The potentials of sound and the way we can engage with and arrange it are so powerful, and children can be such fearless natural experimenters, that we really must relish the opportunity to push the envelope of music education as far as possible.
I have been enjoying teaching music in a number of different ways recently that I want to share with you – with regards to music as a tool for inclusion, music as a unique way of utilising makerspaces, and music as a tool to develop coding skills.
Music as a tool for inclusion is such a natural fit, in part because there are no fixed rules attached to how we enjoy creating and sharing sound.
Graphic notation can be a terrific place to start here, with students of all abilities developing their own visual ways of representing sound.
One student might create improvised sounds on an iPad, for example, performing with apps that encourage fingers to dance around the screen and create all manner of interesting melodies and rhythms, while another student listens to what is being created and uses other tools to interpret the sounds visually, by painting lines on a canvas, for example, or using a video camera to film confetti being dropped in slow motion.
There are many ways that sound and vision can relate to each other and can be explored in universally designed ways that support the learning needs of all students.
Music and makerspaces are another partnership that are perfectly made for each other.
We have always had the opportunity to create our own instruments with milk cartons, toilet rolls and fishing line, but our students today can expand on these creations in elaborate ways.
Now in our music makerspaces we have students use Makey Makey circuit boards to turn bananas into playable pianos, and we use Arduino boards to hack programmable instruments together.
For example, one creative music project involving Arduino boards allows students to create rain sticks that play their own recorded sounds depending on which way they turn the rain stick, after students learn how to use sensors to activate these commands.
There are terrific instructions online to help you with these projects going forward. Which leads us to music and coding.
I was fortunate to be invited to Singapore to run workshops on music and coding, where we used Skoog, a soft colourful cube that wirelessly connects to iPad, created as an accessible instrument for all children to learn with.
Skoog has a different colour on each side of its body, corresponding to a particular music note.
We taught children how to compose melodic sequences by drawing coloured dots on paper. You might draw blue, blue, yellow, red, blue, green, and then play that sequence on the Skoog.
And then, using the language of coding, we might write that we want to ‘loop’ that sequence, and if we come to a blue dot we play it loud, and if we come to a red dot we play it soft.
Then, we can write up our code as unique music notation.
Be fearless with music education in your classroom and seek out the many creative ways in which inclusive approaches, makerspaces, coding and other innovations are giving our classrooms a symphony of new voices.