image of hands playing a keyboard and text

Sideman: Accessible Music Accompaniment Software

Do you enjoy playing and creating music on a keyboard? Check this out!

Eastman Hackney is an accomplished musician who also writes software. He created Sideman as a solution to complicated digital pianos with a multitude of buttons, dials, displays and menus. These numerous controls can be challenging to navigate for musicians who are visually impaired. Sideman enables anyone with minimal piano experience to be able to sit down and create sophisticated music without taking their hands off the piano keys. Simply plug in the Sideman and play. In a nutshell, the Sideman is a small box housing a Rasberry Pi 3 computer board (approximately 2×3 inches) loaded with the Sideman software. The software provides feedback to the musician often in the form of musical accompaniment as it analyzes a piano performance in real time. The student simply plays – without having to take his hands or eyes off of the keys. The Sideman, an intelligent music accompaniment, matches the tempo, volume, chords, and style of the performance.

In the video below, Eastman explains and demonstrates how Sideman works.

Editor’s Note: Thank you Eastman for creating this video for Paths to Technology viewers!

Sideman is available through Pro-Piano a non-profit. Eastman’s desire is to simply make Sideman available to anyone who might find it interesting and useful. On the Pro-piano website, are music blogs including the “Do you have a musical ear?” challenge, in which viewers listen to a music clip and try to determine the style, chords, key signature, etc. Other posts explain music terms as well as additional posts with details about how to use the Sideman.

Collage of Sideman


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