Instrument Alternatives For Special Needs Students- The Soundbeam

The Soundbeam Digital Musical InstrumentI've been a fan of the Beamz virtual musical instrument for quite a while now, and had mentioned how it was a perfect opportunity for students with special needs to create music both in a classroom environment and also as a recreational activity.  Now I have been exposed to another virtual instrument called the Soundbeam that works in much the same way only using ultrasound instead of laser beams to detect the movement of the person playing it.  It reminds me a lot of the old Theramin musical instrument that I used to play with as a kid at the local science center.  The closer you are to the device the higher the pitches will be while as you move away from the device the sounds go down.  The difference is that the Soundbeam sends MIDI data to a MIDI keyboard or other device to produce the sounds while the Theramin uses pitch modulation. 

I first heard about the Soundbeam in a blog post by Dr. Jim Frankel of Soundtree (Soundtree also sells the device in the USA).  In his blog post about the Soundbeam he also has an embedded video of a wheelchair bound student using the device that is worth taking a look at.  For even more information about the music therapy benefits of the product take a look at the Soundbeam web site.

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Microphone and Sound Reinforcement Guides at McCormicks

A MicrophoneIn going through my email I came across some information about some new gadgets over at the McCormick's music web site.  I never found the gadget I was looking for but I did find a really useful page of PDF links to articles on a lot of very informative music technology topics.  On their Educational Tech Guides page they list several dozen articles on topics related to microphones and their use.  Some of the sample topics include things like Critical Distance and Microphone Placement and Antenna Setup for Wireless Microphone Systems.

The page is worth a quick glance if you ever have microphone problems while recording your ensembles or if you just want to learn how to record things more effectively.  Kudos to McCormicks for providing this resource!

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Google Steals My Idea and Makes It Better... Go Figure!

Music Composer DatabaseA few years ago I started a little (huge) project on MusicEdMagic called the Music Composer Database.  I spent countless hours collecting information and integrating it into a great program that was created by a grad student over at MIT.  My intent was to create an easy to use and navigate place for people and students to find resource information about all of the major composers of history while not directly giving away the answers.  In other words, I didn't want to make things too easy for my students but yet I wanted to give them an alternative to Wikipedia.  Well, after months of work on it I was fairly happy with the results and posted it online to fairly good reviews.  Now though, almost a year later, Google as one-upped me.

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Santized Instruments- The Debate Continues

A few days ago a fellow music ed blogger named Thomas West tweeted about a news story he read about the Massachusetts legislature considering a law to require schools to santize their instruments each school year and to promote band instrument cleaning and hygiene practices to prevent infection.  When I first heard it I thought it might be just something that was a knee jerk reaction to the H1N1 Swine Flu stuff.  Chances are that the flu pandemic did have something to do with it but after reading the story I still wonder how people can be so badly misinformed as to recommend a proceedure that costs hundreds of dollars per instrument versus the chemical cleaning job that my local music store does for less than $75.
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Rhythm Heaven In Music Class?

Rhythm Heaven For Nintendo DSI recently finished a review of the new Rhythm Heaven video game for the Nintendo DS portable game system.  I was looking at it as a part of my research for an article on using portable devices in the music classroom (iPhones, Nintendo DS, etc).  What I expected to find was another Guitar Hero type game but what I was pleased to discover instead was that Rhythm Heaven is a game that I don't think I would mind letting my students play as a reward or as a put away activity.

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How To Legally Copy A DVD For Educational Purposes- MPAA Approved

Is this irony, stupidity, or just plain... dumb?  Pasted below is a link to a video at VIMIO that shows an actual DMCA hearing at the Library of Congress where the Motion Picture Association of America actually demonstrates the proper way to copy a DVD movie for educational purposes.  I'll give you a quick hint.  It includes using a camcorder, a television screen, and a darkened room...

MPAA Shows How To Videorecord A TV Set

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The Question Of Music Technology Standards

Today I sat on a panel discussion at the national MENC conference in D.C. on the topic of whether or not we should develop national standards for music technology.  I had my own feelings and ideas about the idea, and I let my voice be heard, but several of my colleagues also had very interesting points of view on the matter.  Don't worry, from what I saw and heard there will not likely be any national music technology standards in the near future, but the discussion was interesting and I have to say enlightening in many ways.
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Linking Physics To Music By Breaking Wine Glasses

Every so often you will see a video about someone trying to break a wine glass by singing very loudly.  Old movies and cartoons are ripe with this seeming cliche, but some physicists still banter about the question of whether or not a human voice can actually do it.  Well, a high school physics teacher in  had one of his school's more talented male students try the trick, and after a lot of practice he actually learned how to do it.


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Roland VP-770 Keyboard

Roland VP-770 KeyboardI am not the greatest keyboard player in the world, but seeing the YouTube demo of the Roland VP-770 keyboard makes me wish I was.  The guy doing the demo is Ed Diaz, a regular presenter at the Roland booth at the conventions I have attended.  He's a lot of fun to watch no matter what equipment he is working on, but seeing him play with the vocalization features of this new device is really cool.  Check it out on YouTube and find out more about the VP-770 on Roland's web site.
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A First Look Sibelius 6

Sibelius 6 BoxOn May 19th Sibelius released the latest version of the Sibelius music notation program.  This version boasts a lot of new features, many of which are very significant improvements over the previous version.  But what exactly are the new features of Sibelius 6 and is it worth the investment?


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Online Music Lesson Directory Now Open For Registration

Several months ago I posted an article titled How To Teach Music Lessons Via The Internet.  Following the publication of it I had had several people contact me asking if I knew of any directories where potential students could find teachers that are willing to teach instrumental or voice lessons over the Internet using videoconferencing.  While there are several places out there that people can find a music teacher there were none that I could find that specialized in this new, virtual type of instruction.  I finally got around to putting together an online music lesson directory, but decided to go beyond just providing a place for virtual lesson instructors. 

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