Interaction Designer

Musix.jpg

Musix: RHYTHM

Design Research

Mobile App Design

Branding

Animation

Musix : RHYTHM


PROBLEM

Music education is stuck in the 1500s!

Product

A mobile application featuring a series of rhythm lessons and metronomes, exploring kinesthetic and visual learning methods for rhythmic concepts

Audience

Drummers/ people who want to understand rhythmic concepts

Role

This was an individual senior capstone project for the University of Washington's Interaction Design program. 

Timeline

12 weeks


Process 

Research > Interviews > Prototype (animated metronomes/lessons) > User Testing > Prototype Mobile App > Final Presentation/exhibit as part of the 2018 UW design show

 

 

Music Education's Gate-keeping Problem

Piano Lessons- Musix.jpeg

I taught music lessons for about 8 years. Upon learning what I did for a living, 80% of adults I met told me a version of this story...

"I used to love music as a kid, but I had this crazy mean piano teacher who used to grab my hand and yell at me, so I quit and I regret it!"

This is my least favorite story.

As a teacher to mostly young children, it was my mission to try and develop and curriculum based on each student's unique talents and interests. I wanted to make sure that with or without me, they kept playing, discovering, and appreciating music. I truly believe that a foundational music education, where students gain an understanding of music concepts and it's cultural contexts, is integral to a person's development. Translating emotions to words, words to song, notation to melodies, listening+playing+improvising with other musicians, these are immeasurably beneficial in the development of cognitive and inter/intrapersonal skills. 

These benefits all come from the act of CREATING music, of PLAYING music, of LISTENING to the music you've created. These mostly participatory aspects of music are what makes it MAGICAL. However, in a traditional music education, this reward of playing, creating, and listening is put aside as a by-product of learning technique, theory, and (in a "westernized" society) the standard western music notation system.  Traditional music education assumes that there is only one universally accepted route to become proficient at an instrument. 

In a time where technological innovations are drastically changing the landscape of education, why has music ed been left behind? 

 
 

 

What would a Magic-First Approach look like? 

Western music notation is prescriptive. The goal is to allow each player to perform a written piece as close to intended by the composer through an array of symbols and a notation-specific vocabulary.

There are however, much more descriptive styles, where interpretation differs from player to player.  These descriptive notation methods require less translation. It encourages an understanding of the context and genre, but allows the player to reach that magical collaborative performance level much faster than prescriptive methods.

 
Western+Indian+Indonesian notation systems
 

 

Research

Through professor Shannon Dudley's ethnomusicology class at the University Of Washington, I was exposed to the notation systems used by Indonesian gamelan players, Indian classical players, and West African drum ensembles. A crucial commonality among these styles were the participatory elements of a music practice. Indonesian gamelan music is never performed as a showcase, but rather as accompaniment to a dance. West African drum ensembles often feature apprentice drummers, who learn through watching a master drummer, and always alongside dancers. In more and more cases, I realized that a focus on watching, on movement, can be just as integral as an auditory focus when learning music. 

 
 
Musix Tubs Exploration Sketches
Tubs with a bouncing ball sketch
Exploring Tubs Sketches
 

I used the already existing TUBS notation system as a jumping off point. It's a system that people can understand and read very quickly, relying on a number of boxes to subdivide a beat. Although TUBS is simple and intuitive, it's used more to communicate short snippets of rhythms. I wanted to see if there was a way to animate TUBS notations, to allow musicians to practice and play along, however long the drum set part might be. 

 
 

 

Key Findings

In participatory music practices, the act of watching, then playing to movement, is a fundamental skill that starts being developed the second a student picks up an instrument. 

Learning an instrument is similar to learning a new language. Sure, anybody can learn simple phrases with books and apps, but to truly become a native speaker of any language, to be able to simply respond, rather than go through the motions of translating,  one has to understand the subtle context-driven colloquialisms which make languages magical.

Understanding the context and consequence of the output of music–the movement, the dance, the body language involved in collaborative performance, is THE requirement for reaching that magical level of performance.

 
 

 

Hypothesis

A notation system that incorperates movement, teaching students to connect sounds to motions, can be valuable addition to a music education.

 
 

 

Explorations: rhythmic visualizations

I explored a series of rhythmic translations. Could these explicitly designed visualizations actually aide the internalization of the rhythmic concepts demonstrated in each piece of music?

 

“Turnstile blues” by the band Autolux

 
 
 

In this transcription of “flashlight” by P-funk, I was seeing what other contextual information I could apply to communicate the right “vibe” of the song.

 
 

This transcription was meant to communicate the cyclical nature of all the instrumental parts, and the contrast between their timing and the time signature the vocals follow.

 
 

In this short transcription of an Indian Raga, I wanted to start testing the waters in regards to what would be viewed as educational/helpful, and what would be viewed as simply an artistic interpretation.

The title refers to an early review of the piece, where the writer compares the drums to an angry mob, “murdering” the soloist.

 
 

Findings

  • In testing out these visualizations, I found there was a hard limit as to the information eyes can handle. Too many contrasting colors, rotating shapes, or strong colors resulted, perhaps predictably, in several seizure-related criticisms.

  • Music moves in a circular form. Rhythms, phrases, melodies, themes- all repeat throughout a single song. The circular shape of the notation not only successfully communicated this idea, but gave new players a sense of safety and encouragement–knowing that if they messed up a part, it would just come right back around in a few seconds.

 

 

 

Animated lesson

For display at the 2018 UW design show, I created a set of lessons to play a specific drum beat, then condensed them into a 1 minute demo-highlight reel. 

This lesson utilizes an animated TUBS notation to start teaching the basic patterns of the drum set part. The zebra-printed pattern was a decision informed by my research participants. Although they appreciated having a visual metronome via a spinning wheel with 8 spokes, it was rather distracting and superfluous, since the notation itself is also spinning. A more subtle method of keeping track of the measures was needed. 

 
 
 
 

 

The Mobile Application

Early motion studies/ prototypes

Principle onboarding motion study

Principle onboarding motion study

Principle motion study

Principle motion study

Card layout- motion study

Card layout- motion study

 

 

Branding: Serious, Modern, Fun, Important!

I always thought of Art Deco styles and color schemes to be one small step away from patterns and colors associated with child-play. I wanted to communicate a playful aesthetic with a serious attitude. 

 
 
Branding- Musix.png
 
 

 

Final app run-through

Musix : An all-access learning tool

 
 

 

2018 UW IxD Design Show!

For our final design showcase, I had to give users the ability to have a “magic” music moment. I decided to make a set of digital drum pads using conductive paint and an Arduino soundback connected to a sound board. Users we able to walk up, put on headphones, pressed play, and tap along to the lesson. The Right hand played the kick drum part, left hand the snare drum part. The parts were color-coded.

 
 
 
 
 
Final poster for the 2018 UW interaction design showcase

Final poster for the 2018 UW interaction design showcase

 

 

Going forward

Throughout this project, I had several opening discussions about advancements in technology, and their implications for professional educators.

In one of these discussions, a Ethnomusicology phd candidate stated that

"With advancements in technology, we must elevate our roles."

I must emphatically agree. In a time where the very act of processing information is changing along with available tech, educators must be willing to accept and become competent in new software to communicate their stories.

This was my dream passion project. I was humbled to have had the opportunity to refine the process of drawing inspiration from my past experiences to inform my design decisions. My ultimate goal is that one day, I can pull from a massive well of decision experience to make a positive and permanent impact in the world of music education.

 

 

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