W H A T ?

Some of the more popular technologies I've used in classrooms are those related to music production-- microphones, mixing boards, analog multitrack recorders, etc. I started in the pre-digital days when everything was recorded on analog tape, then gradually, more digitally-based gear became available. But no matter what was being used, students were instantly enthused about the prospect of writing and recording their songs, or covering a song they were already familiar with. The populations and socio-economic conditions of the schools where I taught varied greatly. When I began teaching in alternative schools that boarded adjudicated youth by court order, writing and recording music wasn't just a past-time or a pleasant diversion from school work. It became an essential part of their weekly routine. Hence, I recorded a lot of songs that spoke to the pains and troubles that beset segments of the American population. An example of that type of song is linked on this page. "Hurt" is about a person in the throes of an opioid addiction and their deep regret over the pain it has caused others. I recorded this version one day recently with the aid of two friends to back me up on the vocals. I performed the guitar and keyboard tracks. The hardware set-up was rather basic and the software app being used was Adobe Audition. Like photo and video editing software, many music apps existfor all skills levels. I also use a free app called Audacity for certain tasks that are less complex. My alt schools experiences were done as an extrarcurricular activity. However, I taught this at the university level as a three credit course, so students were responsible for learning more about how the hardware and software worked, in addition to generating their own material to record.  


S O  W H A T ?

I could apply the ISTE standard 4b: "Students select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks." When a student embarks on a project  to record a multi-tracked musical performance, some planning is required as far as choosing instruments, the desired tone of those instruments, what effects are going to used, and where they are going to be placed in the eventual "stereo picture" during the mixdown phase. Since a majority of the students in my classes never tried this before, there was some trial-and-error in getting that desired sound. Much of that was was determined by whether or not a particular "take" was suitable enough. If any take had a minor "flub" or two it was possible to fix it with Audition. We made some flubs when recording "Hurt" that I knew I could fix later, rather than putting my friends through yet another take. Personally, I like to record at a slightly upbeat pace to keep up the energy level. This was always on my mind with students, who could become discouraged if they had to re-record an instrument or vocal track too many times. We typically did not have the luxury to spend enormous amounts of time to achieve something close to perfection. Yet, one of the advantages of home do-it-yourself (DIY) recording is that one can spend as much time as possible if they wish, without having to worry about the time spent in a hired studio


N O W   W H A T ?

Music is a virtual international language based on tempos, rhythms, volumes, and various tones. We are able to respond to it as sensory stimuli, either positively or negatively. For many, it is a means to tell a story. This tradition goes back to the Middle Ages and is still heard today. Urban rap music can trace a line back to the folk songs of the Appalachians of the 19th century with their songs expressing sorrows and laments. One of my goals teaching music production was the instill an appreciation for music as a communicative medium. I urged them to either write or choose a song that meant something profound or significant in their lives. This created an extra incentive to perform at their best level because of their emotional investment. So much of what I create personally or professionally has that emotional element at its core. Once my students see what they create from that perspective, the work becomes a joy. Without it, it becomes drudgery, like a two-hour lecture at 8 AM where the instructor does little but recite from notes.