Tuesday, May 15, 2007


I have little knowledge of elementary school music program experience other than my own, but I can speak with relative confidence that until recently computers were not involved. In fact it was only through divine providence that were ever blessed with so much as instruments. (These would inevitably be three-octave Casio keyboards with only a 50% operation rate)

With some curiosity I approached an article on C|NET about the growing field of music-making applications for the childrens. The article focuses on Sibelius's latest addition to their Groovy line, aimed at nine to eleven-years-old with a hip-hop beat. (Don't tell Samuel Adler.) One of the things that jumps out to me is that all the programs mentioned are made by companies whose bread and butter is notation programs. (MakeMusic, the main competition to the Sibelius's Groovy line, is made by Finale)

At first blush I'd assume that music production methods (i.e. GarageBand, Live) would be a more obvious way to a kid's heart. However looking back at the aforementioned misspent youth revealed an obsession with translating the written language of music into low-attention-span-ese. Those funny solfege hand positions were just part of the tradition that goes through shapenotes all the way back to Guido of Arezzo, and these programs are just an extension of that. Where this (theoretically) gets cool is by accentuating writing and much as reading. Has anyone actually had any hands on with this sort of stuff?

1 comment:

D0nnaTr0y said...

I'm an elementary school music teacher and I've definitely experimented with technology in my classes. While I have not used the new program by Sibelius (despite my being an avid Sibelius user) I have used a number of programs that focus on teaching theory in a video game style. Which is why they work- they look and feel no different than a E rated video game.

The one I had the most success with was called the Super Duper Music Looper. It was sequencer with preprogrammed rhythms, horn licks, etc. with variables such as tempo and dynamics. The kids loved it.

The problem with these games is the logistics. While a music teacher is lucky to have a classroom (I'm housed in the auditorium of my current job)and even luckier to have a computer, they will typically only have one computer. Let's face it, it's no fun to watch someone else play! And yes there is usually a computer lab, but doubtful that a principal would buy 30 games for each workstation and it would not matter anyway because the computer lab is most likely always going to be occupied by classroom teachers.

Our best bet is to get the parents to buy these games for the kids to use outside of school.

(and for the record, I have never taught the Kodaly Solfege hand signals!)