Technology on Tour: Week 2

 Photo credit: Michael Londra

Photo credit: Michael Londra

My name is Katie Grennan, and I'm AMT Lab's current Chief Editor of Research. I'm also a professional fiddle player,  and am spending the majority of March on the road. Each week this month, I'll give you a recap on where I played over the past 7 days and the different kinds of technologies I used to make my life easier, which might make yours as arts managers easier as well! This week, I've featured video chat, airline apps, and instrument tuning apps .

1.     FaceTime

 Myself on FaceTime with my young fiddle student, Brianna.

Myself on FaceTime with my young fiddle student, Brianna.

FaceTime, Skype, and other video chat apps are great tools for keeping in touch with family and friends while on the road. However, they also can come in handy for business purposes as well, particularly for busy arts managers who also wear a teaching artist hat. I have a handful of fiddle students in both Pittsburgh and Chicago, and using FaceTime as a platform to continue their progress no matter where either of us is has been key to their development as musicians. One student of mine in particular is diligently preparing for a national Irish music competition called the fleadh in early May. Two months before the competition is a key period of time to ensure progress is made while also gaining confidence in one’s own playing. Thanks to FaceTime, I departed Pittsburgh without worrying too much about leaving her to her own devices because I knew we would be able to schedule a few check-ins. Teaching through a computer screen is obviously not an ideal situation to maintain forever, because some techniques are best taught and worked on in person. However, for students to continue progress with a teacher for a short period of time while either individual is out of town, or for technically proficient musicians who are interested in learning specific styles and techniques that they might not have access to where they live, I’ve found that virtual lessons can be invaluable for supplemental learning.

2.     Airline Apps

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As we all know, the world has gone paperless. Digital plane tickets that are sent directly to a traveler’s phone have been around for quite some time, but most airlines have apps that include an array of other features designed to make the travel experience easier and more efficient. I recently re-downloaded the Delta app to my phone and was surprised at the updates that have come about in the past year. For instance, the app syncs with Apple Maps, so the morning of your flight, just by opening the Maps app, directions for getting to the airport that are flying from (along with your flight information) is displayed as the first option. Additionally, the app now includes baggage tracking features, which tell you when your bag has been loaded onto the plane and when it is ready to be picked up in baggage claim. Confirmation that the bag you dropped off at the check-in counter is still planning on making the journey with you certainly adds another layer of comfort to your journey! It can also prevent some potential disasters for performing arts groups on the road. For instance, many touring groups travel without much time in between arrival and show time. Therefore, costumes, props, instruments, etc. must arrive on time along with the performers, or the show’s artistic integrity (or ability to perform at all) will be compromised. Individuals who are responsible for these essential items should download the app for whatever airline they are flying with before they check-in to reap the benefits of this technology. Touring groups now have the ability to be armed with bag status before the flight takes off and inquire with airline representatives if need be. There are many other apps out there designed to make travel easier – check out this recent blog post on Travels Today about the top 5 travel apps for 2017.

3.     Tuning Apps

 Pitch App Screenshot from Apple Store

Pitch App Screenshot from Apple Store

It goes without saying that music for a live show must be in tune – no matter where you are or what kind of music you are playing. Traveling throughout different climates and getting off and on airplanes takes its toll on sensitive, wood based instruments, such as fiddles. This week alone, I found myself in Pensacola Florida, and just one day later, on the Upper peninsula of Michigan – an 80 degree Fahrenheit difference, not to mention a major difference in humidity! Because the wood contracts and expands based on where you are, it can throw an instrument out of tune quickly and increases the likelihood of a tuning peg slipping mid-rehearsal or show. While standalone tuning devices are popular among professional musicians, even those with perfect pitch, I’ve found some great options available right on my smart phone that have helped both me as well as the rest of the bands I play with get on the same pitch page. This past week, I’ve used Tuner Lite and Pitch when in a time crunch to tune quickly. I’ve used Tuner Lite for a few years, which boasts over 3 million downloads and includes basic features such as telling you how sharp or flat from a note that you are, as well as playing back the tone of a desired note. I also recently downloaded Pitch for a change of pace, which is “made by a student musician FOR student musicians”. It gives you the same basic features as Tuner Lite, but the interface is sleeker, and includes a pitch analytics tracking component. While practicing, you can turn this feature on and look at analytics after your practice session to see how in tune you were, what notes you tend to be sharp or flat on, and your progress over time. I didn’t actually utilize this feature yet on myself (perhaps ignorance is bliss), but stringed instrument educators can certainly leverage apps like this, giving students a tangible way to see how they are playing and where they need to be. There are many tuning apps out there for musicians to use – check out this blog post about the 5 best tuning apps.

Next week, I’ll be wrapping up my tour with Irish Tenor Michael Londra as well as performing in one show with the Trinity Irish Dance Company. Stay tuned (no pun intended) for more Technology on Tour next Friday!