How music education is using tech to thrive during coronavirus

With the shutdown of schools, colleges, and universities, educators are turning to existing and innovative new technologies that keep students learning and mentally healthy – this is how you can do it too.

Life right now has inflicted the strangest of feelings; we’re all still battling the daily changes that the COVID-19 virus has brought into our world. These changes are, however, making us think differently, and one of the greatest weapons we have is the ability to adapt.

I teach Logic and Ableton Live at diploma and degree level, but when I began running ‘First Access’ Music Technology sessions in both primary and secondary schools, I turned to some innovative free tools which have really helped in the lockdown.

Here are the tools and techniques I’ve used to keep running music technology classes remotely.

Teaching music technology in schools can be difficult, resource-wise. Not all schools are equipped with up-to-date computers and software so, unfortunately, until now there has not been a one-size-fits-all approach that also enables students to work outside of the classroom. Step into the arena BandLab, with its cross-platform availability and its Education version for use when teaching primary and secondary students. It’s a match made in heaven, and even more so when delivering remote sessions.

Teaching music technology in schools can be difficult, resource-wise. Not all schools are equipped with up-to-date computers and software so, unfortunately, until now there has not been a one-size-fits-all approach that also enables students to work outside of the classroom. Step into the arena BandLab, with its cross-platform availability and its Education version for use when teaching primary and secondary students. It’s a match made in heaven, and even more so when delivering remote sessions.

If you are not familiar with BandLab, you will be pleasantly surprised if you keep expectations at the lower end of the scale. Remember that it is an introductory music production tool. It centres on a free online DAW with both audio and MIDI tracks, and functionality that’s very similar to other industry-standard DAWs. BandLab’s loop library contains a vast number of high-quality construction and sample kits in virtually every genre known to man. These can also be used in other offline DAWs using the free Bandlab Assistant app. Loops also conform to your project’s tempo.

When delivering online sessions this is a great starting point used in conjunction with the intuitive 16-step drum machine module. Inspiring students is the key at the start of their journey so some simple drum programming and loop use is important to grab their attention immediately.

External audio can also be imported from a local hard drive or recorded via a computer microphone or even an audio interface and microphone setup, recording at 44.1kHz / 16-bit as standard. Students use this facility for recording their own instrument and vocal parts and with a ‘latency tester’, users can compensate when processing bandwidth issues arise.

Live notation can be recorded into BandLab via a MIDI controller or with a computer keyboard, once again eliminating the need for specialist equipment. All of the sounds for MIDI playback are sampler-based. Think along the lines of one internal ROMpler or playback sampler storing various instrument categories and sub-categories. When a patch is selected, it uses a simple online piano interface to play back sounds, and scales can be defined for a better understanding of what’s being played.

There is, however, no sampler or synthesizer interface to further manipulate sounds. In fact, there is nothing more than the playback sampler on the MIDI front. When teaching with any DAW it’s important to deliver theory, especially when it comes to music notation and this is a great tool to get started with. The recent MIDI Mapping feature is also fun for those who have an external controller attached.

Editing in BandLab uses some standard DAW tools for both MIDI and audio. Cut, copy and paste are joined by on-region tools for shortening and lengthening of regions and notes. Looping is accessed via an icon on each region. You can also alter pitch and duration with a time/pitch algorithm, and reverse sound. Not bad for a free online DAW. Editing MIDI notation allows users to quantise, re-pitch, humanise, randomise and change the velocity of notes.

For a basic DAW, it also comes packed with some cool effects and mix processing features per track. There are nine effect categories including amps, delays, distortion, modulation, reverbs and tonal effects. The effects modules themselves contain some stripped-down parameters that enable users to tweak as desired. Mixing-wise, BandLab comes complete with pan and volume controls as standard but no mixing desk for additional routing. Automation is available per track for volume, pan and effects parameters, but it’s not as advanced as other DAWs. That said, for a new learner it’s perfect.

Editing in BandLab uses some standard DAW tools for both MIDI and audio. Cut, copy and paste are joined by on-region tools for shortening and lengthening of regions and notes. Looping is accessed via an icon on each region. You can also alter pitch and duration with a time/pitch algorithm, and reverse sound. Not bad for a free online DAW. Editing MIDI notation allows users to quantise, re-pitch, humanise, randomise and change the velocity of notes.

For a basic DAW, it also comes packed with some cool effects and mix processing features per track. There are nine effect categories including amps, delays, distortion, modulation, reverbs and tonal effects. The effects modules themselves contain some stripped-down parameters that enable users to tweak as desired. Mixing-wise, BandLab comes complete with pan and volume controls as standard but no mixing desk for additional routing. Automation is available per track for volume, pan and effects parameters, but it’s not as advanced as other DAWs. That said, for a new learner it’s perfect.

Credit: https://www.musictech.net/features/music-education-tech-coronavirus-lockdown/