Pianist Programs Algorithm That Plays Duets With Him

Pianist Programs Algorithm That Plays Duets With Him

Jazz musician Dan Tepfer has been playing piano since he was 6 years old. In addition to his master’s degree in music, Tepfer has an undergrad in astrophysics. He also says he always loved to program computers since he got his first Macintosh as a child. More recently, Tepfer figured out a way to combine his love of both programming and music. He created algorithms that can play the piano along with him. At this point you’re probably thinking about a self-playing piano you saw in a restaurant or hotel and wondering… what’s so special about that?

Although Tepfer uses the same type of self-playing piano – a Yamaha Disklavier – he’s actually sending the notes he plays into a computer, which is using algorithms he wrote to react to his playing, then sending its notes back to the piano… all in real time. So the piano is not playing a pre-determined tune; it’s adapting to what he plays. Essentially, he’s playing a collaborative duet with a form of artificial intelligence (AI). Think of it as a musical robot who jams with humans. Tepfer says of the programming, “I’m not writing the piece, I’m writing the way the piece works.” The finished piece is a collaboration between man and machine.

If you want to hear what it sounds like, check out this song from his albumĀ Natural Machines.

About the Author

avatar KALE: A geek who works in the IT field and lives in Dallas, TX. He is also a music geek who has played in several local bands. Previous to his IT career, Kale worked as a photojournalist. He brings technical advice and artistic counterpoint to the podcast.