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Music EdTech – Learn to Play

I have an ear for music.  I’m a student of music history, with my daughter named Abbey with an e in the spelling for a reason.  I took piano lessons for 6 years.  I can carry a tune and with lessons and practice, I might be a halfway decent singer; not cut out for The Voice mind you, but well enough for the shower and to keep my kids annoyed.

If you’re like me, you’re likely like most.   Music is an art form most love but few can play.

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Music is the greatest form of communication. It possesses the information of language, the emotion of poetry, the creativity of art and the passion of love.”

I penned that thought nearly two decades ago when in my late college years I was really trying to pick up a guitar and find my soul.

Disappointingly, the music never found it’s way from my mind to my fingers.

Twenty years later, brilliant innovators are tackling music education in incredible ways and now, as a parent, I can’t help but look to the tools and technology that’s enabling our future to play.   I thought we’d share a few of my latest discoveries in hopes that you find your instrument.

The Casio LK-260

lk-260 keyboardWhere the heck was this when I was a kid?!

I agonized over Für Elise and Bach with a passion for classical music that one could expect of an 8 year old boy.   Today’s piano teacher is a keyboard that lights up in sequence as it shows you the notes to play in simple scales or a ballad cut from Jerry Lee Lewis (no, it doesn’t teach you how to kick back your stool and play standing).

The lighted keys and Casio’s Step up Lesson System provide instruction and assistance allowing you to gain experience and eventually play on your own.   More than that: Built-in Microphone, 400 Tones, 150 Rhythms, 110 Songs, 5 Voice Pads, 48 Note Polyphony, USB MIDI… here’s the thing too about music education – I have no idea what “Polyphony” means…

Musicians Desk Reference

There’s the technical talent to play and then there’s the theory and lesson involved in understanding what you’re doing.

Polyphony by the way refers to the maximum number of notes that a keyboard or sound module can produce at one time. For instance, if you were to play a 3-note chord with a 1-note melody, you’d need at a keyboard capable of at least 4-note polyphony.

This is why we’ve become great fans of Musicians’ Desk Reference 

Musicians Desk ReferenceMDR is an online platform designed to help budding artists progress through today’s music industry – from starting out and recording to promoting and touring, with an emphasis on strategies ranging from DIY to professional business and servicing.

Now, granted, it isn’t really the teaching tool for the musician wanting to learn a few things on Lynda.com.  This is really just another example of the great innovation going on in Music EdTech, and the Polyphony reference gave me a great segue in our article to change topics.   The question herein is from where does one learn more?

Informed by more than 15 years of music education experience, Musicians’ Desk Reference offers templates, timelines, instructional guides, and more, tailored to the modern artist’s needs.   What excites us in MediaTech Ventures is that not only does the young or aspiring musician need to learn to play, the entrepreneurial musician is really running a business and thrives through their learning of how to turn a talent into a tour.

Yamaha DTX 400

While I could never work out how to play a C scale on 88 keys, I could beat a rhythm.  Sort of.  To what does a young boy turn when frustrated that he can’t play music?  Sticks.

Unfortunately, because I had learned just enough about the keyboard, my turn with percussion found me relegated to the Marimba.  I could crush that Theme from Batman tune but this really wasn’t my thing either.   Granted, today at home, I can nail the Rock Band pads on Expert Level but the skins really eluded me.

dtx400Enter, the Yamaha DTX 400.

The kit includes pads representing toms, snare, kick, and cymbals; all you’ll find in a standard set but with built-in training that plays the patterns and rhythms of genres from jazz to rock.  Customize the kit to match your style and even practice with an interactive training function featuring a “Voice Guidance” system – a talking drum teacher built-in.


The smartest way to learn guitar.

I don’t have a guitar story to share other than mentioning that I have a 6 string sadly gathering dust in my closet.   Frankly, I just don’t have the patience when all I really wanted to be able to do was accompany my questionable voice around the campfire.

fretelloI have though downloaded Fretello and I’m putting in the 20 minutes a few times week that it might take to unleash my inner Eric Clapton.

Fretello is a guitar teacher in your pocket.  An AI-powered app that gives you feedback every time you pick up your guitar. Top-quality lessons in the app are tailored to your personal goals as a musician so you can learn the riffs, licks, and solos at your own pace.

Fretlight FG-621

Last on my list, while you might pick up a traditional guitar to learn to play with Fretello, you should also look to the Fretlight FG-621 electric guitar.

LED lights on the fretboard show where you fingers should hold the strings as you play.  The Fretlight guitars are compatible with other smartphone apps and expertly crafted as a  traditional instrument with new technology. The instruments have all the features you’d expect from a normal guitar such as 1/4″ output jacks, pickup selections, two-way truss rods and incredibly straight necks. The learning system is there at the push of a button when you want it – or need it (as I certainly do).

Learn to play.  Music is the greatest form of EDUCATION. It possesses the information of language, the emotion of poetry, the creativity of art and the passion of love… and the technology of the future.

Paul O'Brien

Silicon Valley technology and startup veteran, Paul O'Brien is affectionately known as SEO'Brien for an extensive past in the search industry. Today as CEO and Founder of MediaTech Ventures, O'Brien works in Venture Capital Economic Development, serving the investment and venture capital economies directly, through thought leadership, consulting, and startup development. More, a regional Director of the Founder Institute incubator and mentor in DivInc, Galvanize, and various startup Accelerators.

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