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Posts tagged ‘GarageBand’

Smart Instrument Chording


This is a paid activity is for GarageBand for iPad available from Teachers Pay Teachers.

Chords are the emotional support for your melody. Teaching students chord progressions is so important to model this important foundation of melody writing.

Using the Smart Instruments chord bars and Autoplay, they can explore loop-type chord patterns to underscore their chord-based melodies (taught in an other resource).

In this activity, students enter chord patterns using the Autoplay feature, changing chords when necessary to match the chord requirements. In another track, the melody can be played – sheet provided. Additional tracks can introduce drums and bass, or any other instrument.

Using the track settings, students will learn about panning, treble and bass enhancement, as well as reverb and echo. There are other features here, as well. Quantisation and graphic notation editing is also mentioned.

Saved work can be shared via email, Airdrop, as a audio file, or a GarageBand file to be worked on another device or the Mac GarageBand version. Remember, once an iPad version project file has been transferred to a Mac and modified by GarageBand for Mac, it cannot be exported back to the iPad for editing.

Enjoy and let me know your thoughts!


Blooms 21

A few years ago, I blogged about the importance of allowing students the freedom to engage in musical exploration and risk-free play to discover sound creation ideas and possibilities.  This was my slogan I used at that time…

Creation first… theory second

It made my day to come across an article written by Adam Hart at the University of Salford discussing this very notion based on Flipping Bloom’s Taxonomy by Shelley Wright (2012).  It proves that we all progress on a grand continuum of learning in our own way and in our own time.  We build our teaching pedagogy on the shoulders of giants who have gone before us (12th century, attributed to Bernard of Chartres, but  Isaac Newton in 1675 brought the English translation home to us: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”)

Bloom’s taxonomy flipped (Shelly Wright, 2012)

Hart outlines the challenges of the New National Curriculum of U.K. for the study of music (2014) which extols the importance of a broad, music education, especially experiencing musical creation but without the curriculum leadership.  This sets up a familiar scenario amongst educators which provides vague or no guidance specific to compositional approaches they could use with their students.

This is not the first time I’ve read this jargon-laden curriculum quoted by Hart in his example,

“improvise and compose music for a range of purposes using the inter-related dimensions of music (DfE, 2013: 2). 

This is what curriculum designers write who are not composers and creators of music.  They are curriculum writers (generalists) first with little foresight to collaborate with composers of music, especially popular artists of the day and film score/media composers who reflect the current musical scene and, more importantly, the advancements in technology (particularly mobile technology).

Hart continues to highlight what is necessary to move students from a traditional, skill based approach to a exploratory and experiential learning process where the teacher and peers serve as guides from within the learning circle.   The teacher becomes a “supporter, partner and guide” (Na Li, 2017) throughout this process as the creation journey looks different for everyone – we never actually arrive but continue to hone our skill of sound creation and expression to suit a variety of purposes.

I finish this post encouraging teachers to look at Blooms 21 and its implications.  It is also celebrated as, ‘Backwards by Design’.  It suggests to ‘unwrap’ the big present first, use a specific skill set to assemble the new toy, and to, through experience and experimentation, learn how to use it purposeful to our needs (play).  As students take on music composition tasks (problem solving), together, we see what skills are needed and, in context, model the usefulness of the skills accentuating their value, e.g., I-IV-V-I chord progression, or ostinato pattern writing.  Students keep the skills that serve their purpose in their tool kit of compositional techniques.

In his article, Towards an effective freeware resource for music composition in the primary classroom, Adam Hart introduces a number of free music software to help with music teachers or generalist teachers who are looking for free apps (software) that are built on a firm, pedagogical foundation that addresses music theory, history and composition.


My current dissertation centers around GarageBand for iOS or Mac, free on all new Apple devices which is a mammoth Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) sitting idle on a percentage of 1 billion active devices –including iPhones, iPads, Mac computers, Apple TVs, iPods, and Apple Watches (Apple, 2016).  My dissertation focuses on the value of GarageBand for iOS (and Macs) in a variety of educational settings over the next two years based on my composition experiences with DAWs since the mid-1980s.  Imagine the future of music creation if someone takes the time to show students, teachers, and administrators how to use GarageBand for iOS, an app possibly on your Apple device right now?


Music Making – Spring 2017

Here’s a glimpse at what software/apps I use frequently to explore and create music (notation-type apps).

There are many companies offering incredible music-making apps for mobile devices that make music creation easier and inexpensive (most free).  I have been a user of Finale for Mac for over 25 years.  With the advent of tablet technology over the past 8 years, my allegiance has changed supporting companies that are re-inventing music creation, and in a mobile manner.

Finale is my absolute preference for large score, orchestral works, however, they have produced nothing for composing ‘on the go’ via a mobile device.  Their $600 US hefty entry fee for their flagship software stops me from recommending it to few.  It will become a relic of the past.  They have student prices and other entry level software packages with less features, however mobile apps offer an impressive alternative, especially with the aid of a stylus, sampling and creating sounds, and work almost anywhere capabilities.

Notion offers the most beautiful, sampled instrument sounds (London Symphony Orchestra) on all their versions, desktop and mobile devices.  Working ‘on the go’ is extremely important to capture ideas while sitting on the bus or subway, then continuing at home or work via cloud technology.  Notion allows this from finger-gestures, Apple Pencil, music keyboard, and mouse input.  Thumbs up, Notion (PreSonus)!

[Personal note: each orchestral instrument has various techniques as sampled sounds included, for example, French Horn includes hand-stopped or muted notes and glissandi.  This is one of the many reasons I use Notion for its ease of use to add these effects or articulations.  Check out my brass piece, ‘I Saw Three Ships’ on SoundCloud that demonstrates this.]

On the bus or subway – iPhone or iPad


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Notion for iPhone/iPad

Symphony Pro 4

Symphony Pro 4 $9.99 US

SP5 Public Preview Signup Firefox, Today at 10.50.38 AM

Symphony Pro 5 Beta

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Symphony Pro

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GarageBand for iOS

GarageBand for iOS is an absolute favourite, now updated with more performance capabilities.  I will celebrate the day when they add notation capabilities.

Personal note: This app awaits its entry into schools to help visualize music for so many disinterested students having to endure a skill or knowledge-based curriculum, rather than a holistic, creation-based one.  Share your thoughts on this, please.


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Stave’n’Tabs for iOS

In this example, Stave’n’Tabs handles triplets fairly well compared with other music notation apps.  I’ll keep my eye on this app over the next year.

Teaching or at home: iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, MacBook, iMac


SCORECLOUD | Free Music Notation Software - Music Composition & Writing Online Firefox, Today at 11.29.29 AM.png

ScoreCloud Studio Mac or PC -Free with upgrades

ScoreCloud is known for its ease of input by a variety of means, especially great for school use with students inputting their music by keyboard, voice, or recorder!

Music Notation Software. Create Sheet Music with Finale Music Firefox, Today at 11.34.16 AM.png

Finale for Mac                                      $600 US


Notion 6 for Mac     $154 US

Music Notation Software. Create Sheet Music with Finale Music Firefox, Today at 11.34.16 AM.pngSave


GarageBand-ify My Music Program

GarageBand-ify My Music Program - MShawGarageBand iOS/Mac = Music Creation

GarageBand for iPad/iPhone (iOS) and the Mac version (OS) can provide a virtual environment for students to consolidate their understanding about many aspects of music curriculum.  In the infographic above, I’ve tried to show areas of music study that would be beneficial for students to know.  These are the building blocks of a solid music foundation to be able to use in many facets of music lessons giving students independence to create and share.

Through building a typical GarageBand piece of music, the following areas could be introduced and developed:

  • music elements of pitch, duration, beat, metre, tempo, rhythm, timbre, dynamics, articulation, texture, form
  • panning, reverb, echo, and volume of each instrument track (mixing)
  • looping concepts and creation
  • chord progression, broken and arpeggiated chords, ostinato
  • chord theory, inversions, cadences, roman numerals,
  • musical form and structure (e.g., ABA Ternary, ABACAB1A Rondo, verse and chorus, etc.)
  • chord-based melody writing, auxiliary and passing notes, sequence, repetition, imitation, inversion
  • orchestration
  • archiving, iCloud syncing with GarageBand for Mac version for further development, saving and sharing
  • sound mining to build a unique sound library

Many of these activities can be ‘open-ended’ to let your students explore what aspects of music theory they find useful.  GarageBand provides the stage for music inquiry with the teacher providing the background scaffolding that is required.

This infographic is available (in A3 size) from my Teacher pay Teacher site where I sell many resources at extremely reasonable prices to support my income after leaving the full-time classroom.  Your support is appreciated.  I am available for teacher and student workshops on any aspects of music creation.  Please contact me to discuss any ideas you may have.


Music Creation Apps Oct. 2015

Recommended music apps October 2015

Music Education & Tech Workshops – Singapore

I will be presenting two full – day educator workshops with the 21st Century Learning International at the United World College South East Asia – Singapore, 5 & 6 March, 2015.  Please pass this on to interested colleagues, with my thanks.  Don’t hesitate to email me for details.

Workshop 1: GarageBand Cranked Up!

Music Education Workshops 1 - Singapore 2015

Workshop 2: Mobile Technology and the Music Programme

Music Education Workshops 2 - Singapore 2015

Noisy Ghost Walk

noisy ghost walkNoisy Ghost Walk is app game music describing a playful sprite’s attempt to walk on a narrow ledge to avoid being detected by the minor phantoms that guard this chamber.  The blaring trumpet at the end signals something… you decide.

It was written completely on GarageBand for Mac using extra Logic Pro X sounds to demonstrate the basic features of GarageBand for upcoming educator workshops.  Please contact me if you have any comments or questions.

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