When it comes to teaching children music, getting the little dears to bash away on a piano or strum away on a guitar usually isn’t too hard. Teaching classical music notation, however, is a different prospect entirely. The Noteput table concept from designers Jonas Heuer and Jürgen Graef attempts to make learning music theory fun, and also more effective, by combining the senses of hearing, sight and touch.

The Noteput consists of a tabletop screen that is activated and displays a set of staves when a physical treble clef is placed on the table. The user is then free to place physical notes on the table and the respective note is played while the note value is displayed at the bottom of the screen. These audio and visual cues are designed to serve as a preview and an orientation tool while placing the notes.

Once several notes have been placed on the table the user can push the play button to hear the notes in sequence or push the loop button to hear the notes looped. Notes can be moved as it is playing to get immediate feedback resulting from the changes.

The Noteput can play the notes with the sound of a piano, guitar, flute, vibraphone or e-piano.

Heuer and Graef built and programmed a functional prototype of the Noteput with slightly reduced functions as a proof of concept. The notes and clef elements were cut out of thin wood plates and weighted differently with lead balls. It was the difference in weight, in addition to their difference in form, that allowed the differentiation between whole, half, quarter and eighth notes. Long note values are heavier than short ones, for example.

They were then painted matte black and a unique marker was placed on the back of each object that allows them to be tracked with a camera placed inside the table. The software made using the vvvv visual programming language recognizes the marker and is able to define the length of the note and its position on the staves. A vvvv-patch computes the respective note sequence from this data and sends it via MIDI to sound software, which then plays the signals for different instruments.

Sure, the limited size of the table means its not going to be any use composing anything longer than a single bar of music, but for its intended use of making learning classical music notation more fun and interesting the Noteput definitely strikes the right chord.

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