Switched-on music learning

Our music technology programme, Proclassic is designed to make connections between music technology and classical music within the classroom. Students are taught how to remix classical music using software such as Logic Pro, GarageBand and Soundation4Education. To understand the direct benefits of music technology in the classroom, I asked teachers from our associated schools and industry professionals within our network, to give us feedback on the ways music technology enhances music education in a classroom environment.

Musical theory
The plug-in and automation features in Logic Pro and most music software enable students to understand classical terms such as crescendo and diminuendo on an interactive platform. Automation tools also give a level of interaction during the process, as they are able to control the dynamics according to each section and instrument. Plug-in controls such as attack, release, sustain and decay help students to visually interact with terms such as staccato, legato and accent – all essential tools when creating a highly expressive composition. J Clarke, head of music at Burlington Danes Academy in west London, says: “You can use [Logic Pro] to teach students pretty much any topic especially the use of dynamics, in a hands on practical way.”

Performance and composition
When composing a song using an acoustic instrument, it can be challenging to write parts of the composition and arrange different sections without an understanding of compositional structure and the ability to play a musical instrument. Using software solutions such as GarageBand, students are able to substitute these requirements through access to a world of instrumental loops and samples, whereby students may listen, cut and paste various samples to begin to build their own composition. The software allows students to use the interface as a canvas for their creations, giving them scope to visually manipulate melody, harmony, rhythm, form and timbre. M Barbe, head of music at Mitchell Brook Primary in Brent, says: “It can enable [students] to access compositional and arrangement techniques in a creative way from a young age.”

Discover hidden talents
As L Neckles, head of music at Sacred Heart High School, says: “I think the main benefit of using music technology in a classroom is the fact that students get exposure to unlimited resources and possibilities to use as a platform for their creativity.”
You never know how good you are until you are tested. Music technology is a medium whereby students may uncover skills they did not know they had. The use of music software such as Soundation4Education allows a student to think critically, independent choices and cognitive judgments in the music production process. Presenting a range of musical opportunities provides the prospect of raising self esteem, increasing motivational levels among students and enabling them to use their creative skills for a career in the industry.

Extending boundaries
Children of all levels of musical ability, from gifted pupils to those with special educational needs, can have access to music through technology from a young age. Musical performance on a traditional instrument is often solely dependant on the user’s skill. Yet with technology equipment such as drum pads, synthesizers and electro acoustic instruments, illustrious samples and mind-blowing sounds can be played by the tap of a finger or click of a button. Assistive music technology devices such as Band in a Box or Soundbeam can be utilised in ways that engage physically challenged students to experience music performance as part of a group. They also help to maintain students’ interest in music education. Without the access technology offers, higher education in music can remain closed to physically and mentally disabled pupils.
As S Wagstaff, head of music at Southbank International School, says: “the use of music technology software aids to remove certain barriers to learning for students. It doesn’t matter if you are able to play an instrument or not, nor does it depend on your musical ability.”
Music technology is a fairly new skill, especially for primary school students. With the likes of Soundation4Education, students are able to access music production software outside of the classroom without having to meet the costly price of music production software.
Today, online music software is significantly cheaper compared to the cost of purchasing musical instruments and music lessons in the long term. Through access to the Internet, students may develop their music production skills by watching the vast array of tutorials from music producers from the comfort of their bedroom. However, I would not suggest that music production be used as a substitute for instrumental music lessons.

Wider access
To conclude, technology is the way to go. Music tech is a great way to teach composition, arranging and basic music theory to a whole class. Many schools have begun to harness the benefits of technology, as can be seen through programs such as Proclassic and the level of IT capital invested in schools across London – £450 million in 2013, according to news platform Govtoday.
However, there needs to be greater access to teacher CPD training in music tech in order for schools to understand how to use the software, not as an addition to the music curriculum, but to incorporate it as a tool to enable greater learning and understanding – and as a tool to facilitate greater access to music theory and performance capabilities.

Further information