Tangible Interaction. Industrial Design. Design Research.
This is a platform for people to diagnose their own problems and find their own solutions in music learning. It works as a tool for amateur pianists to use independently to analyze and reflect on their music, establish and accomplish small goals, and increase personal success, enjoyment, and motivation.
The physicality of this annotation requires the user to think deliberately about their practicing, and provides people with pieces to frame and deconstruct the challenges they are facing.
My goal was to create a product that combats the issues that appear during the learning/practicing process.
Many children are placed into music lessons while they are still in school, yet very few continue taking lessons into adulthood. In addition, very few people continue to practice and maintain these skills while they are not enrolled in lessons. Even when people say that they wish to continue making music, there are many barriers that deter them from committing to long term practice.
These barriers may come in the form of inefficient practicing techniques, insufficient technologies/access to technologies or instruments, or a lack of sufficient internal or external motivation, etc. In the end, the deterrents often outweigh and overwhelm the intrinsic desire to play. There also seems to be a general consensus that passion should be enough to motivate someone to practice, regardless of circumstances or deterrents. This project seeks to overcome some of these barriers in order support adult hobbyist musicians to practice.
I employed a variety of research methods in order to understand people’s intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for playing music, pain points and deficiencies within the system that deter people from playing, and successful methods of teaching technical skills.
My primary research goals were to hear from people of varying levels of experience, age, economic background to gather what people believe to be the overall driving forces behind their music playing. I released interview questions via private email to a network of musicians and I posted on public forums as well to reach a wider scope.
What makes it worth it for you to keep practicing? Playing music is a hobby that takes a lot of commitment, so why is it rewarding and enjoyable for you?
Who or what got you into playing music? When did you take lessons, and what was your teacher like?
How different is practicing music on your own, compared to practicing while you're enrolled in lessons?
If you don't play often, why did you stop? What's frustrating to you about practicing, sheet music, instrument, etc.?
For the music teachers out there, what do you do to help your students through rough patches or difficult music? What are some effective methods for helping people improve and continue on?
"Most importantly, it's fun. Also, it's relaxing, yet intellectually and physically challenging... It provides a good balance of "work hard at something" and "see tangible benefits from hard work," the kind of thing that doesn't always commute to other facets of life or other pastimes... I gained a far more nuanced appreciation of music when I am actively playing"
I diagrammed out the responses I received from my interview questions in order to uncover and understand some of the patterns across people's musical experiences.
"Practicing without being enrolled in lessons is still rewarding, but in a different way. It's rewarding to finish a piece, but I always think in the back of my head... I know I'm missing something; I wish I had a professional to guide me in how to make this piece even better! It also takes me longer to learn a piece because I'm not weekly motivated to practice"
From my interviews, many of the factors involved in their musical experiences were people. In a deep dive to gain a more specific understanding about the roles that different people play, I created a simple survey answered by college kids who all played or had played instruments while growing up.
In a deep dive into practicing on a daily basis, I created a maketool for people to write down their activities and emotions over the course of one practice session. I asked students in the university practice rooms to complete this in order to understand where the pain points were and what they did about them.
There are currently many different methods that music teachers use to motivate their students to continue playing, and professional musicians have developed their own routines to keep their skill at a desirable level. Self- discipline and successful practice techniques are either taught by the music teacher, or discovered by the student. There is very little for the hobbyist musician outside of apps and games intending to strengthen music theory or self teach.
In order to approach this topic from another perspective, I looked into music learning from the teacher's perspective. I had the opportunity to talk to a few piano teachers to see how they approach teaching and motivating their students, and I followed many blogs of piano teachers who are more than willing to share their tips and tricks to better piano practicing.
I also took a more academic approach, reading into Csikszentmihalyi's flow theory and research papers on the motivations of long term musicians.
I worked through a series of sketches and foamcore models to prototype potential notation pieces, and to visualize how the affordances of different interactions would effect overall learning and motivation.