Piano image

About Us

The MusicPath Mobile app for iPhone directly connects musicians' and music educators' musical instruments over distance in real time without use of audio transmission.  Musical accuracy and direct communication are redefined by using a discrete-event type MIDI (Music Instrument Digital Instrument) protocol instead of a continuous audio wave transmission as primary communication channel between musical instruments and music collaborators.

In other words, instead of transmitting a musical event by means of a waveform subjected to the vagaries and time degradations of online transmission, MusicPath Mobile takes advantage of MIDI's standardized transmission protocol, allowing for complete definition of a musical event by encoding all relevant music parameters in a discrete data format sent off as a neat data package.

Upon arrival at destination, MusicPath Mobile's patented algorithm assures, with minimal delay, a perfect assembly of time-coded musical events for immediate performance, exactly as it was created at source of origin.  Immediate and accurate musical presence of a collaborator's performance at destination point is achieved without being dependent on audio streaming applications.

In other words, with MusicPath Mobile enabled MIDI music instruments, the teacher remotely plays the student's instrument in real time without having to be present on location; a far superior audio experience than listening to the teacher's instrument via SKYPE, and, for example if only cellular data access is available at remote locations, at a fraction of the bandwidth requirements normally associated with audio/video streaming.

Likewise, the teacher is able to directly experience via MIDI transmission the student's performance without audio degradation usually associated with audio/video conferencing.  Developed at Acadia University, MusicPath Mobile's patented MIDI true time code transmission algorithm incorporates smart solutions addressing limited bandwidth capacity, latency, jitter and sound quality.  It really is musical communication redefined.

Any MIDI equipped music instrument, once fitted with a readily available Yamaha BT01 Bluetooth hardware interface, connects wirelessly to the iPhone and through the MusicPath Mobile application to the internet.  Music collaborators can now experience, with previously unknown immediacy, how every nuance of musical detail received is faithfully reproduced on their own instruments at their own location.

The achievement of the MusicPath Mobile system can now be appreciated by its ability to enable music educators in the delivery of high-quality pedagogy via a digital medium.  Relying on networked music transfer via the MIDI protocol for quality of music delivery service, virtual music communities now have access to Master Artists, regardless of geographical limitations.  MusicPath Mobile is now in a unique position connecting institutions and learners over distance.


MusicPath Mission

Access to music education is often limited by the expense and time of travel.  However, if those geographical barriers could be eliminated through a national or international network, opportunities for music education, performance and cultural exchange could become available in rural areas as well as between major urban performance facilities.

Advancing beyond intrinsic limits of audiovisual transmission, the mission of MusicPath Mobile is to enable highest possible quality of delivery service in distance education and music performance opportunities for music institutions, instructors, students and performers through the elimination of geographic barriers.  This advanced integration of high-quality acoustical sound reproduction and videoconferencing allows teachers, students and musicians to experience learning of the same quality if they were in the same room.

MusicPath Mobile has four main objectives:

  • Creating a virtual music community network of learning, music performance and examination, regardless of distance.
  • Enabling hands-on experience with music artists for students in public schools as part of their curricular studies.
  • Remote, shared master classes for music schools, colleges and universities.
  • Opportunity to provide specialized training/certification for music teachers.
Marc and Lucas at RCM

Lucas Porter taking virtual music lessons on a Yamaha Disklavier at Acadia University in Nova Scotia with professor Marc Durand at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto, Ontario


MusicPath History

The MusicPath project came into life as a collaborative, cross-disciplinary research and development project by Acadia University Faculty Dr. James Diamond, Jodrey School of Computer Science, and Dr. Christoph Both, School of Music, on invitation of Acadia's Project Manager Karen Wilder.

Acadia University, at that time an undisputed leader in technology driven education, recognized tremendous potential in CANARIE's just established institutional CA*Net4 networks infrastructure.  In 2003, inspired by Dr. Both's recently established music technology program and Dr. Diamond's expertise in network communications, Acadia's project manager secured external funding for what CANARIE considered one of their most ambitious annual online content projects.  Major music industry partnerships with Yamaha Music Canada and the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto, were established.

At the premiere of MusicPath in 2004 at the Royal Conservatory of Music with legendary pianist Dr. Oscar Peterson in attendance, digital acoustic Yamaha Disklaviers between Ontario and Nova Scotia were connected through advanced high-speed networks.  This event opened up unprecedented dimensions of musical performance and learning.

Acadia's CFO Dov Bercovici was specifically assigned to support MusicPath's educational and commercial potential by establishing a shared partnership between the inventors and Acadia University, helping to secure a US patent for the corporation.  Promotion and national and international exposure followed as far as the US, Australia and, on invitation of the Canadian Government International Trade Commission, MusicPath was presented at the Canadian Pavilion of Invention at CEBIT in Germany.  Following considerable upgrading from initial laptop-based platforms, MusicPath Mobile is now ready to be offered to music education collaboration partners, using the social media driven iPhone.


MusicPath in Action


Getting Started — The Technology

To participate with MusicPath Mobile, only a few readily available items are required:

  • MIDI-enabled music instruments
  • an iPhone (5 or higher)
  • a Yamaha BT01 Bluetooth hardware interface (available through an online purchase or through your local music store)
  • a Wi-Fi internet connection

Setting up: The MIDI music instrument to iPhone connection is established through a small self-powered Yamaha BT01 Bluetooth device which, once plugged in to both MIDI IN and OUT ports, seeks a connection to the outside world.  MIDI ports are "handed"; that means the Bluetooth device works only if the MIDI IN port is connected to the music instrument's MIDI OUT port and vice versa.

Connecting MIDI music instrument with iPhone: If the Bluetooth pairing process is not picked up in the iPhone "settings", the Yamaha's "Digital Piano" controller app, available in the App store will make it visible first under the "settings" and then the "information" tab (where available Bluetooth MIDI devices are listed), and the BT01 can then be activated.

MIDI_device_photo

Once found and activated in this app, the selected devices will now show up in the iPhone settings.  A MusicPath Mobile login screen is then offered, and once logged in, a "Friends" page offers a view of online available music collaborators who can now be first selected and, once selected, be invited to "Start a Session".  Once accepting the connection, a live session with selected collaborators begins.

Image of 2 friends online  
Image of a session starting
Image of a session in progress
Image of music being replayed

In the "Session" view (i.e., the fourth screen-shot above) the upper fields give a choice of:

  • (...) iPhone internal MIDI synthesizer ON or OFF.
  • MIDI receive ON or OFF.
  • "Voice" links to an approved audio/video streaming app to facilitate visual and audio exchanges between "friends" while musically collaborating through MusicPath Mobile.
  • QUALITY OF DELIVERY ASSURANCE: the "Latency" setting determines the amount of time between when MIDI information is sent by a friend and played locally.  Having a small delay (which is set automatically by MusicPath, but can be manually adjusted with the Latency control) is necessary to take into account the time for the MIDI information to travel across the network, and the fact that this delay varies from instant to instant (the so-called network "jitter").  The status of balancing network delay jitter to reach fully accurate time performance is indicated with a "Lost Sync" flashing light.  OFF means full accuracy is maintained, flashing YELLOW means performance is becoming somewhat compromised within set margins of acceptance (unlikely to be noticed by most people), and RED means sync has been lost or reached an unacceptable level of MIDI events arriving too late to be considered for performance.  A large red bar covering this status bar shows that one or more notes arrived substantially too late, compromising the integrity of the musical performance.  This red bar must be pressed to dismiss it; this forces the user to acknowledge that network delays caused a problem with the received music.  In this latter case the user should use the Latency control to significantly increase the delay between the reception of notes and the playing of these notes.
  • On the same status indicator bar, two flashing lights indicate MIDI is being received and transmitted, respectively. 
  • A "File" icon denotes music files which can be accessed as a list (on a different screen which opens up when selected) which provides further basic music file managing functions.
  • The play bar near the bottom of the screen allows standard operational functionality for recording a session, playing back a session, fast rewind and forward as well as a user-selectable TEMPO button.  There is also a MUSIC PRACTICE feature allowing the selection of a user-definable segment of the MusicPath Mobile file for repeated practicing at a user-selected tempo.

Upon request, MusicPath Mobile will be made available initially to select collaborative partners via MusicPath's contact page.  Once downloading through the iTunes store has been enabled, participants will be able to also register through MusicPath Mobile's interface. 


References

Remote Piano Lessons, in Real Time
(The New York Times, by Colin Campbell, Thursday, March 11, 2004)
Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto
At 12, Lucas Porter already has the distinction of being one of the few musicians to have played the challenging third movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata on two pianos at the same time.
Yet while Lucas, a soft-spoken boy from the village of Port Williams, Nova Scotia, is a piano prodigy, his feat is due more to technological advances than to his own skill.  It came about through a new program called MusicPath, designed to link musicians in rural areas over the Internet with expert instructors.
Every two weeks, when Lucas plays a piano at Acadia University, a short drive from his home, his teacher, Marc Durand, sits listening 700 miles away at second shiny black grand piano at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.  With a built-in computer and tiny solenoid pistons, the piano springs to life there as though being played by a ghost imitating every keystroke and pedal movement that Lucas makes.