Technology in the Music Classroom


Lecture:  Creating



Creating music is the first standard.  We tend to think mostly of composing music (writing it down in standard notation).  But there are many ways to create music:  one involves notation, but there are other strategies. 


For example, I can compose a story, writing it down as I go. 



Or, I can compose a story without writing it down and just remember it to tell it again.  Or, I can tell a story, making it up as I go.  I can take a story that is already written and make changes in it, making it more detailed and elaborate or changing it from serious to funny.  What if I take elements from several stories and mash them up into one story or just take one element from a familiar story and build a whole new story around it? 


Can you see the similarity to creating music??  Creating music may be done in many ways; music literacy is writing it down. 


Many of us did not get much training in CREATING MUSIC.  We were too busy getting schooled in performing in ensembles, how to practice, chords/scales/key signatures, history of music, music literature, World music (if we were lucky - I didn't get that), sight-singing, ear-training, marching band drills, performance practice, diction, music education, general education courses and the list goes on and on and on and on . . . .

Creating music was really for the brainiacs who did it on their own time, right? 

We can't possibly expect our students to create music when we didn't really learn to do it ourselves, right?

We don't have the time anyway, right?







Ummmmmm . . . . . . IT's THE FIRST STANDARD!!!







Creativity is not the same as creating original music.  For example, you may be creative in your interpretation of a Beethoven sonata, but that is not creating original music. 

For the purposes of this week's assignment and the "Creating Music" part of the Standard, the student should be creating original music.

This includes improvisation, composition, and arranging (not transcribing)



Kashub and Smith (2009):  Five-Point rationale for why all children should be able to study composition.

1. Challenges students to consider their understanding of the world in new ways.
2. Allows children to exercise their generative potential in music.
3. Develops a way of knowing that complements understandings gained through other direct experiences of music
4. Invites the child to draw together the full breath of his or her musical knowledge.
5. Is the process that allows the child to grow, discover, and create for him or herself through artistic and meaningful engagement with sounds.


If you don't have time for that, I wash my hands of you.




Imagine:  Generate musical ideas for various purposes and contexts.

Plan and Make:  Select and develop musical ideas for defined purposes and contexts.

Evaluate and Refine:  Evaluate and refine selected musical ideas to create musical work that meets appropriate criteria

Present:  Share creative musical work that conveys intent, demonstrates craftsmanship, and exhibits originality.

Objective:  Composing music

Technology:  Music writing software (Finale, Sibelius, NotePad, Noteflight, Musescore)



Note:  Programs listed in parentheses are only examples.  Use your browser to search by name for more information on these programs.  You may want to add them to your links.  Find other programs by searching for "alternatives to *fill in name of similar program*"  There are also hundreds of mobile apps.  Search by the name of the activity (compose, improvise, loop, record, etc.).


Do not limit yourself to these very common examples!

Encourage and apply music literacy


  1. Write music traditionally

  2. Transpose music to different keys

  3. Listen to what has been written

Technology:  Creating/recording software (Garage Band, Mixcraft, Soundation, Incredibox)

Creation can happen without music literacy  (


  1. Mix, compose, record music using software instrument tracks

  2. Live instrument tracks

  3. Loops of prerecorded clips of music as a compositional base

Objective:  Improvising music

Technology:  Accompanying software (SmartMusic, loops, MusiClock, Band-in-a-Box, Beatlab)


  1. Jam with background tracks

  2. Experiment improvising with loops or drum sounds

  3. Create chord progressions/harmony for improvisation exploration

Technology:  Experimenting software (SmartMusic [to slow the track], Transcribe, recording apps)


  1. Manipulate sounds using synthesizers and other electronic instruments, and sound production apps

  2. Recording can "capture" improv to play back, save, and make improvements

  3. Mobile devices can become their own instruments with apps




7-Level Sequential Model for the Development of Improvisational Abilities (text p. 52)

Level 1: Exploration, A pre-improvisatory level in which student tries out various sounds without any particular structure.

Level 2: Process-oriented improvisation, true improvisation begins, students have some control over the process coordinating motor skills with intentionally created sound patterns, patterns that are often repeated.

Level 3: Product-oriented improvisation, student becomes more aware of musical structures like tonality, meters, tempo, harmonic changes, and phrases and utilizes these in improvisation which allows listeners to derive greater meaning from them.

Level 4: Fluid improvisation, student exhibits more control and automaticity over technical aspects of performance being able to sing/play without consciously thinking about it with greater fluidity in keys, meters, and tempos.

Level 5: Structural improvisation, student utilizes larger musical structures when improvising and uses techniques such as development of melodic ideas, tension and release, and connections among musical ideas within an improvisation.

Level 6: Stylistic improvisation, student is able to fluently improvise within a particular style, utilizing appropriate melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic devices.

Level 7: Personal improvisation, The ultimate achievement is for a musician to develop a unique, recognizable style of improvisation.  Teachers can encourage students to become fluent in a wide range of styles, which may over time meld into an innovative stylistic approach.

There are many activities that can inspire students to improvise.  Technology tools can produce interesting sounds that can be manipulated or combined.  Those sounds can then be recorded.



Using Technology to Unlock Musical Creativity by Scott Watson is an excellent resource for this very important Standard!

In his book, he cites 8 principles for "successfully drawing out student creativity" which form the basis for his book.  They are:


1.  Allow students to share themselves

2.  Offer compelling examples to imitate and inspire

3.  Employ parameters and limitations that remove distractions and help students focus

4.  Remove parameters and limitations that stifle creativity and lead to contrived expression

5.  Facilitate improvisation

6.  Engage in coaching interaction

7.  Foster opportunities for feedback and critique

8.  Employ performance and recital



Keep these in mind as you consider ways to add Creating Music to your classroom!


Created and maintained by Vicky V. Johnson