Bev's adventures in ICT

Posts tagged ‘Music’

More Music Matters

It’s time for part two of my posts about music and technology. Today I’m focussing on stuff that isn’t free but is still great to use in your classroom. Some of these items you might have already but it’s always worth investigating what is available so….here we go. I’m going to start with one that I’ve been using for quite a few years and is always popular with the older pupils, and that’s Dance EJay. One of the reasons I think it’s so popular is that it’s really easy to use. There are loads of sound samples available, all colour coded. At a glance it’s pretty easy to see how many beats each sample lasts and is very helpful when putting together sequences and loops. In fact, until the pupils in Years 5 and 6 discovered Incredibox, Isle of Tune and DJGames, Dance EJay was easily the most popular piece of music software chosen during Golden Time sessions in the ICT suite. Like the ideas posted yesterday, this is something that non musicians can use quite easily to create something cool and rhythmic although, in my opinion, despite the huge amount of samples included the sequences that are generated can sound a bit samey. Maybe that’s because the pupils find something they like, share it around with each other and then replicate it. Also, there is a temptation to fill every layer with a ‘wall’ of samples; leaving few gaps or breathers. But those are just quibbles and, when used as part of a structured music based session, the software can be very effective.

Now, Dance EJay might be popular with the older pupils but it is certainly not as accessible or versatile as the next program on my list: the amazing Music Toolkit from 2Simple. It spans a whole load of age ranges and abilities with a selection of levelled activities that work equally when used with a group using an IWB or on individual PCs. Pupils in Early Years(and those with SEN) can enjoy and  participate in using 2Explore while those with a little more know-how can start building melody with 2Compose. The package also contains 2Beat, 2Play (which I really enjoy having a bit of fun with), 2Sequence and 2 Synthesize: all of which are great stand alone activities in their own right that can be used in a number of different ways. I’ve had great fun linking 2Beat to Maths and building soundscapes for stories using 2Sequence (which is also available via Purple Mash if you’re a subscriber) in the past so it’s well worth investigating in detail what each individual program does and how you can fit it into your classroom sessions.

Some software developers, of course, specialise in music. EPS Music is one such company and is the creator of the popular Compose World series. To be honest, I haven’t used this software in school for a while, mainly because there are so many alternatives out there that I feel are more complete or competitively priced, but it would be totally remiss if I didn’t mention the software here. Obviously, being music specialists, the individual programs are very good quality and easily slot in to music sessions and activities. The downside is that all the products have to be bought separately, although EPS have launched an online subscription service which includes free demos of their products to try out first. Have a look and see what you think.

To finish off today I’m going to share some apps that are available for use on ipod touches and ipads, making them great for music on the move. The holy grail of these, at least as far as I am concerned, is Garageband. It’s been around a long time and is constantly being updated and added to. It has great instrumentation and features and is equally at home in a primary school as it is in a secondary (or beyond) setting. You can have fun with it or use it in a very structured way. There are help sites and tutorial videos dotted all over the place to help you come up with ideas of how to use it. If you’re in a setting that has access to Apple technology then you seriously need to check out its potential and give it a go. For fans of ambient music I’d suggest you try out Bloom, a simple yet effective little app which, again, might be useful for creating soundscapes to link in with class themes or story writing. More apps worth looking at include the surreal but fabulous Magic Piano (a current favourite among my grandchildren) and the equally strange but lovely Shapemix. Both are intuitive and fun: let’s face it; if my grandchildren (aged from 18mths up) are fans already they have to be easy to use! Another musical app I’m pleased to see arriving is JamStudio as it’s been available as a web based subscription site for quite a while (in fact the site is free for creative purposes – you just have to subscribe to be able to download your creations). For those people who find it easier to compose using chord progressions it really is a fantastic find. There are, in addition to the apps listed, none of which are ridiculously expensive, a number of free apps which I should have mentioned yesterday. Some of my favourites include JamPad, Beatwave (quite similar to the previously mentioned iNudge) and, for very young children, Cutie Melody. Truly – as far as music and tech is concerned – there is something available for everyone.



I’ve Got the Music in Me

Everyone loves music. Be it classical, rock, hip-hop or something else entirely, every one I know can pinpoint a tune, a song or a style that they enjoy. Children are no different: they instinctively move to a groove and can tell you how music makes them feel. Music and rhythm is so ingrained in all of us that most of us dream about playing an instrument, writing a song or joining a band at some time in our lives. In the past this was not an opportunity offered everyone: instruments are expensive, reading music can be tricky, learners need time to rehearse and develop – great for those who money, time and energy to devote to it but not exactly inclusive. Luckily access to technology is changing this and now everyone who wants to can find a way to make music if they wish. Over the next few days I’m going to post a few ideas and links to show what is available: whether it costs nothing or needs to be bought and installed across your school system.  Today we’re looking at the freebies.

For starters, on the web based front, there are a number of fun and free activities to get things going. Incredibox was one of the first I came across and I’ve been showing it and using it with pupils for a while now. A simple idea, that’s really well executed; it’s particularly good for showing pupils how to build up layers of sound and put them together. The bonuses add a bit of frivolity and silliness to the proceedings but children seem to love them and happily embrace the madness! The website has been advertising a move towards version 2 soon: I can hardly wait to see what it brings us. In addition to Incredibox you might also like to check out iNudge: a great little music pad type mixer where you just colour in different squares with your mouse and create something that can be quite magical. Great advantage of iNudge is that you can get a link to the tune you’ve created or generate an embed code so you can add it to your blog or VLE, making your creations available for others to listen to – like this

Another great free web based music generator, that I have to say is becoming a bit of an obsession for some of my older pupils, is Isle of Tune . It’s a music sequencer which is (kinda) presented like one of those internet based games you see on sites like Facebook – making it both appealing and familiar before you even start using it. I don’t want to repeat what others have said about this already, so it’s worth checking out this post on The Whiteboard Blog to get a bit of basic information.  What I would say is that it’s worth showing the pupils how to use separate bits of road to create their tune: one piece of road for the rhythm track (these are the street lights) and other road layouts for the main tune and supporting harmonies. The most successful tunes posted are mostly using this method and, after a bit of playing around, you’ll be able to get something together too. I’m warning you now – it is a bit addictive!

For those of you wondering about what’s available to use with younger pupils: there are still a number of nice free web based and downloadable options to try out. BGfL has a marvellous virtual keyboard, which I am sure would be great fun on an IWB as would this delightful raindrop activity. SEN teacher has a download link for Music Games (available for both windows and Mac) which is worth having a play with and, although I can’t see them listed on the site now, both this chimes activity and this tunes activity were ones that I originally found through SEN teacher (quite some time ago) and are absolutely great on a touch screen or and IWB. There are also a number of useful and simple musical activities available via the Tesiboard and Poisson Rouge: you’ll just have to look around to find them!

Of course, there are a lot more activities of this type available on the web: I’m just flagging up the ones I’ve used and found useful. And I’m going to finish with one which is a (ahem) ‘big hit’ with the boy in Year 6 and another that is just too good to leave out. The ‘big hit’ is obviously Ken’s Virtual Drum Kit which I first saw being demonstrated by the ever enthusiastic Kevin McLaughlin during BETT 2011 on a touch screen IWB. Since going home and having a play I found that you can also operate the kit with the keys on your keyboard and this means it is accessible to everyone in school regardless of the computer or laptop they’re using. As I’ve already said, boys in particular seem to take to it and I’ve seen a few of them writing out keyboard sequences for their drum riffs so that they can replicate them at home – how cool is that? And in case you’re wondering which activity I’m highlighting as too good to omit: it’s Microsoft SongSmith. Yes, I’ve mentioned it before but it deserves mentioning again (and again) as it is just so useful! Want to get the kids writing raps to help them with their revision? – it’s great for that. Want to write your own jingles for adverts linked to persuasive writing? – big tick again. I could go on.  The benefit of this program is not only the pure amount of support and guidance available via the website (and there is loads to look through and try out): it’s the fact that it is so easy to pick up and use in the classroom. And all you have to do to get this free is join the Partners in Learning Network. Really… you’d be silly not to.