Imagine that Google’s YouTube delivered not just high-quality HD video to your home, but the magnificent sound and excitement of a live, in person, acoustic piano performance from your favorite artist on your piano as well. Now imagine that not only was your piano playing live, but the concert was being played on hundreds of thousands of other pianos around the world at the same time – all from a YouTube video.
With an innovative approach from California-based companies Mastermind Studios and PianoDisc, imagination is no longer required. The proof is in their launch of a new exclusive YouTube channel that, quite literally, plays the piano live at the viewer’s location when they watch one of the channel’s YouTube videos or live streaming events. Whether it is a Mason & Hamlin, Steinway, Bösendorfer, Yamaha, Fazioli, Young Chang, Kawai,Samick, Baldwin, Pearl River, George Steck, or virtually any other acoustic piano brand with a PianoDisc iQ Intelligent Player System installed in it, a user is able to literally see and hear the artist perform on the user’s piano, at the user’s location – all from simply playing a YouTube video. Tom Lagomarsino, Executive Vice President for PianoDisc, is energized about the innovation’s significance. “This one is a game changer — most certainly for the PianoDisc customer experience, not to mention that the implications for sales and marketing, social media integration, and education are truly astounding.”
Just as importantly, pianists will be able to record and upload their own performances to YouTube to share with other PianoDisc owners as every nuance of their performance is captured and reproduced on the viewer’s piano; and if the pianist performs live with other instrumentalists, vocalists, or an accompaniment, the entire performance will be reproduced, in perfect synchronization and full HD video, purely from playing the YouTube video. Part of the system’s beauty is its simplicity. To the end-user, this brings a level of ease and amount of content that until now is unheard of; and to the musician, this brings a level of accessibility far beyond that previously available to even the most affluent and popular performers. And not only is one family able to experience a performance personally in the comfort of their own home, but thanks to YouTube’s incredible technology and wide-spread infrastructure, millions of other people and pianos can share in the experience at the same time without the restrictions of substantial bandwidth and teams of on-site IT engineers.
“We literally were silent when we got this to work the first time,” explains Jarrod Radnich, President of Mastermind Studios. “We all looked at each other and, after that inevitable pause, whispered, ‘Oh, wow…wow’ – and then tried it another hundred or so times just to be sure.” The new YouTube channel bringing this astounding capability to fruition, PianoTube LIVE, debuts today around the globe. The channel features live demo-length YouTube videos that play PianoDisc equipped pianos that are connected to the Internet, and it also includes videos that show the technology at work – for those who do not yet have PianoDisc systems installed on their acoustic pianos. See http://www.youtube.com/user/pianotubelive
Because the built-in versatility of PianoDisc’s system allows for data compression and works across a multitude of formats, the data to reproduce a performance on a PianoDisc system will survive YouTube’s compression algorithms, unlike some other well-known player piano systems that require a lossless and therefore uncompressed codec. Several other obstacles were solved to allow the inclusion of full audio accompaniments, in perfect synchronization, without the piano system misinterpreting the data. Regardless of bandwidth, the audio, video, and piano always remain synchronized, and when YouTube introduces multi-channel audio that too will enhance the multi-media experience.
The creators expect this innovation to foster a new and exciting online community where pianists, educators, and music aficionados easily share live performances and ideas, receive and give feedback to each other, and generally explore their piano performances and compositions in a vibrant, highly interactive, and exceedingly exciting manner. “YouTube’s popularity is unrivaled for a reason – people like to put themselves and their performances out to the world, and with this innovation they can do that on a scale not before possible,” explains Lagomarsino. Garnering much recent attention for using interactive distance learning tools with PianoDisc and Zenph’s Internet MIDI to provide coaching, including that for Miss America 1st runner-up, Miss South Carolina, Ali Rogers, Radnich believes that the innovation will broaden the distance education base. “Speaking with my educator’s hat on, if I am going to provide constructive critique I need more information than a video provides. This system allows me to see exactly how the musician is handling the dampers on the strings, timings, velocities, and durations, and I can review the performance any time it is convenient for me to do so. I especially like the fact that educational institutions and performance venues don’t have to purchase a particular brand of piano to give their students the advantage of this new world-wide exposure and access to other musicians.”
Already a veteran of long-distance performances, the Hi-Desert Cultural Center in Joshua Tree, California, who co-hosted the first-of-its-kind transcontinental live remote piano concert in 2010 with the Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda Maryland (with Radnich performing in California to the Strathmore audience in Maryland), plans to utilize this methodology to make its classical concert series performances available to other venues, music schools, and universities and hopes to establish a network of educational venues where collaboration is the key. Lagomarsino concludes, “This new tool will help to reintroduce the splendor of live piano performance into more people’s lives.” And with Radnich they both agree that “the Golden Era of the piano … has just begun.”