World Music's DIVERSITY and Data Visualisation's EXPRESSIVE POWER collide. A galaxy of INTERACTIVE, SCORE-DRIVEN instrument model and theory tool animations is born. Entirely Graphical Toolset Supporting World Music Teaching & Learning Via Video Chat ◦ Paradigm Change ◦ Music Visualization Greenfield ◦ Crowd Funding In Ramp-Up ◦ Please Share

Saturday, April 22, 2017


Online And Remote World Music Education: Cultivating Instrumental Diversity.

The few good tools in existence for instrumental learning have led to something of a stylistic explosion amongst wannabe instrumentalists. Online contributors to platforms such as YouTube provide content focussed around the styles of leading exponents of popular musical culture, exploring all aspects of technique, musicianship, dynamics, style and modality. As a guitarist, where thirty years ago one might have had to make do with a small range of book-and-CD courses for flamenco, bluegrass, ragtime, blues or classical guitar, now it is possible to find online material on topics as diverse as arabic guitar, gypsy swing, shredding, jazz improvisation and even instrument building.

Though slow advances are being made, interactive online tools are still remarkably limited in their instrumental diversity. A few tools accommodate widely used instruments in absolutely standard tunings (guitar, piano), but the major breakthrough - wholly configurable instrument families, and complete control over which instrument is to be loaded - are apparently the stuff of dreams.

"Or were". Our music visualization aggregator platform promises a consistently graphical breakthrough. To better understand the nature of the beast, here a breakdown of learning goals sort of 'begging' to be supported by an entirely score-driven, interactive visualization platform.

Instrument Models In The Learning Process
Goal Layer 1 Means Concrete Example
Virtuosity, Musicality Emancipation From Source, New Works Modal & stylistic freedom, improvisation, reactive interworking, cross-genre play, wide repertoire, 'meta-knowledge'.
Alternative Configurations Instrument Form Transformations Alternative keys, additional courses/channels, drones, sympathetic tones.
Musicality Optimisations Alternative Tunings and techniques Retuning and application for advanced tonal colorings, modality and style, technique (tapping etc).
Elements Of Style Modal Music, Repertoire Building Modal roadmaps, music collections, networking, practice efficiencies, genre virtuosos, genre listening.
Fingering economy, tone, dynamics Minimalism, Variety, Tone Characteristics Position and economy of style, broad tonal regions of instrument, warmth vs clarity vs attack.
Note-to-finger-to-position mapping Instrument Models, Roadmaps Key- or fingerboard roadmaps, other simple scales and tunes.
Initial Orientation Tuning, Posture, Notation / Tabs Transverse (classical) or longitudinal (modal) play, corresponding tunings, first scales + related tunes.
Instrument Choice Pros & Cons Demonstrations Musical affinities and identification, budget, which instrument + pitch, cost/qualities, builders & sourcing.

Access to a wide range of world instrument models for interactive use could, together with much improved access to teachers afforded by ever faster internet connections, kindle wide interest in musical cultures other than one's own, and with it, a growth in comparative musicology (as the Germans say, 'Volksport' - an unspecified activity with large, more or less national following).

Even after some 25 years, instrumental diversity is not written particularly large on the internet. Extending our net to include online video-based teaching sites, the vast majority are still focussed on numbingly few instruments: drums, bass, keyboards, violin and ... guitar.

This despite widespread interest in world music and a steady drift towards musical individuality, frequent travel and growing cultural contact.

Under such influences, many instrumentalists are drawn to recent and perhaps exotic instrument innovations, such as the 'hang' (Berner Swiss German dialect for 'hand') - for which teaching material is still relatively scarce.

Remote music learning via video chat is already of particular value in the quest for more (or recovered) instrumental diversity. It places the virtuoso, the teacher, at the epicenter of all activity, directly connecting emotional intelligence - the learner with a living tutor, with profound implications both for the musical depth and authenticity, and cultural exposure..

Toolset support -especially diverse graphical support such as instrument models and theory tools- can dramatically reinforce this relationship. With everything immediately to hand, both can concentrate on the flow.

Online learning, on the other hand, tends towards the prepared and the reusable. This may have 'earn while you sleep' allure, but it doesn't necessarily serve learner interests that well. Everybody follows the same material, learns the same repertoire, is limited to the same instruments and learns the same style.

Typical offerings include video tutorial collections, PDF or interactive notation, and if lucky, one of a very limited range of online, synchronized score-driven instrument models. The temptation is to serve only those instruments with high sales. Music, though, is personal, bound to identification, experiences, aspirations and self-image. As such, it's about much more than following the herd.

In committing to remote learning, then, our focus is automatically on instrumental diversity, freedom of choice, a high degree of interactivity and interworking. This has a drawback: the overhead involved in producing hierarchies of subtly nuanced instrument layouts. This is where open-source comes in. Crowd provisioning is born.

Through their common base, these instruments share many features. Built around the concepts of reuse, extension and flexible musical property mix-ins, they are also highly configurable, and can be saved for community use.

Having been loaded into the browser, such models can be automatically driven by the user's or teacher's choice of score. A chromatic keyboard diagram such as the following (taken from Wikipedia) can be expected to be made fully interactive, bringing something almost akin to a paradigm change in instrument learning.

Factory Music, Factory Instruments

The industrialization of music distribution and instrument building has achieved something no-one raised in an era of strong musical and locality identification would have credited: on the one hand it's full and ruthless commoditization, and on the other an increasingly strong drift towards a musical monoculture.

This has brought short-lived, throwaway products, highly competitive, location-independent production, mixed or clich├ęd genres, cripplingly low creator remuneration, and obscene wealth for the industry's tzars. Indeed, the industry has been described (albeit by a disruptor) as shady, bullying, and predatory.

For instruments, it has brought mass production, tiny margins, fierce competition and, increasingly, materials and methods designed to shorten instrument lifespans. Lighter bodies, softer strings, tacky machine heads, and soft, easily worn frets.

Planned obsolescence and the instrumental drip feed have arrived, leaving craftsmen and women fighting for survival. Indeed, many renowned instrument builders live close to the poverty line.

These trends are also reflected in online teaching media, which tend to focus on small range of instruments drawn from the western, 12-tone equal temperament system.

Their popularity can be ascribed to their wide compatibility amongst each other and indeed (guitar) their flexibility. Nevertheless, even in musical cultures with a long pedigree (and especially if we leave these staples behind), there is an acute shortage of more advanced, online music learning and remote teaching support tools.

Given the number of people quietly taking face-to-face lessons via video chat, of particular note is the lack of tools in support for online P2P learning. Given the technical challenges, the overheads have perhaps not until now been viewed as meriting the effort. This an imbalance our world music aggregator platform seeks to address. Even if somewhat fragmented, it remains a vast market.

The sheer range of world instruments is breathtaking, but it's only on seeing how many different ways they can be informally grouped or classified that their value to different people is laid bare. Wikipedia has done much to document world music instruments and their classification, happily also in languages other than english.

Boredom is a seedbed of enterprise. With the inescapable arrival of Universal Basic Income, I feel social music making is destined to rise - and quite possibly dramatically. Hopefully the motivation to try one's hand at instrument modeling is equally strong. A wide range of instrument models spanning many cultures is likely to prove an empowerment and cultural integration fast lane.

In this sense, there is every incentive to bring the world's vast instrumental treasury online. With a flexible, comprehensive, extendable and easily accessible hierarchy of online instrument models (see the menus under the banner image above), things. are. going. to. change. First, though, this project needs financing.

Why Support Instrument Diversity?

Musical instrument families (as defined by, for example, the Hornbostel-Sachs classification system) can contain hundreds of subtly differing variants. Online instrument models might therefore be expected reflect the original instruments in their diversity.

Not so. Take, for example, the once immensely popular concertina, a relative of the accordion, bandoneon, harmonica and melodeon, and belonging to the Hornbostel-Sachs (classification) family 'free-reed aerophones'.

Not only are there several types of concertina (among the traditional: German, Anglo-Irish, English, Duet and Chemnitzer, but increasingly, with novel or experimental keyboard layouts). Each can manifest subtle key-to-note differences according to instrument builder or playing style.

To date, however, there is still no flexible, score- or audio-driven interactive online model of any of these variants.

Modern data visualization libraries allow these complex keyboard mappings to be modelled with surprising ease. The aggregator platform in focus here already supports much of the workflow allowing instrument configuration from a generic family base. Moreover, javascript allows keyboard layouts to inherit the properties of more widely accepted ones, effectively adding only their particular quirks.

Big, brave, open-source, non-profit, community-provisioned, cross-cultural and pigs-can-fly crazy. → Like, share, back-link, pin, tweet and mail. Hashtags? For the crowdfunding: #VisualFutureOfMusic. For the future live platform: #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory. Or simply register as a potential crowdfunder..

At the end the day, each instrument model is stored as a simple leaf node on a classification tree, and (should the need arise) in human-readable text form.

In combination, ready storage, classification trees and property inheritance are a game-changer. Defined once, any instrument model can be made available for all.

Instrument model diversity serves a number of ends:

Potential Crowdfunder?

  • Reflects instrument diversity and a trend towards musical individuality
  • Musical skill is a source of income (especially for the 70% of the world's population still living on less than $10 a day)
  • A vehicle for cultural identity
  • Social currency and cultural passport
  • A huge field of study in a post-singularity, partly workless society
  • An alternative to the mainstream, familiar and hopelessly oversubscribed
Our goals are twofold: breadth of insight through score-driven online models of almost all world instruments, and depth of insight in providing the underlying theory tools (see the menus just below the banner image above).

Access To Other Musical Cultures

Musicians from any musical culture can spend a lifetime in study, yet for the curious visitor, in many respects access to their musical cultures is dramatically hindered - by language, distance, time and in some cases customs.

Amongst the disenfranchised, a musical instrument is often the last key to community and with it, support. With the rise of world music -but nevertheless in time when many music cultures are in the throws of an extinction event- there is still significant interest and travel associated with music learning. Self-help may lie in human nature, but without basic tools, even this may be out of reach.

The key to mutual understanding are models of musical properties and behaviours accessible to and accepted by both cultures. We can include instrument models in this group precisely because of language difficulties. It is massively helpful to know the local names of notes, their meaning in terms of pitch, where to find them on a key- or fingerboard, and how they relate to familiar models. This is liberating both to teacher and student.

Music systems are built on simple (read 'easily modelled') configuration choices such as the number of notes per octave, the temperament or intonation, the key and any generally applicable exceptions ('accidentals'). The software factories at the heart of our instrument and theory tool configuration workflows use just such properties to dimension and equip the on-screen models. With a little community help, this promises a direct path to musical diversity and freedom, but also, for many, a vital source of income.

This YouTube video (early prototype built to test feasibility, not seduce viewers) hints at the instrument configuration possibilities based on such simple properties:

Easing The Search For Musical Compatibility

Let's take this train of thought a little further. With dramatically rising mobility, music cultures are coming into ever-increasing contact with each other. The opportunity to play with someone from a different culture is something few musicians would let pass by.

Central from a musician's perspective is always the specific instrument in which they have invested so much learning time and energy. How do they check the degree of compatibility with others, and what do they do should their instrument be found to be a mismatch?

Moreover, many instruments (for example lutes and clarinets) come in various keys and fingering systems, or are optimised around a particular style of music (try searching Irish music forums on the relative merits of different box accordion keyboard layouts. There's a lifetime's reading material).

Help could be provided in a few ways: side-by-side visual comparison during play or using pitch mapping diagrams, algorithmic test, or perhaps a summary of anticipated problem areas created with the help of an artificial intelligence system.

As far as visual comparison goes, this could be achieved simply by loading multiple instrument models in parallel, and allowing them to be driven by a dedicated test score, the relationship between score and instruments clearly being 1:many.

There is an argument for mappings between one instrument and multiple (score) notations - showing how, for example, the fingering associated with a particular piece of music might be documented across a variety of different notation systems. Technically entirely feasible, I leave it to the user to think it through in more visual detail..

Most current approaches to accommodating play with instruments with unusual tonal properties are often hamstrung by amount of experiment needed:
  • Transposition
  • Different instrument scale length (size)
  • Alternative tunings
  • Different instrument configurations within the same instrument family
Important is that the instrumentalist can transfer existing skills and realign these in the new musical context. Nevertheless, there are two sides to the coin:
  • finding the appropriate mappings (initally with the aid of compatibility matrices, then data-driven diagrams such as the chord diagram shown to the right, but in the long run simply and quickly in an artificial intelligence assisted dialogue)
  • an adaptive music platform supporting these mappings.
The platform in focus HERE has the potential to do both.

There is a saying: "If a picture is worth a thousand words, then an animation is worth a thousand pictures". Complex, animated visual mappings are the mainstay of data-driven visualization - which is exactly what this platform initiative is about. It's time to unleash it's formidable visual power.

Driving Instrument Diversity

Current State: Online Focus on a Tiny Range of Instruments #VisualFutureOfMusicOnline Instrument Modelling Gaps
Bring Missing Instruments & Tools Online
Visualization Toolset: Celebrate Instrumental Diversity. #VisualFutureOfMusicCelebrate Instrumental Diversity
With Easily Configured Online Models
Visualization Toolset: Any Music System, Any Instrument #VisualFutureOfMusic
Any Music System, Any Instrument
Any Configuration, Any Tuning

Here some of the many configurations in use across world and experimental music. Often mixed, the list is far from exhaustive..

Notes Or Tones Per Octave
12, 17, 19, 22, 24, 25, 31, 41, 46,
48, 53, 58, 72, 79, 88, 96, 1420
Temperaments & Intonations
Equal, Just, Meantone, Pythagorean,
Syntonic, Well Tempered, Tempered Timbres - and many others..
Not To Mention...
Number of Courses or Channels, Alternative Tunings, Scale Or Channel Lengths, Fretted or Fretless...

Visualization Toolset: Instrument Model Factory #VisualFutureOfMusicInstrument Model 'Factory'
Instrument Models - By Family
World Music Instruments: Mass Extinction Event #VisualFutureOfMusicMass Extinction Event
Culture Is Fragile
More Social Contact, Less Social Projection. #VisualFutureOfMusicMore Social Contact
Less Social Projection

The western, or classical, 12-tone equal temperament system is just one of many in use worldwide. Curious? You are far from alone.

Generic to Specific instrument and theory tool modelling. #VisualFutureOfMusicRadical Reuse
Generic to Specific Modelling
Musical Heritage. A Vast Legacy #VisualFutureOfMusicModel Almost Any Instrument
Heritage to Experimental
Instrument Diversity. Just Five Steps To Your First Configuration #VisualFutureOfMusic
To Those First Instrument Models
But With Total Configuration Control

Music Visualization: Instrumental Building Blocks- orm, Function, Physics. #VisualFutureOfMusic
Instrumental Building Blocks

Form, Function, Physics
Integration And Control: Notation, Instruments, Theory #VisualFutureOfMusic Integration & Control
Change One → Change All
Liberate The Virtuoso, Delegate The Banal. #VisualFutureOfMusicLiberate the Virtuoso
Delegate the Banal

Freedom is a resource, ideology a prison. Total configuration control over own musical environment is central to musical liberty.

Example of Instrument Classification Tree. #VisualFutureOfMusicDiscovery, Selection, Population
Of Instruments and Theory Tools
In-browser instrument builder. #VisualFutureOfMusicDiversity By Default
Flexible Step By Step Configuration
Accurate Lute Family Configuration For Community Use. #VisualFutureOfMusicAccurate Instrument Configuration
For Community Reuse

Music Visualization From Data Visualization: Peek And Ye Shall Find. It's All Out There, And It's Free. #VisualFutureOfMusicPeek And Ye Shall Find
It's All Out There, And It's Free
Music Visualization: Configuration Freedom - Simple And Flexible. #VisualFutureOfMusicConfiguration Freedom
Simple And Flexible
Musical Properties Modelling Kit. Defined Once, Usable Anywhere. #VisualFutureOfMusicMusical Properties Modelling Kit
Defined Once, Usable Anywhere

As technical frontiers are breached, musical possibilities rise. Pioneering experience is a valuable asset: follower - or followed?

Music Visualization: Get Basics Working First, Then Simplify. #VisualFutureOfMusicBasics Working First
Then Simplify
Music Visualisation: Work Out From The Familiar And Easily Represented. #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheoryWork Out From The Familiar
And Easily Represented
Instrument Configurations Via Radar Chart: Simple, Visual, Comparable. #VisualFutureOfMusicInstrument Configurations
Simple, Visual, Comparable

Folk Knowledge & Ethnomusicology Can Deliver Regional Instrument Configurations. #VisualFutureOfMusic
Folk Knowledge & Ethnomusicology
→ Regional Instrument Configurations
Foundation for P2P Music Teaching and Learning #VisualFutureOfMusicWorld Music P2P Teaching
Music Visualization: Fretboard Or Fingerboard, Roadmaps For Every Last Configuration. #VisualFutureOfMusicFretboard Or Fingerboard
Roadmaps For Every Last Configuration

Culture drives curiosity. Curiosity drives experience, experience: understanding, and understanding: progress. Long live culture.

Music Visualization: Schneider's Switchboard Guitar. #VisualFutureOfMusicInstrument Example
Schneider's Switchboard Guitar
Music Visualization: Microtonal Guitar, Sagittal Notation. #VisualFutureOfMusicMicrotonal Guitar, Sagittal Notation


online music learning,
online music lessons
distance music learning,
distance music lessons
remote music lessons,
remote music learning
p2p music lessons,
p2p music learning
music visualisation
music visualization
musical instrument models
interactive music instrument models
music theory tools
musical theory
p2p music interworking
p2p musical interworking
comparative musicology
world music
international music
folk music
traditional music
P2P musical interworking,
Peer-to-peer musical interworking
WebGL, Web3D,
WebVR, WebAR
Virtual Reality,
Augmented or Mixed Reality
Artificial Intelligence,
Machine Learning
Scalar Vector Graphics,
3D Cascading Style Sheets,

Comments, questions and (especially) critique welcome.