What Technology Has Done For Classical Musicians


As much as the graphite pencil, in the second half of the 19th Century changed how a musician interacted with the musical text. The iPad has largely improved rehearsal time and the musician’s general stage performance.
The Royal Academy of Music recently put on an exhibition organized by Peter Sheppard-Skaerved, a talented violinist, and scholar. The exhibit displayed a single page of a Bach violin sonata, markings could be seen all over the page: bow strokes, fingerings, and even amendments. This page shows the importance of both digital breakthroughs the pencil and the iPad as, according to Mr. Sheppard-Skaerved, Bach searched for even more information, in which he wrote over the top of previous markings. This search still exists today but new tools like the iPad and the stylus, help musicians to perfect this search. 
Pioneers in the musical world, be it in the 19th Century or today, are looking for the “perfection of execution”. We can understand then, why classical musicians are the greatest advocates of technology; they need this perfection to be as close as possible to their classical music masters.
Let’s look at the positive changes technology has brought to classical music and musicians…

1. Classical Musicians: Closer to Historical Sources

Wu Han, one of the artistic directors of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center states “Now everyone is a detective” all are seeking clues of the composer’s intentions. No need to wait for months on end to go to the library, the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn Germany for instance, has digitized all of its libraries. Wu Han, for example, an early-adopter of the iPad, carries around her entire library in her tablet. And Nicolas Kitchen, founder of the Borromeo String Quartet, adds that some details are never made into print such as crossed out or amended passages. He prefers reading digitized manuscripts from his iPad. It is a fact, thanks to advanced technology, that musicians are reading more and more from digital manuscripts. Another good example here is Matt Haimovitz, cello player, and music enthusiast reads Schubert’s “Arpeggione” Sonata from his iPad.

2. The technology is “changing the culture a little bit”

According to Dan Visconti, member of the Fifth House Ensemble, people no longer have to be that careful with their text. The professional music editor’s role has changed, as more revised editions are being released. Therefore the composer‘s creative process is updated every time there are new discoveries, not to mention that there are many different final versions today that you can easily compose and visualize with in terms of notations and reader software.

3. Education: democratization of musical knowledge

There are now master classes available from world-renowned professional soloists and artists online, new techniques to help teach music and improved interactive music lessons.

For example, the University of Arizona has a Digital Conducting Lab in which they invented the black lycra sleeves containing electrodes to teach the new leaders of the orchestra. This technique improves the excellence in sound as the sound quality depends on a graceful dance of the hands while leading. Also, students at the Manhattan School of Music, perfect their art via the internet. In other classes, music is performed collaboratively so that students can help one another. Now, self-teaching and experimentation from amateurs and professionals are much more accessible than ever before.



Time is precious, we as musicians understand this the most. Being able to instantly emend a score or share a piece is invaluable. This is why digital has begun to leave its mark on classical performances. Jeffrey Kahane, is just one of the major conductors in the industry that couldn’t agree more with the transition from paper to digital formations.

Let’s focus our energies on performing instead of preparing!


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