Teaching Composition With Technology

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1 ASME 2011 Teaching Composition With Technology Katie Wardrobe Midnight Music

2 Recording and Sequencing... 3 Software options...3 Arranging techniques and other musical concepts... 3 Using pre- made loops...3 Project: When Doves Cry unit (James Humberstone)...3 Using loops that come packaged with your software program...4 Tips for choosing (or creating) loops for students to use...4 Project: 12 Bar Blues...4 Create original material... 5 Starting small and rhythmic...5 Project: Short drum patterns...5 Project: Recording an improvised melody...5 Project: making loops with Aviary s Roc Music Creator...6 Project: notating and performing original creations...6 Combining audio and visual... 7 Film composition and ad jingles...7 Project: introducing film composition...7 Project: film composition next steps...7 Audio/visual remixing on steroids!... 8 Pogo...8 DJ Kutiman...8 Project: your own Thru- You remix...9 Using notation programs... 9 Don t always start from scratch...9 Project: primary school pentatonic compositions...9 Project: teaching canons and rounds...10 Recording audio...10 Hardware and software options...10 Contact me (I m happy to answer questions )

3 Teaching Composition with Technology Recording and Sequencing Software options GarageBand (Mac only) Acid Music Studio or Acid Xpress (PC only) Mixcraft (PC only) Myna (online, free) Roc (online, free) Arranging techniques and other musical concepts Using pre- made loops No, using pre- made loops is not composing from scratch, but allows students to achieve attainable results quickly. You can use loops to teach arranging techniques and other musical concepts such as: Structure Texture Timbre Harmony Form Project: When Doves Cry unit (James Humberstone) James Humberstone of MLC School, Burwood NSW generously shares his own educational content on his website. James spent a lot of time preparing a unit of work based on the Prince song When Doves Cry in which he provides students with all the parts of the song broken down into GarageBand loops small snippets of music. The unit was originally designed for year 8 students, but James has since used it with students in years In addition to the loops, James made a series of tutorial videos that demonstrate the GarageBand skills the students will need to complete the task. The unit of work (taught over a number of weeks) follows these main steps: Play the piano ostinato from the song with a drum beat Listen to the song in a variety of styles and reflect on each one 3

4 Create your own remix of the song using provided loops (making musical choices about form, structure, timbre and so on Create drum loops from scratch Extension activities for advanced students include creating a remix of another song of their choosing or writing their own song Add your own improvised melody over the top of the backing you created Add a chord pattern to accompany the song Using loops that come packaged with your software program You don't necessarily have to do as much prep as James did for his When Doves Cry unit. It s quite possible to do a similar activity using the use the loops that came with your software program, however, I think it s absolutely necessary to create a shortlist from which students should work, otherwise they ll spend the whole lesson (or more) sifting through 3000 loops! Tips for choosing (or creating) loops for students to use Start well ahead of class time it takes a while to create a good shortlist Put all your chosen loops into a folder on their own and save them to your school s shared drive It can be a good idea to rename the loops: add the instrument name at the beginning and keep the naming conventions consistent. Students will find it much easier to locate loops later on If you re working with GarageBand on a Mac, students can drag the folder of loops on to the loop browser area. The loops will be added to the loop library and you ll be able to access the folder by choosing it from the drop- down menu at the top of the browser If you re using Acid, students will be able to navigate the folder you set up and save it to the hard drive of the computer they re working on Project: 12 Bar Blues Step 1: Create a bassline Students choose a bass loop Shorten the loop if necessary so that it is one bar in length Copy the shortened loop into the following 11 bars (so there are 12 in total). The loop needs to be in one- bar snippets (rather than one continuous loop) so that parts of it can be transposed Transpose the loops at bar 5 and 6 up 5 semitones Transpose the loop at bar 9 up 7 semitones Transpose the loop at bar 10 up 5 semitones Play back to check that you ve created the 12 bar blues correctly Step 2: Create a rhythmic accompaniment Build a rhythm with existing drum loops Create your own drum pattern from scratch Transform the loop - change the sounds, stretch the loop (Acid) 4

5 Use volume and panning envelopes to vary the arrangement Use of layering; build suspense Step 3: The arrangement Have students avoid a wall of sound! Use layering and gaps/spaces in the arrangement Use fade ins/outs (volume envelopes) or panning (sound travels from one speaker to the other) for variety Reflection during and after the project Students write about progress over time and discuss what worked and what didn't work Create original material Starting small and rhythmic A good place to start with creating original material is by making short rhythmic loops. Students can record via MIDI straight into your chosen software program by using an external MIDI keyboard, or by using the on- screen keyboard. Project: Short drum patterns Students record a simple drum pattern between 1-4 bars long. Tips for recording drum patterns: Practice the pattern first, testing out which sounds you want to use Slow down the tempo for recording if necessary If you re not happy with the recording, simply re- record the pattern In GarageBand, make use of the loop- record function where you can record multiple versions one after the other and choose the best take Once you re happy with the recording, quantize the pattern to even- up the sounds Lastly, save the loop into your loop library so it can be used for future projects Project: Recording an improvised melody Students can record an improvised melody over the top of a backing they have created. This works well as an extension to the 12 bar blues project above, or James Humberstone s When Doves Cry project. Start a new track for your improvised melody Choose an appropriate instrument sound and then practice what you re going to play Remember that you can slow down the tempo if necessary Place the playback line where you d like to start recording and when you re ready, press record Record the improvisation over the top of the backing 5

6 Project: making loops with Aviary s Roc Music Creator Students can also use a separate application to create original loops. One free easy- to- use option is Aviary s Music Creator known as Roc. Roc is an online application that allows you to create short loops. There are an amazing array of sounds to choose from which include drum kits, world percussion kits, human beatboxing sounds and body percussion sounds. One of the best things about Roc is that it also includes melodic sound sets including piano, guitar, metallophone, glockenspiel and more. Using Roc Go to creator Choose an instrument from the drop- down menu (you can change it later) and click Open After the sound set loads, your empty project will appear Choose a tempo and the number of beats per bar at the top Press Play and start adding sounds by clicking on an empty circle. You can delete a sound by clicking on it again When you ve finished creating your loop: Click on the Save button at the top Title your piece and then Roc will create a mixdown of your project Once it has been saved, you can download an mp3 or WAV version of the loop Import the loop into GarageBand, Acid or Mixcraft GarageBand: drag the loop from the Finder on to the loop browser Acid and Mixcraft: access the loop from the location you downloaded it to Project: notating and performing original creations Students can take their Roc creations and translate them into notation either using paper and pencil, or by using a notation program such as Sibelius, Finale or MuseScore. I created a body percussion loop in Roc with the setting of 4 beats per bar (total of 2 bars). 6

7 Treating each blue dot as a semiquaver, I notated the two bars in Sibelius (here s an excerpt): Students can then perform the pieces using body percussion or untuned percussion. Combining audio and visual Film composition and ad jingles One of the great things about technology is that it makes it easy to show students how real- life composers might work. You can take advantage of the ability to import video into your software program and use short films or adverts as compositional inspiration. Project: introducing film composition Start by simply matching sound with visuals. This allows students to become familiar with the technology and build the skills for use in more advanced projects. Steps: Find a VERY short video (30 seconds or less is ideal) Ask students to find or create sound effects to go with the video When lining the sound effects up, zoom in a lot so you can fine- tune the position of the effect Use markers or hit points to help with the placement of effects Ask students to drag in 3 contrasting existing music loops to add to the video and mute them all momentarily. They can un- mute one of them and test the effect of that loop on the video. Then switch over and try the other two Advanced students might like to try recording an improvised soundtrack to accompany the movie Students can choose their favourite music loop for the project and give reasons why they thought it worked well Project: film composition next steps Choose a short film that might lend itself well to a suspense soundtrack. 7

8 Listen to a range of examples of suspense music with the students. What are the attributes of music that creates suspense? Talk about drones, music that rises in pitch, music in extreme registers (either high or low), rhythms that increase in speed and intensity. Steps: Start as before by adding sound effects to the project Build layers of suspense music: add a drone that moves up by semitone Add a rhythmic element start with a slow drawn- out rhythm, then add one that gets faster or more busy Record an improvised high eerie melody Audio/visual remixing on steroids! You might like to consider an extension of the film scoring idea: the art of audio/visual remixing. There are some excellent examples on Youtube. These types of projects are much more involved! Pogo DJ Pogo otherwise known as Nick Bertke is a 21- year- old music producer living in Perth, WA. Pogo remixes sounds (and video) from well- known movies by sampling dialogue, sound effects and music. The end result is a completely new musical work. Pogo has remixed a number of Disney Pixar and Showtime movies (he has worked for both companies in the past) including Alice in Wonderland, Mary Poppins, Toy Story, Harry Potter, Hook and many more. His Youtube videos have had millions of views and you can purchase downloads of the songs via his own website, or the itunes store. Website: DJ Kutiman In March 2009, DJ Kutiman launched a video titled The Mother Of All Funk Chords on Youtube. It was a collection of unrelated Youtube videos edited together to make a new piece of music. The public reaction was astounding and today the video has been viewed more than 10 million times. Kutiman used snippets of a whole range of videos including these ones: Drums: Funk chord guitar: Guitar single notes lick Trumpet scale Here is the final product: zfqa 8

9 Project: your own Thru- You remix If you d like to attempt something like Kutiman s Youtube remix, James Humberstone has designed a website that will take you through the process. The site includes instructions, download links and tutorial videos and whilst the tools used are Mac- related, you could easily transfer the steps to PC. Using notation programs When using a notation program such as Sibelius, Finale or MuseScore with students, you might like to consider these tips: Don t always start from scratch It can be a good idea particularly when working with young students to provide a partially done score, rather than have the students set up a score from scratch. Score set- up can take a substantial amount of time when done with a whole class and it s something that students are able to work out on their own anyway. Providing a partially- done score means that you can focus on the specific activity you wanted to cover in your lesson. Project: primary school pentatonic compositions If working on a composition with ABA form, you could provide a 4- bar A section for students which repeats at the end. Leave 4 blank bars in the middle for the students to compose a B section, using the notes of the pentatonic scale. Idea courtesy of elementary music educator Amy Burns: 9

10 Project: teaching canons and rounds You can provide one instance of the round written in a score Students can play it back and work out where the next voice/s will begin Next, they can add two more staves and copy the original part into the other parts Recording audio Take advantage of the recording technology you have at- hand. Students can record ideas, or full- blown compositions and use the recording for archive purposes or as a means of self- assessment. Recording compositional ideas in this way means that students are hearing the piece in their head first, rather than relying on a notation or sequencing program to provide instant feedback. Hardware and software options Mobile phone ipod/ipod Touch Handheld recording device (Zoom H4, R09) Laptop + Audacity + built in mic USB mic Audacity, GarageBand, Acid, Mixcraft, Logic, Pro Tools Contact me (I m happy to answer questions ) Contact me regarding training enquiries or presentations for your school/network/event music technology- related questions Mobile: Website: Facebook: Twitter:

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