Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted. What a lot of information in a short space of time. I hope you all kept up OK, and for those who didn’t, I hope that you will find what you need here in my lecture notes. If you don’t, email me and I’ll explain further.


The lecture-improv classroom bit

We started off again today with some performance. I didn’t want to get a lot of instruments out when we only had an hour for the lecture, so we started doing the pitched percussion just by banging tables and using body percussion. We learned a keyboard part on several xylophones.

The arrangement was the opening piano ostinato from Prince’s rather wonderful When Doves Cry. Here it is:

When Doves CryWe then listened to covers of the same song in many different styles. I’ve provided links to these 8 tracks in the iTunes store on my website here.

I asked you, being my pretend year 8 students for the day, to discuss what was different about each version of the song, concentrating as we went on on ideas about duration. The reason we did this was because when this moved into composition I want students to think about the way the beat is built in different styles of pop and rock music.

Then, following a similar structure from last week, I introduced you to the composition tasks that the students would extend this listening and performance experience into, meaning that all three learning experiences were integrated.

The composition task was a bit different this week. While in the 6834 project the students had to improvise over the top of a provided backing in GarageBand, in this one loops were provided which I had made myself: loops which provided them with the When Doves Cry elements to remix. Later on you got to have a go with this in the lab.

You can see the unit of work as I present it online at MLC here.

GarageBandAs you can see, I have created video tutorials for the students on each part of the process. Once they have remixed the loop, they learn to make their own drum patterns in two different ways, play the chords and improvise a melody over the chord sequence. Students who wish can extend this by arranging their own choice song or by composing an original song.

We’ll learn how to make these kinds of tutorial videos demonstrating different software in a future tutorials.

I did intend to show you how to create loops for songs that you want students to arrange (which is so much more creative and relevant than just letting them loose on the included loops in GarageBand), but we didn’t have time. I will show you how to do this in a future week, but if you’re thinking now about resources you’d like to make perhaps for the first assignment, there’s video that shows you how to do it here.

The tutorial MIDI lab thingy bit

This week we were able to break into two tutorial groups, and I noted that the second is emptier, so if you don’t feel you’re getting enough attention in the first one, please come to the second. These tutes will be more like lectures at the start of the course, while I kit you up with info, and later on there will be time for you to work on your assignments and get feedback from me.

About the first assignment

Talking of assignments, due to popular demand, I went through the requirements for the first assignment. I won’t go into the same detail now, and you should definitely download the learning guide (but not much else!) from vUWS, but basically: you have to write a flexible arrangement of an existing piece, listening and composition lessons to go with it, and then resource the hell out of it online, just like I have with these two examples so far in our lectures. By flexible arrangement I mean something any combination of instruments can play. The essential formula is:

  1. Melody (provided in concert pitch, Bb, Eb and F)
  2. Harmony (Piano or Guitar or even better a piano part with guitar over the top, and yes TAB is good too)
  3. Bass (not just bass guitar but trombone, bassoon, etc, think about range, bass TAB also good)
  4. Percussion (drum kit or even several ostinato parts making an combined beat)

Composerhome.comOn your website, why not create a static page for teachers outlining how to teach the unit of work? It would include the prior knowledge expected of the class, the level you’re aiming at, the topic it relates to, and the timing you would allow to teach it. I would suggest you’d need at least 5 weeks to learn the arrangement alongside doing listening lessons and a composition task – probably more.

Then you might create a static page or pages for students telling them what the expectations are. Keep it short and simple. The parts should be downloadable so they can lose their parts at home. You should make an MP3 of your arrangement to play along with. Your listening lessons should be supported with embedded YouTube videos (not just the piece you arranged but further listening, related to your topic).

And then you can go the extra mile if you want me to give you an HD and make templates for the composition tasks (eg loops, or template files to improvise into). You can make videos showing how to do the tech skills involved. You can add more parts to the arrangement such as a counter melody, or optional string arrangement, etc. I don’t want you to kill yourselves, but wouldn’t it be great if we had created a whole network of brilliant resources you could go and teach with come prac time?

You could also do all of this on a separate blog, if you wanted, which you would link to from your central blog. Then it becomes a standalone site.

Well, it turned out I did tell you a lot about that here. How nice of me.

The theory bit that we did

I told you that you would learn enough in this course not to have to go around doing lots of extra reading, although you’re welcome to if you’d really like to. The book that I suggested you should very much read, if you’re the kind of person who likes revising stuff by reading or you don’t feel I’m providing enough background on technology (I have to get pretty specific pretty fast in this course) was Andrew Brown’s Computers in Music Education which is in the library. I explained how Brown thinks of the computer in music acting as a Tool, an Instrument and a Medium and I gave examples of each.

I then explained my own thoughts on the progression of technology as it relates to a pedagogical progression. By this, I mean you won’t jump in with Pro Tools in your first music class with year 7. Similarly they would probably find Sibelius a bit of a problem, especially if they didn’t already read music.

I spoke about how when Looping software first came along it really divided music educators. And that we now understand that it is very good for teaching students (or rather letting them discover intuitively, which is the best way to learn) about texture, tone colour and structure. I talked about how you can then expand what they can do into sequencing, and that unlike the progression chart above, there isn’t really any one piece of software for each stage of the progression any more, given that GarageBand and its equivalent on Windows Acid can both do sequencing, and that Pro Tools can do looping.

I wrote an article about this last year, which expands on many of the things we’ve already done in these first two lectures. Download it here. You may find this useful if you haven’t yet done reviewed an article on your KLA for Literacies for Learning.

Hands-on with When Doves Cry and more on Edublogs

Last but not least we installed the loops that I had made for When Doves Cry and you did the first part of the composition task which was to simply arrange them. Ideally I would have liked you to have much more time for this – and to do the second part of the task – but if you want to practice more, follow the instructions on my website and let yourself into the lab to do it. The important final step for me was that you would save the file as an MP3 through the Share menu, and then upload it to you blog.

If you’re using Edublogs, we found that you could upload the MP3 there and then. Unfortunately on my wordpress.com blog (that you’re reading) it wouldn’t allow me to do this. Maybe time to jump ship. Anyway, this did give me opportunity to show you how to share documents another way. And that’s using a file sharing website. There are many out there, and I showed you one called Divshare. You can use the free accounts these sites give to share any kind of file – the PDF above is hosted there, for example. I had to do this quite quickly, so I will now make a video showing you how to do it…

While I’m being busy making nice videos for you, a few of you mentioned that you couldn’t work out how to embed YouTube movies in your Edublogs. So I made one about that too…

I hope you all have a lovely week, and that you’ve found lots of interesting things to blog about, not least this lecture!

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