Recently a student begun sharing her own songs during our lessons. We’ve been having lessons together for around two years and she is currently working on her preliminary grade (AMEB) repertoire. It’s absolutely astounding what new students can accomplish with a basic knowledge of chords and scales… but that’s a topic for another time! After hearing a few of her songs I suggested we record some and the student was very onboard with the idea. I decided to use GarageBand to do this because it’s extremely user friendly and the student had access to it outside of the studio. At the end of each lesson we work on recording her song, little by little until it’s finished. We are now nearing the end of the process and the student still looks forward to recording her song each week! The experience has been rewarding and enhanced the students learning in a variety of different ways. In this post I intend to discuss five benefits from the process that stood out the most to show why I love Garageband and will continue integrating it into the studio.
The experience of recording her own work has had a huge effect on the students motivation to meet her musical goals. Firstly, she worked hard to improve and polish her own song before we begun recording to ensure the finished product was perfect. Once we begun recording I noticed dramatic improvements not just on the material we were recording, but also the students preliminary grade repertoire. She was now learning all of her music at a much faster rate than she had been earlier in the year!
GarageBand has the ability to take music we input using the midi keyboard and translate it into notation. Once my student had played the piano part of her song into GarageBand I imediately printed out the notation so she could see what she’d created. What we saw on the page was incredibly beyond the level of what she was currently learning for preliminary grade, yet she was still able to play the song more comfortably than her preliminary grade pieces! When she saw the notation she gave a huge smile, she was able to see what she could accomplish was not limited to preliminary graded pieces . What a great self-esteem booster!
GarageBand allows us to use the midi keyboard to play parts for a range of different instruments. This allowed us to think about the instrumentation and how we could further develop the song by adding new instruments, when to include them and when we shouldn’t. In doing so we were able to explore the musical concepts of texture and timbre . For example I encouraged my student to write a bass line for the song to add a little more depth to the sound. We were also able to add an extremely customisable drum player to the mix. The student was even able to decide exactly which parts of a drum kit should be used to best suit the mood and sound of her song. Thinking about instrumentation also tied nicely into listening activities. At one stage the student said she wanted to write a “more upbeat” song next and asked how she would go about that. I tasked her with listening to what she considered upbeat songs first and trying to explain what made them this way. What instruments were used and how were they used?
Creativity & Intuition
As we got further into the process each week the student needed less prompting to explore possibilities to further develop her song. Imagine my delight when she came to the lesson suggesting we add a second vocal track! This was something I had intended on suggesting to her that same week, getting her to think about where to add a second vocal line and why we might do it (emphasis or variation for example). I was so delighted when she arrived at the lesson having already thought of including backing vocals and both where and how she would include them! The song writing process really allows students to utilise their creativity and let their inner voice shine!
The ultimate aim for the end of this process was pride.The student will have something they can take home and share with their families and friends. The recording is reflective of the hard work they put in and should generate a well deserved sense of accomplishment. It is their own creation and something they can feel proud of. Of course this ties back into motivation for future music goals!
What’s next: A Studio CD?
This experience has really emphasised the effect music technology can have in piano lessons. I believe an annual studio CD will help extend some of these benefits studio-wide. Giving the students an opportunity to record their favourite work t0 share with their families and friends. Still working out the logistics for this, stay tuned for future updates!