Mixcraft – Reinforcing Traditional Musical Elements By Visual Representations

Mixcraft Timeline

Mixcraft Timeline

The first post of this blog was about using ICT in the teaching and assessment of music. I’m going to revisit that topic again, but this time from a junior music perspective, instead of a senior NCEA subject.

St Andrew’s College uses Acoustica’s Mixcraft software to assist students in the basics of musical composition and theory in the Core Music junior classes. As Mr Duncan Ferguson points out:

At the junior level, Core Music is about exposing students to different styles of music, giving them the enjoyment factor from where they can develop a passion for music and hopefully start to learn an instrument from there.

Opportunities in these classes are provided for students to perform in a “classroom orchestra”, learn theory, and of course compose and share their own masterpieces. The use of computers allows these students to visually analyse their compositions and to quickly create good music relatively easily.

This ease inspires greater engagement from the students, particularly when they can use the technology like Mixcraft to help with things like:

  • Composing to Grid – meaning even if students lacked the skill to hear that their music is out of time, Mixcraft will keep it in time.
  • Changing the key of individual musical loops, to allow the student’s composition to remain in key

Of course, Mr Ferguson’s own direction is important here – he requires students to avoid mixing genres too much: just because you can use reggae drum loops with a blues guitar riff doesn’t mean you should! Here is an example composition from a Yr9 2013 student:

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/58349924/Blog%20Data/Year%209%20Mixcraft%20composition%20focusing%20on%20element%20of%20structure_Joo%20Young%20Kim.mp3 ]

And this is how it is visually represented in Mixcraft:

Mixcraft Timeline

Mixcraft Timeline

Sharing of the compositions is also encouraged, sometimes by way of Moodle Forums, so others can listen and comment on their classmates’ music.

Here is another example of music composition on iPads from a school in the UK:

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