The Technology

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

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. Please note: 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. Check for the small red light flashing to assure proper connection and functionality.

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, will make it visible first under the "settings" and then the "information" tab (where available Bluetooth MIDI devices are listed and need to be selected), and the BT01 can then be activated. Once found and activated in this app, the selected devices will now show up in the iPhone settings.

Yamaha Digital Piano MIDI controller selection
Yamaha Digital Piano MIDI controller selection
Yamaha Digital Piano MIDI controller selection
Yamaha Digital Piano MIDI controller selection

Opening MusicPath Mobile App

A MusicPath Mobile login screen is then offered, confirming (when the green light is flashing) that the music instrument talks MIDI to MusicPath Mobile. If the “Test Input” light remains dark you will have to redo your sequence of connections, starting with proper insertion of the MIDI interface, connection to Bluetooth, and then restarting MusicPath Mobile again. If your MIDI device is able to produce sound, switch on the button to hear it.

MusicPath Mobile Test Midi Device initial screen with green light flashing indicating that the selected music instrument talks MIDI to the <em>MusicPath</em> app.
MusicPath Mobile Test Midi Device initial screen with green light flashing indicating that the selected music instrument talks MIDI to the <em>MusicPath</em> app.
MusicPath Mobile Test Midi Device initial screen with green light flashing indicating that the selected music instrument talks MIDI to the MusicPath app.

Once logged in, the app defaults to “Friends” mode (highlighted in blue), listing currently online collaborators who can now be invited into a live session by clicking the “+” button.

Image of 2 friends online
Image of a session starting
Connecting with online friends and starting a session.

Having selected one or more collaborators, touch the “Start Session” button near the bottom of the screen. You will be automatically sent to a new “Session” screen, and a message will be sent to the selected collaborators informing them that you wish to connect with them. If and when they accept your invitation, they will appear in the list of collaborators on the “Session” screen. Peers can be removed during a session by selecting the friend icon – ‘Remove Peer” command:

Loading previous sessions
Loading previous sessions
Figure 4 - Arriving on the “Sessions” page, with confirmed friends indicated and connected through MusicPath. “No previous sessions loaded” refers to previous recorded sessions which can be accessed by clicking on the file image and bringing up a new “Sessions Files screen (see below) from where, assisted with a smart filter drop-down menu, previous files can be selected into an active Session and be played back.

Referring back to the "Session" screen Fig. 4, with the upper fields give a choice of:

  • iPhone internal MIDI synthesizer ON or OFF (if no MIDI instrument available)
  • MIDI receive ON or OFF
  • "Automute" is an essential feature to attenuate undesirable videoconferencing background audio competing with the actual MIDI performance of the music instrument. Three settings are offered: to the far left offering three general settings: OFF turns this feature off in case conversation at normal audio transmission level during MIDI performance is desired, for example explaining details while playing during a lesson. ON, located to the far-right side of the slider leaves Automute permanently ON. This would be a preferred setting to accommodate live, one-way musical performances of longer durations. Between OFF and ON a suitable Automute release time can be chosen to best fit the collaborative situation. A value of 3 seconds has been found to work well and is the default setting.
  • QUALITY OF DELIVERY ASSURANCE. The "Latency" setting achieves two essential functions for the MusicPath system to work: it allows approximating perceptual synchronization between the separate MIDI and audiovisual communication channels, while at the same time reassuring quality of delivery assurance of time sensitive MIDI performance through the MusicPath channel within the chosen time delay window. Please note that such perceptual merging can only be achieved as long as the network induced jitter buffer delay remains, for MIDI, below previously selected audiovisual latency.
  • The status of balancing network delay jitter to reach fully accurate time performance is indicated with the "Lost Sync" flashing light indicating three states: OFF (grey) means full accuracy within the latency selected is maintained, flashing YELLOW means performance is becoming somewhat compromised within set margins of perceptual 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. In this case a large red bar covering this status bar shows that one or more notes arrived noticeably 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. The user must now decide if it is more important to maintain audiovisual synchronization or, by selecting a higher latency to assure quality of assurance of a musical performance (for example, a concert). On the same status indicator bar, two flashing lights (In and OUT) indicate MIDI is being received at and transmitted between selected collaborators and your location, respectively.
  • SESSION FILES: a green "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 of daily or, for regularly occurring teaching and collaborative sessions, listing recorded files by the week.
Loading previous sessions
Loading previous sessions
Loading previous sessions
Selecting pre-recorded files for both (local and remote) locations.
  • The Session Files page “Filter” drop down menu allows sorting of files according to practical preference, “local” extensions denoting files transmitted and “remote” received, respectively. Invaluable as an asynchronous teaching and learning tool, the performances at both locations can be clearly identified and played back.
Play back/recording
Play back/recording
Tempo set button
Tempo set button
Music Practice
Music Practice
  • 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 (“A” to “B”) of a chosen MusicPath Mobile file for repeated practicing of a selected section of the recording at a user-selected tempo.

WiFi and Bluetooth concerns:

The short story: You might experience radio interference, which causes communication delays (or outright communication loss) with WiFi and Bluetooth, which will cause problems with MusicPath's ability to perfectly replay musical performances.

The long story: People have come to appreciate the convenience of wireless communications (WiFi) for our phones and computers, rather than having to connect our computers to our home routers with network cables. Similarly, it is convenient to connect devices to our computers and phones with BlueTooth, rather than plugging cables into our computer/phone and the external device.

However, this convenience comes at a cost for programs like MusicPath, which attempts to transmit MIDI data from friend to friend with as little delay as possible. This cost is related to the fact that wireless communication is subject to interference from a variety of sources. For example, the so-called "2.4 GHz" WiFi band (which is also the frequency band used by Bluetooth) is also used by microwave ovens. This means that using your microwave oven can interfere with WiFi and Bluetooth communication. You probably have neighbours competing for the use of these frequency bands, with their own phones, computers and Bluetooth devices.

You may also have family members or friends using your WiFi router. You may have other electrical equipment which create interference in the WiFi/Bluetooth frequency band. Finally, even a person walking between a Bluetooth device and the phone or computer using the device can disrupt the communication.

WiFi and Bluetooth are both designed to automatically resend information when interference occurs, so a moderate amount of interference does not prevent transmission or reception of information, it merely delays it.

When you are streaming video or surfing the web you may not normally notice these delays, or you may attribute them to "the internet", rather than to the wireless communication you are using. Further, video streaming programs typically "save up" five (or more) seconds of video before playing begins, so that short delays in communications are not noticed.

How to deal with this problem:

If possible, locate your phone and WiFi router as close as possible to each other. Keep in mind that WiFi signals are absorbed by floors and walls, and the WiFi signal gets weaker as you get further from your WiFi router. Avoid other use of your WiFi while using MusicPath (e.g., family members streaming video), and avoid the use of microwave ovens.

Attempt to locate your MIDI/Bluetooth adapter and your phone so that there is a short, unblocked path between them.

How to setup your home router to allow the MusicPath app to directly connect through defined network ports.