The A.I. Revolution in Music Education
The times they are a changin’
Classical Guitar Corner was founded in 2010, which was a time that saw the rise of YouTube,“pro-sumer” recording gear, and easy website development. Starting out in the early stages of online education meant that CGC could ride a new wave with few other websites around and we gathered initial momentum that can be hard to get these days.
There is another wave building right now, the emergence of A.I. technology. What does it mean for online education or music education in general?
Depending on your age, you might remember having to wait on a music book to be delivered from overseas, or perhaps you traveled across the globe to see what a virtuoso performer had to say in a masterclass. Some musicians you only ever knew by reputation and at best had a CD recording of their work. These days all of that has been made immediately accessible through the internet. Though this process, information became less valuable.
Information used to be held in particular editions, institutions, or in the minds of specific teachers and they became well known because of it. These days, however, the internet offers us all the riches of the largest, most robust music festival we could ever imagine, albeit with a fair amount of noise to cut through. Information has been freed from from its silos, so much so that the bigger challenge these days is to find information that is organised, structured, and curated. This is what CGC has excelled at over the past decade and something that I continually work on to refine.
What happens, then, when an ai learning model is pointed towards my curriculum, other methods, and the vast array of hive-mind knowledge that is around the internet? In my best guess, curation will become less valuable too.
How AI might affect music education
Right now, if I ask ChatGPT what a good selection of beginner pieces might be to learn classical guitar it spits out things like Romanza, Lagrima, Bouree in e minor, and perhaps a Sor study or two. Because it has been taught with common knowledge of the internet it comes back with common mistakes like these. As any player or teacher who knows these pieces will attest, these are definitely not beginner pieces.
However, with more exploration it becomes evident that when ChatGPT is asked to build a learning path, model a classical guitar curriculum, or offer some exercises to deal with a particular technical problem it is quite capable of getting in the ball park. This has been, up till now, one of the main value propositions of music teachers.
The Sigmoid Growth Curve
I have never been one to push back on technology advances because once the cat is out of the bag, shaking your fist at the digital world it fairly futile. The fact that these A.I. large language models have been unleashed on copyright material and subsequently synthesised and regurgitated by a bot can feel somewhat unjust. However, haven’t we been doing this as teachers and students all along?
When a new technology like this comes along we find ourselves on a sigmoid growth curve (an S shaped graph). The slow start is flat and long, like the last ten years of A.I. development. As the technology explodes into the mainstream it creates the ascending slope of the S shape and eventually it will level off. The problem is, when we are on this S curve we never know where we are at any given point in time. We could be just at the beginning of this revolution or it might, in fact, be over. Only time will tell.
The Human Connection
What I do know is this: I am 24 hours away from getting on the road with colleagues and friends to run the CGC Summer School. We gather with around 80 guitarists from all over the world to make music together, teach and learn, share our common passion for the classical guitar, and continue to revel in the vibrations of a beautifully crafted wooden box on our torso. It is something that A.I. will likely never get close to replicating.
The value and need for human connection has never been more obvious than after the last few strange years. At CGC we have always taken care of our members and enjoy a thriving sense of community in person and online. As a leader I will look for ways to leverage the new technology to help us learn and enjoy our music making but I will also be embracing community and human connection more than ever before.
See you soon, be it digitally or on the stage!
– As always, I welcome your contribution in the comments below.