Music Teaching With an iPad at Lacey Green Primary School
By Nick Acton
23 December, 2019 by
Music Teaching With an iPad at Lacey Green Primary School
Nick Acton Music

The iPad is the perfect musical accessory. In many cases, using the device within the music can optimise accessibility and resources as well as affecting the practicalities of musical exploration. The device’s touch screen technology enables children to play entire chords with one finger, thus making instrumental opportunities more accessible.

There is a whole host of free musical instrument apps found within the app store. Therefore, teachers can provide their class with all sorts of musical resources. One of the barriers to teaching music in a modern primary school is the noisy implications of musical experimentation. In other words, playing music is really loud. Obviously, one of the benefits of hitting a digital drum on an iPad is the fact that it can be turned down. The volume control and the portability of an iPad make it a much more practical device to use in a classroom. 

 On top of this, many apps can easily be applied to the musical curriculum. One of the National Curriculum’s Music aims is...

‘Create and compose music on their own and with others, have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument, use technology appropriately and have the opportunity to progress to the next level of musical excellence.’

I believe that GarageBand can have an impact on every aspect of that aim. You can create and compose on GarageBand. There are digital instruments to engage with within the app. Obviously, you are utilising technology when you mix and arrange the music you create on GarageBand. Finally, the app is extremely flexible. Therefore children can get as much or as little out of the app as they wish. It can provide the opportunity for individuals to ‘progress to the next level of musical excellence’. Therefore, I think GarageBand is the perfect app to introduce into musical teaching.

I recently worked with some year four children at Lacey Green  Academy in Wilmslow on a GarageBand project. Like any class, the children had a real mix of musical ability and experience. A small number of the year group had played instruments in the past but the large majority had not. However, their enthusiasm and excitement was clearly evident.

The flexibility of the app meant that there musical and creative backgrounds did not matter at all.  The year fours had been learning about the topic of Ancient Egyptians over the span of the term. I introduced the class to two Egyptian Gods of music (Hathor and Bes) and explained their musical backgrounds. The Goddess Hathor enjoyed happy sounding delicate music while the God Bes preferred aggressive sounding songs. This gave us a great point of reference to create some music as well as being a good basis to teach some musical words. I set the task of composing a piece of music as a gift to a god of your choice (Hathor or Bes). 

Odoo • Text and Image

This is where GarageBand really proved it’s worth. The children used ‘loops’ on the iPad to create their piece of music. ‘Loops’ are short, two-bar or four-bar recordings. These pre-recorded snippets can be found within the tracking screen of GarageBand. Tapping on ‘Loops’ reveals a list of instruments to choose from including drums, guitars, synths, woodwinds, strings and a whole host of percussion. The children were able to tap on an instrument loop and review its sound before dragging and dropping it into their composition. This resulted in the individual creations of layered music with clear structures and dimensions.
Odoo • Image and Text
However, the most impressive aspect of this project was the sheer variety of compositions and the range of musical excellence that was demonstrated by the children. Some simply dragged loops onto their compositions and arranged them on the screen in patterns. Others snipped and edited their sound clips to create clear sections in their music. The most confident even played musical lines into the recordings by utilising the digital instruments within the app. You can hear some examples of Lacey Green’s compositions by tapping here.

Ultimately, the app supports a range of skill sets. This task was differentiated largely by the outcome. However, there is no reason why you couldn’t set the children different tasks according to their abilities. The children could engage with different aspects of GarageBand. The fact that you can record audio on the app means that some children can start to play real instruments along with their compositions. It makes the app relevant to children who are exploring music at a much higher level. It means that this app can stretch itself out across age ranges. Reception children can use GarageBand. 

Nick Acton is an Apple Curriculum Specialist at JTRS as well as being a part-time Computing and Music teacher. Through the creation of bespoke training, Nick specialises in empowering educators so they can embed Apple technologies into their day-to-day classroom practice. 

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