Music class tries to maintain a daily option of five rotating centers. Centers having "compound" names offer options, from which students choose what they want to do. Currently, our centers are:
1. Game Drill/Audio Recording/Music Programming
2. Piano practice/songwriting station
3. Listening while Coloring-a-composer/Creating a music visualization
4. iPad music-teaching games
5. Teacher's table (small group instruction and activity time)
Here's a breakdown of what goes on in each center:
We use these games for content that focuses more on knowledge-base building than skill development. They make learning facts like instrument names and composers' biographical information a little more fun.
This station is an introduction to using basic recording equipment. Currently we are using a desktop microphone and a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) called Audacity. (Incidentally, Audacity is free to download from this address: https://www.audacityteam.org/
, in case your student is interested in downloading a copy to work on at home.) Students can use this station to practice recording vocals and live instruments. It's a multi-track recorder, so even one person willing to take the time can record a full band, one track at a time.
Making the music of the future...and the present! Except for genres like bluegrass and classical, which are known for a strict commitment to purely acoustically-produced music, most of what you will hear if you scan through the radio stations available in your area will probably contain a heavy dose of programmed sounds. You just thought that was a real drum set and a piano and violins.
It's possible that all (or nearly all) of the "instruments" you hear in your favorite song were "played" by one guy using a computer and some fancy software. You don't even have to buy a piano-style synthesizer to make music--some programs let you "type" notes using your computer keyboard! Real instruments (i.e., not software ones) are often sampled in short sections and digitally altered and manipulated to add variety to an otherwise completely digitally-produced mix. Even many live bands now incorporate programmed tracks and loops into their performances. Call it cheating, call it innovative, it's been around for a long time and doesn't look like it's going anywhere soon.
This station is an introduction to music programming. Currently, we are using a program called Audiotool (a free app from the Google Chrome Store) that lets students experiment with a virtual studio, plugging virtual instruments like drum machines and synthesizers into a large, virtual mixer. There are even virtual effects pedals that can be linked in sequence to allow the student to change the sounds of the instruments they choose.
Each student in the center has access to a piano/synthesizer with headphones. They can practice melodies written out in letter form, with or without a metronome (such as Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, the first line of which, in the key of C, would be C-C-G-G-A-A-G), or experiment with their own musical ideas using the various options from the on-board tone and rhythm banks.
Students sit down at a table with a keyboard, pencils and paper and either work alone or collaborate with each other to write down melodies and lyrics to form songs.
Listening While Coloring a Composer
We often feature a composer of the week, and try to have samples of that composer's work playing at a CD player with several headphones for students to listen to while they answer a short quiz about the composer and color a picture. They may also choose to draw a visualization of the music--either a concrete or abstract representation of what the music makes them think or feel.
iPad Music Teaching Games
Various apps help students both develop skills (like note sight-reading and rhythmic coordination) and learn content (like instrument families and note names).
I'll be honest, this center's one of my favorites. Here we get to have small group instruction, discussion and practice time with instant feedback for fast learning. Some examples of what we do in this center include: composing songs as a group (taking turns--it makes for some interesting developments!), writing secret messages for each other to decode using musical notation (works great as long as you can figure out how to say all you need using only these letters: a, b, c, d, e, f, g), and forming whole, half, quarter, and other notes using student-made slime (made by students, not of students, obviously).