I am a composer, producer, pianist and part-time music lecturer at a Further Education college where I teach composing on Music Technology courses at levels 3 (equivalent to A-level) and 4 (Undergraduate/Foundation Degree). A ‘Music Technology’ course, distinct from a ‘Music’ course, often attracts applicants from diverse musical backgrounds; it is not uncommon for a typical class to contain a majority that cannot read staff notation and have taught themselves to play their instrument. Sometimes the student's only experience of music-making prior to the course has been sequencing beat patterns using computer software. Potential students are drawn to music technology courses for many different reasons – perhaps their individual interests lie in sound engineering, acoustics, live sound reinforcement, computer programming or software application design. As a teacher of composing in this context, I am faced with a challenge: how to bridge the knowledge and confidence gaps that exist between students with more and less formal musical experience? I believe that music technology applications can help in this area, particularly with fostering confidence and motivation in less-experienced students. What follows is a student profile and a case study of one assessment task in composing, which will illustrate how such strategies can work.
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