sanctuary was. That's very cool.
0:03:45.1 DN: Anyway, it was a cool family connection thing for me.
0:03:51.5 GR: So, David, you're just... You're just back from a cool conference. You wanna talk about that a bit?
0:03:56.3 DN: Yeah, I... This was the 2022 Pedagogy into Practice conference. I think we were supposed to do it in 20... The last one was in 2019, and then the... It had been cancelled due to COVID, or altered due to COVID, so this was our first time back together. And it's a great organization and a great conference, at which we are really looking at how to be better theory teachers. And... There are so many presentations, and it's such an incredibly supportive community as well, so I really love that. It doesn't feel like many other academic conferences. It feels like everyone is there to support each other in being better teachers. And all of the talks tend to be on just things that we can do in the classroom to be better teachers, so I'm actually hoping that we can get some of those people on our podcast and let them share their talks more widely with our audience.
0:05:09.3 GR: Yeah, and some of them we've already had on our podcast. You mentioned that you saw Betsy Marvin there?
0:05:14.1 DN: I did; I got to have lunch with Betsy twice. [laughter]
0:05:17.3 GR: Excellent.
0:05:20.4 DN: And Peter Schubert, and Steve Laitz, and Jenny Snodgrass. I hope we can get any or all of them on. [laughter]
0:05:33.3 GR: Awesome. So yeah, you know, I was... As I was getting ready for this episode, I was going back and listening to our previous episodes of the season. We... It's... We've only been doing this, what, since January? And wow, we've talked to some really, really cool people. Leah, David, what are some of your favorite moments?
0:05:58.3 LS: Well, I think that I did the same as Greg; I listened back. I've listened all season long, and several times on some of the episodes, and I've got two major themes that kind of stuck out to me, if I could kinda go in that direction.
0:06:12.5 GR: Yeah.
0:06:14.5 LS: And the first being... Since we just mentioned Betsy Marvin, I'll talk about the importance of using systems, whether it's a solfege system or a rhythm system, and not just from her episode, but from multiple episodes. I guess I just... What stuck out to me was that students learn in so many different ways, and we know that, but hearing it back really makes you think about it, and... Have different learning experiences early on that influence the type of learner that they become later. So, having not just one system, like a rhythm system or a solfege system, but having two systems is so beneficial. This helps for sight-singing. So, when we talked about choral sight-singing with Denise Eaton. And sight-reading; we talked about contest sight-reading with Dr. Andrew Machamer. And then for students who learn with perfect pitch, how sometimes, one system can be confusing; you know, fixed... Or movable do might be confusing versus fixed do, and switching to numbers instead. So, as a teacher, having a system for teaching your students, but then having two systems to get at all the different learners that are in front of you.
0:07:28.6 GR: Yeah. Totally, right? And of course, with pitch solfege, then we're typically talking about the system that names the notes, whether that's letters or fixed do, and we're talking about a system that names function, where something is in the scale, and that's typically our scale degrees in movable do. And then yeah, I hadn't thought about it, but yes, totally, that's a great connection to when we were talking about rhythm systems. And we were talking about systems that are kind of analytical, that label the various subdivisions of the beat, or possibly the... Where the beats are in the measure. And mnemonic system systems, where we give kinda fun names to... To rhythms, whether that's lemon yellow, or watermelon, or you know, whatever kinds of things. Yeah. Nice. That's a great theme.
0:08:16.3 DN: Yeah, and there was a... I don't know if I'm jumping in on you, but one of the other big themes was how to make... How to be... How we can make all of these lessons engaging with the students, and Jed Dearybury talking about the value of play, and... This was... There was a... There was a presentation at the conference I was just at about gamifying the aural skills classroom. Or maybe it was music theory; I'm not sure whether it was specific to aural skills, but... And of course, all the Dalcroze games that we played together, Greg. You know, I love them, and I just... I want to use them as much as I can. I want that kind of spirit in my classroom, so I hope that... I hope we were able to share that with other people in a way that they also felt like they wanted to incorporate that spirit.
0:09:18.6 GR: That was such a fun episode for me to record with you, David, the Dalcroze games episode. And, you know, I think also related to that, our episode on your music theory and ear training songs, right? Like, talk about playful spirit and bringing that kind of joy into the classroom. Those are just so wonderful.
0:09:38.7 DN: Well, I'm working on more, so there we go. [chuckle]
0:09:41.3 GR: Excellent. [chuckle]
0:09:43.9 LS: Funny enough, that was my other theme from the season, was the importance of play in teaching, and specifically, those three episodes stood out to me.
0:09:53.2 DN: And I think especially in the wake of COVID too, we're really living through some collective trauma, and I think we need to have reasons for students to be engaged with us, so that they have a sense of... That learning doesn't... Isn't some tedious thing that they have to buckle down and apply to, but that they can... I think if we make it enjoyable, then they will come more joyously and maybe more fully.
0:10:28.4 GR: Totally, yeah.
0:10:30.7 LS: And I would maybe add one more into that; the part of the episode with Megan Long, where we talked about trends in theory pedagogy. And as someone who's not in that world all the time, or at least as much as Greg and David are, it was really interesting to hear from Megan talk about how she's adapting teaching to... So for example, she talked about analyzing music and broadening the tools that we would need to analyze music beyond just harmonic analysis. That was really interesting to me.
0:11:09.5 GR: Yeah. David, were those themes echoed at the Pedagogy and Practice conference? In terms of broadening approaches to analysis of music beyond just, say, Roman numeral, Schenkerian-style analysis?
0:11:23.5 DN: Were they included? [laughter] Well, Philip Ewell gave the keynote address at the end of the conference, so yes. And yes, you saw that throughout the... There was a lot of presentations about sort of decolonizing or recentering various pedagogies. There's a grad student I'd love to bring on here who talked about using rap to teach rhythm. And that was a really... That was a thought echoed through several different presentations, and one of the things that was a common thread through them was putting up words, so that even students who didn't know notation could align things with where certain words were happening, and talk about what was happening in the music at those words. And there was a lot of talk about ways to talk about musical things without having to use notation, or at least using some kinds of protonotation, which is another theme that we've at least been wanting to talk about.
0:12:40.2 GR: Yeah, I think those had, really, a lot of my... My favorites, I... You know, listening back, there were things I was just... That I came away with as sort of gems of knowledge. I think about, like, Denise Eaton's advice that when you're learning to teach solfege or ear training, find a mentor who's good at it and ask them how they do it. And, you know, this coming from someone who has written a bunch of books on teaching it, that she's right; so much of that is about seeing someone else do it live, and trying out what they do with your own students, and seeing how it goes. I was thinking about our chat with Betsy Marvin. And, you know, I thought I knew so much about what we know about perfect pitch, but it turns out there's a ton I didn't know, and there's so much that we... That I thought we knew, that in fact, we don't know, right? I mean, it was sort of the gospel for about a decade that you couldn't acquire perfect pitch after about age 6, and Betsy really blew my mind when she said, "Well, actually, there may be some research, or there's some research recently that suggests that, in fact, maybe it is possible to acquire perfect pitch later." Yeah, really just fascinating stuff, so I feel really lucky that we get the chance to ask these brilliant people questions and hear what they have to say.
0:14:09.7 DN: Yeah.
0:14:11.7 GR: Great, so shall we... Shall we change gears and maybe talk a little bit about what we have planned for uTheory coming up?
0:14:18.0 LS: Definitely.
0:14:18.9 DN: Sure. I was excited today when... When... To open up my computer and see that Solfege Sally is now available on uTheory. [chuckle]
0:14:31.2 GR: Yeah, yeah, in our experiment section, yeah. David, you wanna tell us something about Solfege Sally?
0:14:37.7 DN: Yeah. I mean, it's something that... Well... That I had been thinking about for years, of wanting to create a game like Simon, except with all of the diatonic solfege notes, and then just be able to practice working memory and identification of those diatonic notes in the scale. And then, when we first talked, it turned out you had been thinking about the same thing, so that was exciting, and I was just glad to see it finally come to fruition, and I think it's kind of fun.
0:15:15.1 LS: It's fun.
0:15:15.8 GR: It's totally fun, yeah. [laughter] Absolutely. [laughter] And a friend of mine... A friend of mine posted on Facebook, "I got 305. What's your top score?" Yeah, I know, I have not gotten to 305. I'm like, "Go, Mattie."
0:15:32.4 DN: Well... Of course, the score is... You know, it adds up... As far as you got every time you hit a correct button, so it's not that the melody was 305 notes long, but... But still, that's impressive.
0:15:48.8 GR: Yeah, yeah, I can't quite do the math backwards to figure out how long that melody would have been, but it'd be long.
0:15:54.7 DN: It involves factorials and... [chuckle]
0:15:57.5 GR: Yeah, yeah, it's a little more complex than factorials, because there's the addition of one on each... Oh, I guess it is just factorials, you're right, yeah, yeah.
0:16:04.4 DN: Yeah. Anyway, it doesn't... It... It... And what I forgot was that you can choose your level that you start at in the... If you click the settings button.
0:16:17.7 GR: Oh.
0:16:18.5 DN: But it's not clearly a settings button, but it definitely... If you go on Jedi Master or whatever is the... The highest level, then you can get some big leaps. [laughter]
0:16:31.6 GR: Yeah. I'll have to try that version of it. Yeah, we'll... We should make that more clearly a button before we graduate it out of the experiments section.
0:16:42.3 DN: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, there's a... There's a few... The layout of that is... Is in need of some repair as well, but... Oh well.
0:16:49.0 GR: Yeah. Yeah, and you know, I think... It's fun, though, to... To share, a little bit, some of the things that we're working on in an incomplete format, just so that... Just so that, you know, people can see it.
0:17:00.8 DN: And to get feedback.
0:17:02.3 GR: Yeah.
0:17:03.0 DN: So I had someone, for example, ask, "Hey, could you... Could you do major and minor pentatonic scales?" And I thought, "Yeah, probably with a few lines of code."
0:17:13.1 GR: Mm-hmm, yeah. And... [chuckle] And I had a friend text me, "Is uTheory perpetuating the terrible lie that the fifth degree of the scale is called so and not sol?"
0:17:25.6 DN: Oh. Oh dear.
0:17:26.9 GR: In a very joking way. [laughter] We can probably change that one too with one letter of code. [chuckle]
0:17:35.2 DN: One letter of code. [chuckle]
0:17:38.3 GR: So, you know, it... It's probably not obvious to most users of uTheory, but we have shipped over 120,000 lines of new code this year; a complete backend and frontend rewrite. And, you know, at this point, you can't see that much of anything has changed, because... Because, really, almost none of the functionality has changed. But what we've done is we have gotten the backend framework in a place to where it has become much easier for us to now create new... New ways of structuring and storing data, and the frontend to a framework that makes it much easier to interact with that data. And those are two kind of key... Key building blocks for allowing us to build bigger features. And so now, as we come into summer, we're... We're turning our attention to some... Frankly, some big changes in uTheory. We're internally calling it uTheory 2.0, although we wanna be clear that your existing classes and settings, all those are going to migrate just fine, and if you like uTheory as it is, fear not, you don't have to change. But... Yeah, but some of the things that are coming are things we've been... that teachers in particular have been asking us for for a long time. So, to start with, we're adding the ability for teachers to create practice assignments and to create mastery assignments. Leah, you wanna talk about that a little bit?
0:19:16.0 LS: Sure. So, on the... I think the biggest change here is that teachers have a greater customization. So, for example, if you wanna create a practice assignment that has a set number of questions, or even a set amount of time, a minimum amount of time for students to practice, you can configure that when you create the assignment. You'll also be able to customize the topics a little bit further; in terms of, for example, say, an exercise in key signatures, being able to specify which key signatures are included. You'll continue to be able to set due dates, and you'll also be able to set an available date, so you can create the assignments in advance, and they'll become available to the students on the date that you choose. And you can assign practice or mastery assignments to just specific groups of students versus just an entire class.
0:20:16.3 DN: Or even individual students, if you want, within a class.
0:20:17.7 LS: Yes.
0:20:18.4 GR: Yeah. And along the lines of that, as we add these new kinds of assignments, in addition to the existing lesson and checkpoint assignments and skill mastery assignments, we're gonna be consolidating content into a Learn tab. The Learn tab's gonna become the central location for students to find what they should be working on, and that'll include lessons, checkpoints, custom tests, practice and mastery assignments... And... So that you as a teacher can arrange that sequentially, so students don't have to go "Okay, wait, now it's time to take a test. Oh, where is that? Oh, that's on the Test tab," versus "Oh wait, where am I supposed to go for this skill practice?" So yeah, so we're bringing that all together into one place to make it easy to find and easy to sequence.
0:21:10.0 GR: And then, related to that, we're going to roll out a new curriculum. I've started calling this the uTheory extended curriculum, and thinking of the one that exists presently as the uTheory accelerated curriculum. So, you know, when we started building uTheory, the idea was, how can we quickly get students who are thinking about doing a music degree ready for college level music theory and ear training? And so, the curriculum as it exists right now is designed to be done in a pretty intense semester of work. But that doesn't fit the needs of a lot of our users, especially at the high school and middle school levels, where... You know, where teachers work with students for multiple years, and similarly in private lesson studios. And their goal is not to cram all this knowledge in, but they'd like to be able to pace it out and build fluency on that.
0:22:05.9 GR: So, the curriculum that we're building is designed exactly for that. And from the beginning, it'll start with the option to configure the clef that a student... Or clefs that a student is learning in. So, whether their primary clef is treble clef, or bass clef, or viola clef, alto clef, or grand staff, for a pianist. And the lessons and skills practice and mastery assignments and checkpoints will all... And videos will all adjust to that, so that the student's work early on is exclusively in that clef, until eventually, we start introducing other clefs as well. The new curriculum is going to be one that integrates rhythm, ear training, and written music theory concepts all together into one single learning sequence, so that the things that you're learning in... As you're learning, for instance, to write intervals, you're also learning to hear intervals. As you're learning to write scales, you're learning to hear your way around scales in stepwise ways. As you're learning to write chords, you're learning to hear different qualities of chords.
0:23:20.5 GR: And it'll be what we call a spiral curriculum, so, that is to say that, you know, when you learn, you learn the basics of a concept early on, but we're gonna keep coming back to it. We're gonna keep reviewing that concept in later assignments, and gradually increasing the level of difficulty with it. As David sort of previewed with Solfege Sally, it's gonna be a gamified curriculum. It's gonna feel a lot more like... Like Duolingo, right? Complete with badges, and confetti, and literal games, and all of that, so. And I think finally, the big thing about it is it's gonna be much more configurable; that as a teacher... Teachers will be able to create their own lessons, assignments, tests, or to edit the existing ones, to rearrange them. We recognize that teachers know better than a computer ever can what their students do and don't know, so, we want to give 'em all the tools that you need to give your students what they need. So... Yeah, that was a lot of talking. Did I miss anything?
0:24:34.1 LS: I don't think so. I just wanna highlight again the importance of two things that Greg said based on the requests that we've gotten from teachers, so he mentioned arranging in sequential order, so, this means that you can change the order of the lessons. Teachers have asked, you know, "Is it possible to make this lesson appear before this one?" and now it is; just with a simple click and drag, you'll be able to reorder the lessons. And also, the existing uTheory is not going away or going anywhere for the teachers who are using uTheory as is and love it, and we know that there are a lot of you. This does not mean that you have to change what you're doing. You'll still be able to continue to teach as you have.
0:25:19.3 GR: And effectively for... You know, what will happen is, for existing classes, the Lessons tab will turn into the Learn tab, and will look very much like the Lessons tab looks for your current classes. But you'll have the option then, at that point, if you want, to also add additional assignments, mastery or practice assignments, and tests to that as well.
0:25:43.8 LS: Could we maybe talk just a little bit about the difference between practice and mastery assignments?
0:25:48.7 GR: Yes, absolutely, created, yeah. So, effectively, practice assignments... The... Obviously, a practice assignment... A goal of a practice assignment is to increase the student's mastery of skills. But we're distinguishing between practice and mastery assignments, in that a practice assignment will be an assignment that has a specific number of questions and kinds of questions on it, or a specific time limit for those kinds of questions, whereas a mastery assignment is an assignment where uTheory will generate questions based on a set of skills that you select for that mastery assignment. So for instance, you might create a mastery assignment for the skills of... Intervals between notes with no accidentals on them, white note intervals. Right, and then, that would... That would provide questions and train students until they reach a certain level of mastery on all of the possible questions from that area. And so, as we're doing this, one of the things that's going to change from the teacher perspective is, currently, under Classes and Choose Skills, you have a bunch of checkboxes for sort of the subskills. And what will happen for each of those skills is instead, you're gonna get a more robust configuration panel, so that let's say we're talking about the skill of triads in pitch and harmony. So that's writing triads, identifying triads, etcetera.
0:27:28.1 GR: That skills panel is now going to give you options for things like whether you want to allow triads in various inversions, what qualities of triads you want to allow, how many accidentals and what kinds of accidentals you want to allow within those triads, or if you wanna filter and say "I only want to allow triads within keys, say, up to two flats or two sharps," you'll be able to do things like that. So we're gonna be writing lots of ways to configure the kind of practice that students get when you configure either practice assignments or mastery assignments. Similarly, the ability to configure what clefs are included. And, you know, you'll have the option of choosing a student's primary clefs, secondary clef or both of those and also, you know, any of the... The seven clefs: Treble clef, bass clef, alto clef, tenor clef, soprano clef, mezzo-soprano clef, baritone clef... Did I miss one? I must have. No, I think that's all. Anyway, there's that, right? So, yeah. If you want... If you want your poor students to have to drill on mezzo-soprano clef, you can absolutely give them second line C-clef and make them do everything in second line C-clef.
0:28:52.8 DN: But I love C-clefs. They tell you exactly where C is. It's so useful.
0:28:57.8 GR: Yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. You know, and... Although we don't usually have to read mezzo-soprano clef unless you're a conductor, in which case, if you put it over in a transposing instrument, like, say, in the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, it comes out in concert pitch. And similarly, we don't usually have to read baritone clef, you know, again, unless you're a conductor and you put it over a G-transposing instrument, like alto clef in Holst's The Planets, and out it comes in concert pitch. So, even in any case, practice versus mastery assignments. A mastery assignment is one that the student just continues working on until they reach a certain level of mastery, whereas a practice assignment is one that has a specified time or a number of questions cutoff to it. So it's a lot more like a traditional homework assignment. So, yeah.
0:29:48.6 LS: And even with all of these new configurations and types of assignments, uTheory will still do the question generation for you and will still do all of the grading, so we're not adding any work to the teachers' plates. [chuckle]
0:30:00.3 GR: That's right, that's right, yeah. And we think also that this... This new curriculum is going to take a lot of work off of teachers' plates. Some of the... Some of the... Or the power users of uTheory have kind of created their own curricula that bounce around to the different parts of uTheory to make it work, and have then... You know, either in their learning management system, or even in Google Sheets for individual students, have then listed out all of those things to help students find where to go. We really think this is just gonna make it a lot easier for a student logging into uTheory to go "Okay, here I am, and oh look, there's the very next thing I need to do," 'cause it'll basically appear as one long kind of list. So, with that, we have some... So we're hoping to get the... What we're thinking of as the first, roughly, year or 12-ish units of the extended curriculum out around August 1st. And we have some stretch goals with that, including rolling out sight-singing elements in ear training, which is really exciting. We've been working for a long time on algorithms to do pitch detection in a way that works for singing, which has more vibrato, which has changing vowels, which has consonants, and I think we're pretty close on that. David's got a great game that he's been working on called Pitchy Fish, where you... Tell us about Pitchy Fish, David.
0:31:38.3 DN: It's a little bit like Flappy Bird, except that instead of hitting a button, you control the height of the fish in the water with your voice, so you sing a higher pitch and the fish goes up, and then you sing a lower pitch and the fish goes down. And this idiom, I think, will, A, make it fun, but, B, just give so much feedback to students, especially ones that may have more trouble than others matching pitch, or getting the pitch in their head to be the pitch that's coming out of their mouth, and to know whether they're on target or not. And we can extend it to actual sight-reading exercises easily, but... But this is a great sort of training ground that I think, like most good games, feels fun as you're learning to do it.
0:32:38.6 GR: Yeah, and I think... You know, any of us who've tried to help shy singers gain confidence with their voice know that finding ways to do that that are fun... It's critical. It's... You know. People are understandably very self-conscious. You know, as a singer... We've always remained a bit self-conscious about our voice; it is an instrument that is literally connected to us. Yeah, so, you know, whether you're working with student singers or student instrumentalists, helping them to find their voice is huge and raises so much awareness of pitch and intonation and all of those wonderful things. Yeah. Pitchy Fish; of course, we can extend it to... You know, to sight-singing particular things. Also to exercises of intonation, of really fine-tuning with things, so yeah.
0:33:42.1 DN: All of which depends on a good pitch detection algorithm, and boy, you can see how hard that is by how not good so many of the products out there are. [laughter]
0:33:53.0 GR: It's true, it's true.
0:33:54.2 DN: But we've been working hard, and I say we, and mostly you, have been working really hard on this problem and coming up with great solutions, but we've tried so many things to get the computer to accurately recognize what someone's actually doing.
0:34:09.8 GR: Yeah, and I don't wanna give away too much of what we're doing, but... Only to say that we are using a combination of traditional algorithmic methods for detecting pitch. Also machine learning. I'm pretty happy with where that's headed. Cool. I don't know, what else should we say?
0:34:33.1 LS: I don't know. Can we give another call for feedback?
0:34:38.7 DN: You know, yeah. And I recently had... Speaking of comments and suggestions, I got a comment and suggestion from my in-house critic, my wife, who said... [laughter] Not as a criticism, who said, "You know, you should do an episode where you answer questions from your listeners," and I thought, "Well, that's a little bit what we already do, but we don't." We don't say, "So and so said "I have this question," and I answered it." We could... We could... If... You know, if people send us enough questions, we can do a Q&A. Ask Me Anything. Of course, Ask Me Anything can spiral away from music theory very easily, but...
0:35:23.8 LS: Yeah.
0:35:25.3 GR: Yeah. [chuckle]
0:35:27.0 DN: Ask me anything about music theory.
0:35:30.4 LS: You're gonna get song requests.
0:35:31.9 DN: [laughter] I am down for song requests.
0:35:36.8 GR: So, one of the things that I'm super excited about, as we're talking about gamifying the curriculum, is that, you know, we're working to include, as we mentioned, literally these games, but also, to start including some fun music theory and ear training learning songs. David, do you wanna preview that a little bit for us?
0:35:54.7 DN: Well, I did write... I mean, I wrote a couple songs on the way up to the theory conference. And I need to get them recorded, but one of them, I'm... I just almost want to write out just the melody in Notation so that people can play it for themselves, because it's just about how to find C on the piano. And... I mean, maybe if you can't find C on the piano, then this is gonna be problematic to play, but it's "Black notes... " Or I should start on the right key. "Black notes on pianos come in twos and threes. Check out these ebonies. To the left of every pair, you'll find the Cs. That'll get you tickling the ivories."
0:36:44.3 GR: [laughter] Nice. For those of us who have a low F-sharp, yeah.
0:36:49.3 DN: But "Black notes on pianos" (sung an octave higher), we can do it up here.
0:36:52.7 GR: Right?
0:36:54.8 DN: But, you know, if you... If someone decides that they wanna sit down and play it on the piano, then...
0:37:04.1 DN: Then they're gonna be doing exactly what they... What those words say, and they'll go "Oh wow, I wanna find the Cs. Oh, look at that, that's a C. How useful." [laughter]
0:37:20.2 GR: Nice.
0:37:22.7 DN: I don't know. I was pleased with that, and I've... I've envisaged a nice ragtime accompaniment for it, but I haven't actually written it out yet.
0:37:34.3 GR: Great. And "Where the... " "Where the half steps are", is that...
0:37:40.6 DN: Do you want a preview?
0:37:42.4 GR: Sure.
0:37:44.3 DN: How does it... "From... From sev to one and back again, this is where a half-step lives. And from three to four and back again, this is where a half-step lives. In a major scale, the other steps are whole steps. So let's celebrate where the half-steps live. Where the half-steps live. And let them bring us home."
0:38:34.6 LS: Yes.
0:38:37.0 GR: Oh, I love it. Yeah, David, if that's done before... In the next three weeks, I am totally using that with my Interlochen students this summer as we dive into writing scales.
0:38:47.6 DN: Okay. Then it will be done in the next three weeks.
0:38:50.4 LS: That's the deadline.
0:38:52.2 GR: Yeah, exactly.
0:38:54.3 DN: I think it probably won't be done while I'm in Illinois, but then as soon as I get back...
0:38:58.9 GR: Mm-hmm. You're off to sing some Bach again?
0:39:01.9 DN: I am. I'm gonna go sing St Matthew Passion with Andrew Megill and the Illinois Bach Academy, and then I have a week-and-a-half break, and then I... Well, break... [chuckle] Break from singing, and then I'll be in Carmel and doing the St John Passion with Andrew Megill.
0:39:23.6 GR: Oh wow.
0:39:24.7 DN: And we're... Also, we... This is... We're... At Carmel, we are finishing up a search for the new director, which means that we have all three final candidates coming in to direct different programs, which is... They've each chosen these amazing programs, and I can't wait to work with all of them. So we're gonna do Brahms' Requiem and Bach Easter Oratorio. There's so much great music happening this summer, I can't wait.
0:39:58.0 GR: Nice, nice. Excellent. Well, maybe this is a good place to wrap things up. This has been so fun, I have to say... You know, the... I thank Leah for coming up with a crazy brilliant name for this podcast, and David for our delightful theme music, and all the wonderful editing and everything else you do is just... Yeah. This has been a ton of fun, and I will miss our recording sessions over the summer, but I'm so looking forward to our next season of Notes from the Staff together. Yeah. As always, if you... If... Listeners, if you have any feedback, send it to us, firstname.lastname@example.org.
0:40:47.5 LS: Notes from the Staff is produced by utheory.com.
0:40:50.4 GR: UTheory is the most advanced online learning platform for music theory.
0:40:54.3 LS: With video lessons, individualized practice, and proficiency testing, uTheory has helped more than 100,000 students around the world master the fundamentals of music theory, rhythm, and ear training.
0:41:05.1 GR: Create your own free teacher account at utheory.com/teach.
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