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.