New tool helps musicians improve technique through better posture
A multimedia system developed by EU-funded scientists at the University of Leeds in the UK may allow musicians to significantly improve their performance. Since posture is critical to musical technique, the i-Maestro 3D Augmented Mirror (AMIR) first uses three-dimensional (3D) imaging to capture movement and posture during a performance, then provides results against optimal performance settings.
The technology was developed as part of the i-Maestro ('Interactive multimedia environment for technology-enhanced music education and creative collaborative composition and performance') project, which was financed with EUR 2.35 million through the Information Society Technologies (IST) Thematic area of the EU's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).
As senior lecturer of the university's Faculty of Engineering and School of Music, and a violinist himself, lead author Dr Kia Ng explained that it may be difficult to analyse what elements go into making a great sound, but that in some cases it all comes down to fundamental physics. 'If the bow is held perpendicular to the string and parallel to the bridge, the minimum effort will produce the maximum result, ' he said. 'Our system can measure this and show musicians exactly when their technique becomes less effective.'
According to the i-Maestro team, the AMIR prototype is likely to appeal to students studying music, music teachers and experienced or professional musicians wanting to improve their technique and subsequent performance. The new technology, they say, can work hand in hand with traditional teaching methods.
'Learning to play an instrument is a physical activity. If a student develops a bad posture early on, this can be potentially very damaging to their career and our system can help teachers to easily identify problems,' said Dr Ng. 'Similarly, the system enables experienced musicians to make small changes in gesture and posture that can improve the sound they make.'
Dr Ng explained that it is standard practice for musicians to record their performance through video to examine technique. This, however, only provides them with a two-dimensional image; the 3D image and analysis available through AMIR can significantly add to the assessment of performance and provide a benchmark for future targets. A student and teacher, for instance, can view the performance (together with an on-screen analysis) in its entirety, frame by frame or stroke by stroke.
AMIR works via markers attached to an instrument's key points and the musician's body and bow. Twelve cameras record while the musician plays; bow speed, angle and position are all calculated for analysis and assessment.
At present, the system is tailored to examine the playing of stringed instruments (such as the violin and cello); however, it could be adapted to other instruments. According to Dr Ng, the hardware required to operate the technology costs between EUR 5,500 and EUR 111,000, which is likely to hinder broad use. Until it becomes more affordable, the lecturer explained that the university's Interdisciplinary Centre for Scientific Research in Music can provide musicians with access on a consultancy basis.
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University of Leeds:
FP7 Information and Communication Technologies (ICT):
Category: Project results
Data Source Provider: University of Leeds; i-Maestro
Document Reference: Based on information from the University of Leeds and i-Maestro
Programme or Service Acronym: MS-UK C, FP6-INTEGRATING, FP6-IST
Subject Index: Coordination, Cooperation; Environmental Protection; Other Energy Topics; Scientific Research; Transport