Archives for category: music

After a few months of daily use, the iPad becomes as normal as the old exercise book, text book or pencil case. The students open them and expect to use some app or other. For most first years, music is a subject which received very little attention in primary school. It’s a subject which is treated with a degree of tolerance but with little genuine interest or engagement. It is, therefore, with huge delight that I see students composing minimalist tracks in GarageBand, dance music with Arix 303 and Sfx with mad pad. Students who can barely spell minimalism are able to organise motives and use them within a composition. The most disinterested student is still creating good structured works with loops and drum patterns. The feedback from parents has been so positive. They can hear their kids experimenting and creating music in homes where musical experience has not progressed much beyond local radio stations. The most frequently asked question is about progression to Gcse, a standard to which,traditionally 12/180 students progress. The skills are available on IPad, but the exam and assessment criteria areaway behind. It’ll be a long time before this newly harnessed skill will be part of a formal assessment, yet, it is more musically valid than the standard methodology and musical experience available at key stage 3.
Nonetheless, it s very encouraging and is clearly achieving what I d hoped; a greater interest and higher level of engagement in and with First year music.

Last Saturday was a performance day for many of the students. The traditional performances of soloists and choir were excellent. But, of equal value were two workshops running in the music dept. The first was a demonstration by 4 13 year old girls on how they had composed songs. Their use of IPad apps, in particular GarageBand, was highlighted to the audience. They showed how they had conceived, developed and recorded their ideas, creating a fairly passable mix version on the iPad. The enduing live performances were excellent.

This was followed by a relatively unrehearsed Blues session. The drums were provided by GarageBand app kits, the guitars and bass were plugged into IPads via Alesis io docks, and the keyboards were taken from the GarageBand keyboard options with Pentatonic minor Blues selected. The session worked well, with good demonstrations of the various kits, amps, classic rock keys etc. The performers were 12/13 year old boys.

What would have been excellent would have been to use the Jam session on the iPad, but that limits the performers to 4, and also, we find that players are regularly dropped from a session and have to constantly reconnect.

The IPad, as a performance tool, has shown itself in a great light. That these KS3 students are able to achieve these great levels with technology, especially in song writing, is an excellent indicator of the IPad’s value in curricular music.
Students can all create a 12 bar blues sequence, they can all learn the pattern and even the weakest student can use smart instruments to play the pattern in a live performance. This would never be a satisfying proposal for the weak student with a Casio keyboard! Confident performers are an excellent product of IPad teaching and learning.

Last Saturday was a performance day for many of the students. The traditional performances of soloists and choir were excellent. But, of equal value were two workshops running in the music dept. The first was a demonstration by 4 13 year old girls on how they had composed songs. Their use of IPad apps, in particular GarageBand, was highlighted to the audience. They showed how they had conceived, developed and recorded their ideas, creating a fairly passable mix version on the iPad. The enduing live performances were excellent.

This was followed by a relatively unrehearsed Blues session. The drums were provided by GarageBand app kits, the guitars and bass were plugged into IPads via Alesis io docks, and the keyboards were taken from the GarageBand keyboard options with Pentatonic minor Blues selected. The session worked well, with good demonstrations of the various kits, amps, classic rock keys etc. The performers were 12/13 year old boys.

What would have been excellent would have been to use the Jam session on the iPad, but that limits the performers to 4, and also, we find that players are regularly dropped from a session and have to constantly reconnect.

The IPad, as a performance tool, has shown itself in a great light. That these KS3 students are able to achieve these great levels with technology, especially in song writing, is an excellent indicator of the IPad’s value in curricular music.
Students can all create a 12 bar blues sequence, they can all learn the pattern and even the weakest student can use smart instruments to play the pattern in a live performance. This would never be a satisfying proposal for the weak student with a Casio keyboard! Confident performers are an excellent product of IPad teaching and learning.

What a fantastic app! ; a highly detailed series of multi angled camera feeds of 8 orchestral performances, with follow score, reduced score, conductor and instrumental commentaries and analyses. It s a great companion to the Inkling book, history of music,also highly interactive. While the latter is a little bit American in its interpretation, The Orchestra transcends. An excellent iPad app for curricular music teaching, I look forward to showing it to my classes.

A great class yesterday. The topic is Blues music, specifically 12 bar blues. Keeping it simple, we’d already individually created a 5 track GarageBand song; guitar , bass, organ ( using blues minor scale setting) rock drums for the fill in bar 12 and the cymbal crash in bar 1, and smart drums for the rest. This was so much better than trying to get each student to learn basic triadic chords on keyboards. While it has its place, the acquisition of keyboard skills in a 35 minute weekly group lesson is unlikely. The sense of achievement for a ‘less experienced’ music student at completing a 12 bar tracked recording is far, far greater. Not only have they managed to input the correct chords, improvise above it and understand drum principles, they have also managed to mix levels and to structure a song.
Yesterday was a great experience. With one class group we used the Jam facility in GarageBand. While there were initial Bluetooth teething difficulties, the kids grasped the concept quickly, took an instrument each and tried to record a 12 bar blues pattern, playing in time with each other.
Using the alesis io dock it s easy to add live guitar or keyboard, or even drums by mic. The potential to allow the more advanced musicians to plug their instrument directly in is another huge advantage. Yesterday, we only had one ‘live’ guitarist using a griffin adapter. The performance experience is just another facet of classroom music enhanced by the iPad. We ‘ll get 176 12 year olds doing it next week.

With a new intake of first years, all from differing musical backgrounds, and all with their new IPad 3s, the best approach is probably to follow these students over the next three years. Their iPads will be equipped with GarageBand, keyz and some other free apps as well.
The students become very adept at mastering the basics of iPads, iTunes and the communication skills that come inherent in these devices. But the challenge for me is: can we help them to use these fantastic devices to gain a better understanding of music and its relevant place in our contemporary culture? This must be a meaningful understanding, not a superficial, appreciative overview.
Then, for the more advanced first year, how can they further progress their skills using iPads and apps?
Having taught already for a year using 1:1 iPad 2, I am coming to this with some experience, but these wide and often novel experiences need to be further honed to meet the needs of a statutory curriculum.
Before beginning to look at teaching through the iPad medium, there must firstly be a very clear picture of the expected outcomes. How do the statutory requirements actually produce musicians? Do they actually produce musicians? I think not.
What valuable experiences do the students take from curricular music? What mindset do we, as music teachers, need to adopt to create a fulfilling and formative music course?
Over the course of the next three years, I hope to address this issues with my own classroom experiences and my own thoughts and reflections.
I have no need to be followed, I am keeping a written account for myself. However, this technology works best when ideas are shared, and if we can work collaboratively, in a digital hub, then we can only benefit as teachers.

This is the very first blog. My area for discussion is the use of IPads in music teaching, with particular emphasis on curricular music. My three areas of potential are; music classes for the general age group 11-14, curricular music classes for the more experienced student within the same age group, and finally, music classes for the student who has chosen to take music to a further level.