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Using Music Technologies

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TEACHER: Mark Edwards

Note: This unit was initially part of my research project, "How ICT can be used to enthuse learning in music", and has been modified slightly to fit curriculum requirements. Many of the activities utilise a Macintosh computer.

Please let me know how you get on and what you took on board. 

Duration: 10 Lessons - 1 hour each
Level/s: Year 4 - 8
Curriculum Links: Achievement Objectives:
The Arts


PK: Students will apply knowledge of elements and principles to make objects and images and explore art-making conventions, using a variety of techniques, tools, materials, processes, and procedures.

DI: Students will generate and develop visual ideas in response to a variety of motivations, using imagination, observation, and invention with materials.

CI: Students will describe how selected objects and images communicate different kinds of ideas.

  • Students will identify through focused listening and experimenting with, contrasts within musical elements (PK, Level 3)
  • Students will use musical elements, instruments, and technologies to improve and compose simple musical pieces. (DI, Level 4)
  • Students will prepare and present music, using basic performance skills and techniques, and respond to live or recorded music performances (CI, level 3)
  • Students will identify and investigate characteristics of music associated with particular contexts, purposes, and styles in past and present cultures (UC, level 3)


  • Explore and discuss the use and operation of technologies in everyday use (Technological Knowledge & Understanding Level 2)
Overall Success Criteria:
See Introduction for Teachers
Big Questions/Assessment Focus Question/s:
See Introduction for Teachers

Resources (technologies):

  • 5 Mac computers with Garageband
  • 2 Playstation Two (PS2) consoles
  • 2 Singstar Party (PS2) games
  • 2 DJ Desks & (PS2) games
  • 1 MTV Music Generator PS2 game
  • 1 PC (with free internet music composition software installed)
  • 2 Keyboards
  • 1 M-audio usb audio interface
  • 1 TV
  • 1 Digital projector
  • 1 Amplifier (8 inputs)

Introduction for Teachers:

This unit was taught as part of a research project. It was conducted with a sample group of 8 students and has not been tried out in a 'real' class setting. I had the luxury of a whole classroom to set up in. It is intended that you take ideas from these lessons, rather then trying to teach it as a complete unit.

I took a more holistic approach to teaching this unit. I didn't focus primarily on one element in music. Initially students experimented and created compositions on computers and Playstations. The teaching of the elements followed and flowed much more naturally once placed in a context. For most of this unit I only had 4 Mac computers so students paired up. However, for some of the lessons I had an extra pod of 5, so students could work alone. A computer each was by far the best scenario.

My research was not curriculum driven. It focused on engaging and enthusing students to learn music. This unit looks more at music appreciation and experimentation than actual content-based learning. Hopefully it provides you with some ideas, resources, website links and inspiration to use more music technology in your class.

Professional Reading

  • Clarkson, A & Pegley K (1991). An Assessment of a Technology in Music Programme. Ontario. York University
  • Pitts A & Kwami R (2002). Raising Students' Performance in Music Composition through the Use of ICT; a Survey of Secondary Schools in England. British Journal of Music Education 19:1, 61-71
  • Mills J & Murray A (2000). Music Technology Inspected: Good Teaching in Key Stage 3. British Journal of Music Education 17:2, 129-156

Teaching and Learning Sequence:


My research did not require that I assess my sample group based on curriculum objectives. However, ideas for assessment are included in this unit and could be summarised as, how well the students can:

  • create a 16 bar composition using digital technologies.
  • define and show the difference between an ostinato and a hook.
  • compose music to fit the feel or mood of a video clip, taking into account tempo, dynamics and colour.
  • import and export digital data.
  • save work and export to itunes.
  • work co-operatively and take turns when necessary.

Next Steps:

Making acoustic compositions in small groups, incorporating dynamic elements like ostinatos and hooks. Record the groups using microphones and an audio interface. Students can then layer extra tracks, edit, add loops and samples to their work on the computer through Garageband. Once every group has finished you could burn the compositions to CD or start working on music videos, which would later become a class dvd. This could be sold as a fundraiser too if the quality is good enough.

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