Are you a technophobe? Or perhaps you use gadgets at home but find it hard to use technology when teaching. Many teachers went to school at a time when technology was nowhere near as advanced as it is now. We watched as our teachers wrote on blackboards, and then whiteboards. Now we teach with interactive whiteboards.
As school pupils in the pre-digital era, we were used to our teacher’s piano accompaniment. Now there are backing tracks, minus one accompaniments and digital music notation available at the touch of a screen. School budgets have made access to music resources such as instruments more difficult.
Music teaching has changed and we must embrace technology to be successful. We cannot ignore tech in the classroom. Music and technology work very well together and are combined in many industries. In this article we present six examples of using technology in the music classroom. With these ideas, we aim to inspire you to break out of your pre-tech comfort zone and try out some new ways of teaching music.
What You'll Learn?
1. Learn to Use the Tech at your School
Different schools offer various options to give students access to technology. Interactive whiteboards are the most popular piece of tech equipment in schools. They are linked to a computer and can show the screen to your class. They also have pens and an eraser to use like a traditional whiteboard.
Some schools provide a tablet for every child. Others allow students to bring tablets or laptops from home. Make sure you know your school’s about technology. For example, mobile phones may be banned from use.
Begin by mastering the basics for the technology you have. If you have tablets, make sure you know how to use them, and how to deal with basic problems. Learn how to use your interactive whiteboard. This means you will be able to use it to teach, and won't accidentally show your personal laptop screen to the class.
2. Create a SoundCloud Account
Many schools use SoundCloud to provide resources to music students and ensemble members. SoundCloud is free to use, and students can access the music you upload wherever they are. You can upload backing tracks for songs you are teaching, as well as full recordings of the songs. Students can listen to and practice the songs at home.
SoundCloud is a great place to upload recordings that the students have made. As it is audio only, this takes away the pressure of creating a video. (You can create your own YouTube channel if you want to make a video). Students won’t worry about looking bad on a video. This can be liberating for teenagers who tend to be self-conscious.
Upload audio recordings of your students’ performances and compositions to the SoundCloud account. You can choose whether to make your uploads private or public. Students can listen back. They can share their work with their friends and family who can ‘like’ their tracks and leave comments.
3. Teach with the Solfeg.io App
Solfeg.io is a music education app full of songs your students will love to learn. It is free to sign up and access a limited number of songs.
Solfeg.io works brilliantly with an interactive whiteboard. For every song, you can access a high quality recording. There is also complete notation for vocal and instrumental parts. Solfeg.io is always popular because the songs are by artists such as Ed Sheeran, Eminem, Adele and Katy Perry. Teaching music with your students’ favourite songs is a sure-fire way to make them love your class.
Solfeg.io has a minus one setting and you can choose which of the vocal and instrumental parts to mute, solo, or focus. The song structures are shown so students learn about verse and chorus-based structures. You can choose to loop a specific section of the music and repeat it.
Solfeg.io is easy to use. It doesn’t have any complicated screens of buttons like some music apps. The interface is very simple, providing only the information you need. This means it works well as a screen for teaching. Students can understand the information presented to them. And even if you rarely use an app, you’ll be able to use Solfeg.io.
4. Train your Students’ Ears with the Ear Trainer App
Ear training is one of the least popular parts of music lessons. For teaching this skill, music education technology comes to your aid. There are many apps for ear training, though not all of them work well in the classroom.
Perfect Ear – Ear Trainer is an app that is often recommended by music teachers for their students to use. It is available on iOS and Android and is a free download. The desktop website, called Tone Savvy, features a teacher subscription section. You can set assignments for students and check their scores online. It has a 30-day free trial and is then available as a subscription package.
A variety of music theory topics are covered, including note names, intervals, chords, rhythms, key signatures, and scales. There is also a perfect pitch test so you can find out if any of your students have perfect pitch. Most young students embrace technology as part of their everyday lives. By teaching music theory and aural skills with educational technology, they will enjoy learning.
5. Teach Composition with Technology
A common way to use new technology for music is when teaching composition. You are probably already familiar with music notation software like Sibelius. But you may not have heard of NotateMe. This app can convert handwritten staff notation into digital. It can also be used to scan your scores, share them, and edit them digitally.
Students who have not mastered music notation often struggle in composition class. They cannot embrace creativity because they are not able to express themselves in written musical language.
Technology allows these students the freedom to compose music. There are many technological tools available. The most well-known is probably GarageBand, a music creation studio for Apple Mac. You can either connect up real instruments or use virtual instruments in the app. Student will love experimenting with different sounds and rhythms.
Another app that works well for school compositions is Soundation. It can run on PCs as well as Macs. Soundation allows you to produce, remix and record songs in an online studio. It has an extensive library of virtual instruments and sound effects. You can also share your work with the online community.
Using apps to teach composition has several benefits. For starters, students will be happy to play with an app in their lesson, instead of writing on paper. Your school may have limited access to musical instruments. These apps allow students to experiment with pitches and timbres that are otherwise unavailable to them. The virtual studio apps give students a recording of their piece, their very own music track to share.
6. Perfect their Performance with Tech
Performance is an important aspect of music education for students who play an instrument. You can utilise technology at several points in their practice. Tuning the instrument is usually the first step in every practice session. Try using an app such as TonalEnergy Tuner and displaying it on your interactive whiteboard. You will give your class or ensemble access to a large-size digital tuner. They will be able to see whether they are playing out of tune. This is a great way to teach students how to tune their instruments.
By using an app such as SmartMusic, you can keep tabs on your students’ practice when they are not in school. They can upload and submit recordings of themselves practising for you to review in the app. Create assignments from the music library and students will receive immediate feedback from the app as they practise. SmartMusic includes built-in notation tools. You can import, edit and create music for your students to play. SmartMusic is available on an annual subscription.
There has never been a better time to use technology in the classroom. Music is one of the best subjects to teach with the use of technology in classrooms. The ideas we have presented are all very easy to put into action. There is nothing that requires specialist knowledge of technology or IT. Even if you rarely use tech at home, there is no reason not to try it out in your lessons. Your students will thank you for it.
The majority of school students use apps and other forms of technology every day. Using this familiar technology in music education will appeal to students. They will learn more as the information is presented in a familiar way. Try out some of these ideas during the semester and let us know how it goes.