Digital Pianos to Enhance Student Learning

Project Title: Digital Pianos to Enhance Student Learning

Project Lead's Name: Siok Lian Tan

Project Lead's Email:

Project Lead's Phone: 513-529-3072

Project Lead's Division: CCA

Primary Department: Music

List Departments Benefiting or Affected by this proposal: Music

Estimated Number of Under-Graduate students affected per year (should be number who will actually use solution, not just who is it available to): 125

Estimated Number of Graduate students affected per year (should be number who will actually use solution, not just who is it available to): 5

Describe the problem you are attempting to solve and your approach for solving that problem: The problem I am attempting to solve:

All music majors at Miami are required to fulfill a piano proficiency requirement. Students fulfill this requirement by taking a 4-semester functional piano course sequence. The course is taught in a piano lab with 12 digital pianos for students and 1 teacher station with a digital piano that connects to a lab controller.

The digital pianos in our current lab and the lab controller are nine­ years-old and are very worn out from daily use. They are outdated technology. These pianos lack many essential functions that the current technology offers, which would enhance our students' learning capabilities. For example, the audio recording function no longer works in many of our current pianos. The new digital pianos have a built-in USB audio recorder that allows students to record their performance on a thumb drive as WAVor mp3 files. They can playback these files for self-evaluation or upload them on Canvas for feedback from their instructor. This tool is very important for the instructor to monitor students' progress because there is a lack of time in class to evaluate students' performance and provide individual feedback in a group class. Learning is also more effective if students can hear and evaluate their performance through personal recording playbacks.

In our current lab, the piano lab controller is stationed next to the instructors piano. The Instructor cannot move around the classroom to help individual students. In the proposed new lab, the new digital pianos are connected to the MLC-200 System and its Wireless Kit which allows the instructor to move around the classroom with an iPad to work with students Individually. With wireless technology, the instructor can interact more personally and effectively with students.

Besides the outdated technology, the current pianos in our lab often break down and require frequent repairs. Some of the replacement parts are no longer available from Yamaha. The headphone jacks in many pianos are not working properly. Some students cannot hear their playing through the headphones. They have to play out loud and disrupt other students in the class. Keys on several pianos are sticking and cannot produce tones. The control buttons on many pianos do not work. In short, the state of our current piano lab is not conducive to learning.

Approach to solve the problem:

The Tech Fee funds will be used to purchase a state of the art Yamaha Clavinova (CVP) digital piano lab. The proposed new lab will replace our current nine-year-old lab. It will have one Instructor piano (CVP-805) with a piano-lab controller (MLC-200) that connects to twelve student pianos (CVP-701). Each piano has a pair of headsets with a microphone attached to it. The students can hear only themselves or also hear other students through the headsets. With the piano lab controller, the instructor can teach the students as a class, work with an individual or a group of students. The controller is equipped with a wireless kit and allows the instructor to move around the classroom to help students.

How would you describe the innovation and/or the significance of your project: The teaching/learning innovations in this project:

Yamaha Clavinova CVP 701 and 805 are state-of-the-art digital pianos. The key action/touch closely resembles an acoustic piano and students can develop good piano techniques playing on these instruments. The built-In USB audio recorder allows students to record their performance on a thumb drive as WAVor mp3 files. They can upload these files on their computer for self-evaluation or Canvas for feedback from their instructor. This tool is very important for the instructor to monitor students' progress because there is always a lack of time to give individual feedback in a group class. The quality of the recording is excellent and can be used as demos for performers and composers.

The Clavlnova also has a built-in 16-track MIDI recorder. Students can record right- and left-hand parts on separate tracks, allowing them to evaluate one hand at a time in a passage that was originally performed hands together. Since the tempo of the playback is adjustable, the students can also practice accompanying by recording the solo part first and playing the accompaniment part with the prerecorded solo at a tempo that suits them. In a multi-part instrumental score reading exercise, students can record each instrumental line on separate tracks with different Instrument sounds and playback all the recorded tracks simultaneously to listen to the entire score. They will be able to detect any incorrectly transposed instrumental parts from listening to the playback. Students must have a tool where they can evaluate their playing because self­ discovery learning is one of the best ways to improve future performance.

The MIDI recorder is also an efficient tool for music students to notate their arrangements and compositions. This is a useful tool for music educators and composers. They can play and record their works with a variety of instrumental sound and built-in accompaniments, save on a USB storage device and transcribe them as notated music scores with music notation software such as Finale or Sibelius. The variety of instrumental sound, multi-track layering function, and multiple accompaniment styles can inspire music students to be more creative in their arrangements and compositions.

The MLC-200 that controls the new piano lab, combines the iPad app called ML Touch, with audio hardware utilizing Dante technology, the most popular standard for transmitting audio over common Ethernet cables, to create a more flexible system for instructors to interact with their students. The MLC-200 system enables instructors to speak or play to the entire class through their headphones, monitor what students are playing on their instrument or saying into their headset, communicate one-on-one with students who may be seated towards the rear of the room, mute all instruments with the touch of an icon and even take class attendance. With a tap of the app, instructors can also create subgroups for students with different levels of ability or those working on different pieces.

The MLC-200 system can control the Clavinova digital pianos, including highlighting notes on students' instruments simply by playing them at the teacher's station or resetting all student pianos to the main grand piano Voice. By using wireless headphones, instructors can roam about the classroom to help their students individually, while hearing and controlling the entire blend of the class's instruments.

The new pianos come with many pre-loaded styles and song flies, allowing students to read a music score and play from the built-in Music Finder LCD screen. These song files can be updated from the Yamaha  website. Students can also download songs from the Yamaha Music Library directly and select appropriate  styles to play on the pianos. Yamaha Music collaborated with Hal Leonard (the world's largest sheet music publisher) and there are many song titles to download from Yamaha Music Library. The proposed instructor piano, CVP 805, also has a video out connector where the LCD screen display on the unit can be projected to a monitor for the viewing of the entire class.

With the new piano lab, students can directly connect iPhones and iPads with digital pianos. They can download and use apps such as Chord Tracker, MusicSoft Manager, NoteStar, Piano Diary, and Repertoire Finder on the pianos. These apps can motivate and engage students to learn and master their piano skills more independently and creatively.

The significance of this project:

The new digital pianos will serve students both In class and out of class. In class, the pianos will serve all music majors in the music department. To meet the NASM (National Association School of Music) accreditation standard, every undergraduate music student pursuing a degree in Bachelor of Music in Performance, Bachelor of Music in Music Education, or Bachelor of Arts in Music at Miami University Is required to fulfill a piano proficiency requirement. Music students fulfill their piano proficiency requirement by taking the Functional Piano course sequence (MUS 160, 161, 260, 261) in the piano lab. The music department offers nine sections of functional piano class every semester. Each section can accommodate up to twelve students. There are about 100 music students enrolled in the functional piano classes each semester. NASM, Miami University, and other music schools throughout the United States deem the proficiency in piano skills as essential to the development and growth of all musicians.

Besides the Functional Piano course, MUS 430/530 Piano Pedagogy course, a required course for piano majors, also uses the piano lab when students studying group piano teaching in a digital piano lab. There are usually 10 to 12 piano students enrolled in the Piano Pedagogy course. The Music Department also offers MUS 115 Beglnnlng Plano Class for non-majors, every fall. This is a very popular course and it is always filled with 12 students in the first few hours when the course is open for registration.

Out of class, piano majors also use the pianos in the lab to rehearse their piano concertos. The music department does not have a practice room with two pianos for students to rehearse their concertos with a second piano. All Miami University students have access to the piano lab for instructional and recreational use.

Currently, there are supervised weekly open-lab hours administered by graduate piano assistants for any Miami students who are interested in using the digital pianos for composition, recording, or recreational purposes. These graduate assistants teach the functional piano classes and they hold weekly office hours in the piano lab. There is no additional cost for the supervised open-lab hours. In total, we expect that annually, approximately 130 students will use this piano lab. If the lifetime of this piano lab is approximately nine years, that means a total of 1,170 students will benefit from this investment. Based on the amount requested, this represents a cost of $51 per student.

How will you assess the success of the project:

Assessment method #1: Using student recordings from the new digital pianos to compare the quality of their performance over the 4 semesters of piano study.

With the new digital pianos, students can easily record and store their playing assignments in a USB storage device throughout the semester. Instructors can evaluate student assignments easily and provide regular feedback. Students can also self-evaluate their performance. They can listen to their recordings in the piano lab, on computers, or mobile devices outside of class. If the students have to record their assignments outside of class time, they will be motivated to use the piano lab more often and practice more. At the end of the semester, I should have enough evidence from their recorded samples to track progress. The students can also upload their recorded assignments to their e-portfolios for future departmental and university-wide assessment purposes.

Assessment method #2: Comparing the percentage of students passing the piano proficiency exam before and after using the technology on the new digital pianos. I keep all the records of music students' piano profaciency results and should be able to compare the results before and after the use of the new digital pianos.

Assessment method #3: Collecting student feedback at the end of each semester on how the practice tools available on the new digital pianos help with improving their piano skills. I can adjust my teaching strategies based on their comments.

Additional expected outcomes:

Music students using the piano lab will be exposed to the most current digital piano technology. The knowledge can enhance their training as music educators, performers, and composers. Future music educators can learn to use these digital pianos to teach musicianship skills in a group setting. The digital pianos have many instrumental sounds and sophisticated styles of accompaniment and can function as a back-up band to accompany a school choir for a performance. They can arrange music for their school ensembles playing their arrangements on the piano and record them on the digital pianos' 16-track MIDI recorder.

Piano performance students can record their audition pieces or make demos on these digital pianos to secure playing jobs. These pianos are capable of producing professional-quality recordings and the sound files can be uploaded directly to any online job application sites.

Composition students can explore a variety of Instrument sounds and accompaniment styles to enhance the creativity in their compositions. They can also hear their multi-part compositions with correct instrumentation on these digital pianos.

The offering of MUS 115 and the availability of these digital pianos to non-music majors serve as the music department's outreach to interface with the university community. The piano course and the access to these fine digital pianos will enhance these students' experience at Miami.

Financial Information

Total Amount Requested: $59,822

Is this a multi-year request: No

Please address how, if at all, this project aligns with University, Divisional, Departmental or Center strategic goals: The Department of Music's main goal is to offer the highest level of education in music for students in our undergraduate and graduate degree programs in music education, performance, and liberal arts in music. The proposed new state-of-the-art Yamaha Clavinova piano lab will enhance our students' learning of essential piano skills with the latest technology. The knowledge to use this Innovative technology as a learning tool will better prepare our students professionally as 21st-century music educators, performers, and composers.