Composition in the Classroom – how does technology help?

Sometimes it is just easier to work with pencil and paper! That is a tough question we all face – we want to use those shiny things that are all fancy and new but we have to ask ourselves what the purpose is first! If tech is going to get in the way then we need to back off. If tech is not going to help the students learn what they need to learn then iPad’s are not going to help! Let me explain….

We are pushing creativity in our band students here hard! Every week, every student is turning in an original piece of music. The criteria currently is easy – a short melody written with accurate notation for your instrument. At first I had some kids trying out NotateMe and NoteFlight but how would I ever be able to get them to learn how to WRITE musical notation and give feedback on their mistakes if that all used that tech? You see the problem is that you would NEVER see this in one of those apps….

Problems to fix!
Problems to fix!

Plus the student would never be able to show their full understanding of HOW to write music accurately! This is a good example of how they are progressing –

Nicely Done!
Nicely Done!

I have relented a bit and have given them time in class a few days to work on their assignments. I want most of this to be done at home though! It is really fun for the kids to play their pieces for me though – they take great pride in it – Here is one of my “special needs” kids that has really enjoyed these assignments and “just had” to play it for me! It has been quite a journey for her to write out what she naturally can play easily!

Playing and writing!
Playing and writing!

Explain Everything AppTech has taken a huge role in my giving feedback to the class though! I have used the Explain Everything small iconExplain Everything app to make several videos of their work and point out issues as well as some quality work for the class to watch. Having them watch a video like this is SO much faster and engaging, than me using an overhead and a highlighter live in class.

Here are those videos – Video 1, Video 2, Video 3

Of course I also used iMovie (for iPad) to help edit these videos – Explain Everything doesn’t give me such easy access to add the sound behind my explaining plus I am able to add some transitions and titles in iMovie. I also used one of the kid’s composition for the guitar track in the third video (even though it was not the student playing the guitar it was her work!)

The other role tech is going to end up helping us with in the long run is when these kids want to input their music into the computer and hear it played back along with several other parts at the same time. THAT can not be done from home when a student is sitting in their room by themselves. Sure they could have a few friends over and play together but NoteFlight will help make that experience a success because they can make sure the parts work BEFORE HAND!!!!

The other role tech is going to take in the final production of some of these compositions – I will have some of them record themselves performing their composition and then we will run those recordings through an audio mastering app to tweak the sound. The iPad app Audio Mastering Small IconAudio Mastering makes such a huge difference that it is stunning! If you make any recordings of your musical performances you need this app – it’s that simple! Listen to the before and after examples of my musical compositions below. (Yes, I am composing and creating too! Must set a good example you know! So I use my iPad and create and record and publish for all to enjoy.) This song is all from one iPad Synth called Alchemy Synth small iconAlchemy but I also bought the WaterWorld sound bank. This synth is so much fun, when you load up a sound you have 8 boxes that contain different versions of that sound. You can then morph between versions while playing! I usually hate in-app-purchases but it totally makes sense in cases like this – the app is free but then you can buy additional sound banks. So I’m not sure why you wouldn’t download this synth and have some fun! Just be careful, you may find yourself buying some of the sound banks!

You really, really, really, HAVE TO listen to both versions of this track – The difference is astonishing! (Sorry I can not figure out how to get the non-mastered version to play right here in this post so you will have to click the link and make the jump to SoundCloud)

2 Minutes 4 Hours – Mastered

2 Minutes 4 Hours – Original – Non Mastered


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