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An Unexpected Journey into AI Tools

I decided to jump on the AI train this week. Ok, well, maybe not jump on the AI train, let’s say I dipped my toes in the AI water to test its knowledge of the woodwind family.

Let’s see what Meta AI produced when given the prompt: “Show me an oboe.”

Not quite Meta AI, not quite. This appears to be some sort of a bassoon, clarinet, oboe, mash- up which oddly enough, kind of makes sense. People frequently confuse the oboe for the clarinet (“ooh that black instrument that people play in marching bands!”) or the bassoon (“oboe… that’s the big one, right?”).

Now I’m no AI expert but I do know that is all about the prompt. However, when I changed my prompt to: “Create a picture of an oboe” I got an even more bizarre result:

I will let you decide if that is a thumb or a third hand in the back of the instrument. Also, left hand goes on top, Meta AI. 

Let’s compare this to the image Meta AI produced when I asked it: “create a picture of a flute.”

Not 100% accurate, but certainly MUCH closer to the real thing than the “create a picture of an oboe” image. It gets style points for the moody candle- light which evokes the image of many a late night spent in solitude practicing Taffanel studies.

Let’s see if Gemini by Google did any better answering the prompt: “create a picture of an oboe.”

Once again we get a weird clarinet-bassoon hybrid that is more likely to be seen as the subject of the next Marvel movie than in an orchestra. PS, good luck learning those fingerings. And I thought bassoon fingerings were weird…

It is worth mentioning that when I asked Gemini: “show me an oboe” it did correctly produce the image of an oboe via a link to an oboe for sale on Amazon. A “professional” oboe for $309 is a real steal. (Please, please, please do not fall for this trap.)

I think it is safe to say that while AI is rapidly evolving, the machines still need more people to train them in identifying woodwind instruments. With Gen Z and Gen Alpha slowly replacing Google with ChatGPT and other AI tools to kickstart their research (anyone remember looking things up in the encyclopedia?), it is important to remind them that these tools are yet to be 100% accurate, at least for sourcing images.

Fellow musicians and educators, let’s continue to be patient and willing to explain when people are unable to correctly identify an oboe. Keep on training your students to be able to intelligently and politely describe the difference between an oboe and the other woodwind instruments. Start small with visibly obvious differences such as how the clarinet bell is much flared than the oboe bell or how the bassoon looks like a long wooden tube which sticks out in the woodwind section of an orchestra. Stay tuned as I dive deeper into my exploration of AI’s role in music performance and education. 

Finally, here’s a fun challenge: try these AI tools yourself. Try to prompt AI to create an image of an oboe or oboe player and share your results with me on Instagram @clarabloodoboe.

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