Now more than ever, kids have access to Internet-enabled devices, whether that’s at school or at home. While live music making is at the heart of an elementary general music program, there are a ton of fantastic applications for technology in your elementary music class. Check out my top five music tech websites, complete with with lesson ideas, below!
I’m so happy I stumbled upon Groove Pizza during a late evening lesson planning sesh! Groove Pizza takes a 16 beat drum machine and turns it into a circle that can be manipulated to create different beats using a kick drum, a snare, and a hi hat. (You can also use the drum machine as usual if you prefer.) With a variety of genres of instrumentation to choose from, kids can have fun creating their own jazz, hip-hop, or EDM beats, just to name a few.
Possibly my favorite thing to do with Groove Pizza is to reinforce musical form. You can have up to four 16 beat sections in your composition, which will continue to loop until you stop it. My kids would fall asleep if we tried to analyze the form of a song… but they can’t get enough of composing their own songs in Groove Pizza!
To lead into using Groove Pizza, I like to review high/middle/low, identifying parts of the drum, and transferring that knowledge to a drum kit using beatboxing. I’ve prepared an entire unit using Groove Pizza – grab it here!
Chrome Music Lab
I actually use the Rhythm experiment in my Groove Pizza lesson as well as a segue into composing on a drum machine. Chrome Music Lab has so many unique experiments, each of which could support a litany of musical concepts. Here are just a few:
- frequency – Sound Waves, Oscillators, Spectrogram
- timbre – Rhythm, Kandinsky, Spectrogram
- graphic notation – Kandinsky and Song Maker
- high/low – Rhythm and Song Maker
- composing in a provided key or tonality – Song Maker
- circle of fifths – Arpeggios
- chords – Chords (duh!) and Arpeggios
Chrome Music Lab always gets the kids pumped up – so the first time I use it with them in a given school year, I usually give them time to explore. This prevents some of their distractibility when you want them to focus on one or two experiments later! One really effective way to do this is using task cards. This way, you are guiding them to try certain experiments or features, but still giving them the flexibility to figure things out on their own. Check out these 40 Chrome Music Lab task cards – they are easy to print and go or even send to students using Google Slides!
Incredibox is so intuitive that even my youngest learners can use it! That means it makes for fantastic sub plans if you have a sub who can handle students logging into their own devices. (I was lucky to have these subs every once in a while!)
The idea is that you have a variety of loops to choose from. Drag them onto the guys at the top of the screen to create a harmonious bop! I will warn you, in case your school community is sensitive to this – the dudes start out shirtless until you clothe them using the loops! If the kids get too giggly about it, I just remind them that this is what a lot of guys look like when they go to the pool.
The best part about Incredibox is that no matter which loops you select, they always sound good together. This is invaluable in building up students confidence in their composing. From a young age, kids tend to develop a feeling about whether they are “good“ or “bad“ musicians. The more I can get a kid to feel good about what they’ve made in a low risk situation, the easier it is to coax them into taking risks later on.
Other than helping kids build their self efficacy, Incredibox presents opportunities to talk about the concept of loops, genres of music, timbre, musical form, and more. I could go on about it for a long time – and I did in this blog post! Check it out for detailed ideas about how to use this free website in your elementary music class.
To this day, I’m still baffled at how composers can just hear something in their heads and put it down on paper. And I’m not talking the solfege exercises you did an undergrad – I’m talking entire compositions, especially “back in the day“ when we didn’t have technology to play it out for us! (Yes, I know pianos exist – I’m a pianist – but it’s just not the same as a full orchestra!)
Luckily, our students don’t have to deal with that. Many students struggle to make a connection between what they write on paper and what their composition will actually sound like. I have found this to be the case even when they are composing with barred instruments right next to them!
Noteflight allows students to hear their compositions in real time. Not only that – the sharing feature allows them to collaborate with each other, provide peer feedback, and share their compositions directly with you. (As long as you’re using the edu version, you have to approve who they’re sharing with – so no sharing with randos!) You can color code the notes (to match Boomwhacker colors, for example), download a MIDI file of your composition, separate it into parts from a larger score, and so much more!
I hope this has gotten your gears turning about ways you can use technology to supplement live music experiences in your elementary general music class.
Interested in learning more? Soon I’ll be releasing an exciting opportunity for you to learn more about how to utilize technology to support musical learning. Submit your information below to hear more when this opportunity becomes public!