Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Soundtrap - Game Changing Technology for Music Education, Collaboration and Creation

  Adopting new technology for a music program is an exciting and daunting process.  I have always been fascinated with the fact that all of these amazing technologies exist all around us, yet the issues with implementing them have always been the same...What's the learning curve? How much does it cost? Will it work on our devices? Does it provide a safe environment for my students? Is it really worth all the trouble?!?
  For the last decade, I've logged more false starts, miss-steps and troubleshooting hours than I care to admit and I have worked hard to find solutions that allowed my students to learn, be creative, collaborate and share their work. I am happy to say that I have found a program that has delivered to me a simple solution that has opened the floodgates of creativity and collaboration in my music program, while at the same time freed up my time and allowed me to work on a much more substantive level with more students than ever before. (Yes, it is that good!). The solution is Soundtrap.com
  Soundtrap has been one of the most useful, impactful, simple and productive tools I have ever adopted in my classroom.  It is a fully online, multi-track recording application that has tools for (COPPA compliant) collaboration, creating original music using both loops and live recording, and a whole bevy of effects and sound 'enhancers', and integration with other apps like Google Classroom and Groove Pizza.  We have used Soundtrap to record our live concerts, voice overs for video, original music by Lower Elementary students, rehearsals, and concert announcements. As a teacher, I have used the loops to teach lessons on structure, chord progressions, effects (reverb, compression, equalization, etc.).
  I can not overstate how much this application has enhanced not only the music program, but the entire community at our school.  In the past, I spent a lot of time making sure the computers were up to date, the programs were compatible, and the storage of files was organized and students had a finite time and place that was available for them to work on their music, however, Soundtrap has taken all of those barriers away.  In addition, it is very user friendly.  I have students tell me all the time how much easier Soundtrap is to use than a program like Garage Band.  The collaboration feature is really what gets the students excited. They love to start a session, invite their friends, (and sometimes even their teacher), and get to work.  They play their music for each other on their personal devices, share them through e-mail, and submit them to be part of our end of the year school-wide album.
  Soundtrap works on any device that has an internet connection and I have even been able to connect it to our fancy DAW's with little to no trouble. I won't say it has rendered a powerhouse professional grade program like ProTools useless, however, it is no longer necessary, which frees up a lot of my time spent on the updating and troubleshooting that is inherent in a big program. To give you an idea of the quality of the sound, here is an example of a piece of music created on Soundtrap:


It has allowed more students to create more music than ever before.  With more music being created throughout the year, the overall quality of the final products are getting better all the time. Not to mention that once the school year was over, I continue to get notifications of updates to the student's songs throughout the summer break!!
  For any music educator/director that is interested in curating a community of creativity through music, I recommend Soundtrap for Education for your program. It has been made simple enough for early adoption, but also has enough features to be a one-stop-shop for students.

Lesson Ideas Using Soundtrap

1. Structure lesson - This is a simple lesson that provides a lot of opportunity for discussion and decision making.
  • Map out the structure of a favorite song. You can be general or specific, (Chorus, Verse, Bridge, etc.), you may even want to count measures.
  • Once the map is complete, use the loops on Soundtrap to create a new piece using the underlying structure of the chosen song.
  • Some decisions to be made: Will you use the same tempo? Key? Measure count? How much can the song be changed once the creation process has begun?
  • Follow up:  Compare and contrast the two songs,  play the end results for friends and see if they can pick out the elements that were used from one song to the next.

2. Collaborate with another school
This can take many forms. The main idea is that you contact and work with another teacher to ensure the success of your students.  For example, in one piece at our school, we had a band teacher from another middle school send us an iPhone recording of his band's warm up. Our students then edited the rehearsal down into usable parts and then created a piece of music using the cut-up audio. Here is the result of that one:

3. Harmonize the Bass Line Lesson.
  • Give a lesson on harmonizing to a bass line.
  • Provide a bass-line on Noteflight.com for students to harmonize/write a melody to. Here is an example:

  • Once the student is done and everything sounds good, export the music as a MIDI file.
  • Drag and drop the MIDI file into Soundtrap, you will get multiple instruments depending on how many voices you use in the score. The tempo should match the setting you had in Noteflight.
  • Begin using loops and recording to enhance the song. You can also choose different instruments for the voices, (for example, you may want to duplicate and double the melody on two different instruments).
4. Compose from a Groove (Pizza!)
  • Start with a lesson on creating grooves with Groove Pizza.
  • Export the Groove to Soundtrap, (they have made it very easy to do this with a button called "Send to Soundtrap").
  • Add loops, record instruments, create a song!

  If you have any ideas, want to collaborate, or are interested in learning more, please contact me anytime.  I would love to hear from you!  Thanks for reading and HAPPY MUSICING!!

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