music technology

TMEA Session Notes - “Digital Organization Tips for Music Teachers” and “Working with Digital Scores”

I am thrilled to be presenting at TMEA again this year. Both of my sessions, “Digital Organization Tips for Music Teachers” and “Working with Digital Scores” will be taking place on February 17th, at 8 am and 11 am, respectively.

Here are the session notes:

Digital Organization Tips for Music Teachers

Working with Digital Scores

Spotify Buys Online Recording Studio Soundtrap

Spotify Buys Online Recording Studio Soundtrap:

STOCKHOLM — Music streaming company Spotify has bought online music and audio recording studio Soundtrap, it said on Friday, declining to give financial details of the deal.

Stockholm-based Soundtrap allows its subscribers to have an online music studio and create music together with other people in real time, its website says.

”Soundtrap's rapidly growing business is highly aligned with Spotify's vision of democratising the music ecosystem," Spotify said in a statement.

This is a really interesting deal for music technology education. Spotify is a major player in the music streaming space and is well known to the major public. I can definitely see how Soundtrap fits into Spotify’s vision. But it will be interesting to see what they actually do with it, and if it has any influence over Soundtrap’s usefulness in the music classroom.

Integrating Technology into the Elementary Music Classroom: FAQ | Music, Education & Technology -MusTech.Net:

Amy Burns does some great writing for She is writing to the elementary general music classroom in the blog post linked below, but I think her tips and strategies will resonate with music teachers of every variety. Be sure to check out her blog and subscribe!

Integrating Technology into the Elementary Music Classroom: FAQ | Music, Education & Technology -MusTech.Net:

This question is excellent and is asked often. When I was performing research for a keynote address I gave recently titled, “How Technology is Transforming the Way We Teach Elementary General Music Classes”, I directly addressed this question. When reading numerous Facebook music education boards, there is a divide on this topic. Music educators will comment on how technology can enhance certain activities like composition and music making for those who have limited abilities. Others will state that their music classroom is a “screen free” zone because students need a break from screens. While others are expected to utilize technology to address 21st century skills or their schools have become 1:1 (one device per student).

Ethan Hein - Teaching Myself the Bach Chaconne with Ableton Live

Ethan Hein - Teaching Myself the Bach Chaconne with Ableton Live:

Gorgeous though the chaconne is, my enjoyment has been hampered by my inability to figure out the rhythm. All classical performers insist on doing extremely expressive (that is, loose) timekeeping. I don’t have the sarabande rhythm internalized well enough to be able to track it through everybody’s gooey rubato. Bach’s rhythms are complicated enough to begin with. He loves to start and end phrases in weird spots in the bar–the very first note of the piece is on beat two. So I needed some help finding the beat. A chaconne is supposed to be a dance, right? Bach wrote those note values the way he wrote them for a reason. Did he really want performers to assign any length they felt like assigning them? My gut tells me that he didn’t. I suspect that he probably played his own music in tempo, maybe with some phrasing and ornamentation but still with a clearly recognizable beat. I imagine him gritting his teeth at the rubato that modern performers use. Maybe that’s just me projecting my own preferences, but this sense comes from listening to a lot of Bach and performing some too.

So, I wanted to hear someone play the chaconne in tempo, just to hear how it works. And since no one seems to play it that way, I finally went and got the MIDI from Dave’s JS Bach MIDI page and put it into Ableton Live. I added a bunch of triple meter Afro-Cuban drum patterns to help me feel the beat, and had them enter and exit wherever I heard a natural section boundary in the music.

My personal favorite way to enjoy this piece is by performing it on vibraphone, but this is cool too. :)

Best Music Technology Books for Teachers | Midnight Music

Best Music Technology Books for Teachers | Midnight Music:

I love buying books – both digital and paper – especially when they are relevant and useful. Here are a number of music technology in education books I recommend. I own almost all of these books and they contain excellent ideas for music technology curriculum integration.

I am honored that my book is on the list. Definitely check out the link. Some of these books are epically good, especially if you teach a music technology subject. Others, like mine, are suitable for a music teacher of any subject.

New podcast episode! - Working with PDFs, featuring guest, Paul Shimmons

In this weeks episode, I am joined by Paul Shimmons (band director, music tech in education blogger, and podcaster). We have a great time talking about our various workflows for reading, editing, annotating, and organizing our PDFs. This episode was recorded shortly after the announcement of iOS 11 which will bring a lot of new productivity features to the iPad. Naturally, we had to discuss these announcements and how they might reshape our PDF workflows next fall.

You can listen to the episode here.

New York Times - On 'OK Computer," Radiohead Saw the Future: Ours

Jon Pareles writing for the New York Times...

On ‘OK Computer,’ Radiohead Saw the Future: Ours:

It all came true. Twenty years after Radiohead released “OK Computer,” capitalism’s tech overlords have inexorably cultivated a work force and customer base of wish-they-were-androids. Using algorithms that ruthlessly tabulate every available metric, they are determined to maximize efficiency, and they see no profit in human downtime, imperfection or ideals. On “OK Computer,” Radiohead saw it coming, amid all the other alienation and malaise that its songs would enfold in melody and noise.

This is a great write up celebrating the 20 year anniversary of one of my favorite albums from one of my favorite bands. Radiohead saw where music technology was heading and paved the way for future musicians to blur the line between human and robot.

After 20 years, it’s clear that “OK Computer” was the album on which Radiohead most strongly embraced and, simultaneously, confronted the legacy of the Beatles. Radiohead picked up chord progressions (like the pivotal bit of “Sexy Sadie” in “Karma Police”), instrument sounds and ideas on structure from the band, even as it completely inverted its 1960s optimism.

I have often compared Radiohead’s use of technology in the recording studio to the Beatles’ studio practices in their later albums. It’s nice to see Pareles dig into this comparison a little further. 

You can celebrate this amazing album by checking out their reissue, "OK Computer: OKNOTOK 1997 2017,” which is a remaster of the original CD, includes eight B-sides for EPs they released in the 90’s, and recordings of never before released songs from the “OK Computer" era. 

Click here to listen on Apple Music.

Soundtrap Enable Import Export MIDI Music Files

Soundtrap Enable Import Export MIDI Music Files:

The MIDI music technology protocol is used worldwide to enable electronic devices -- computers, cellphones, karaoke machines and more -- to generate sounds. The enhanced MIDI support by Soundtrap furthers the creative process by making the multiple tools used to make music interoperable online. This is part of an effort by Soundtrap to broaden its ecosystem of best-of-breed industry solutions so that musicians and music creators have even more flexibility in their music-making efforts. For example, Soundtrap is now interoperable with digital audio workstations (DAWs) through MIDI File Export so users can send all or part of their composition to other solutions such as GarageBand or Pro Tools.

I experimented with Soundtrap with my general music classes last Spring. I was entirely skeptical about the prospect of running a DAW in a web browser but Soundtrap impressed me. It does a great job handling audio and MIDI files in a way that doesn't feel much slower than using a native app like GarageBand. My students loved the collaborative features and we were all left wanting more.

One of my GarageBand assignments in previous years was a MIDI remix, where I put MIDI files for familiar movie and pop songs in a shared folder and encouraged students to remix them, altering the instrument voices, form, and adding loops to transform the style. The fact that I can actually now do this assignment entirely in a web based application through Soundtrap's MIDI import and export is impressive. And this is not even to mention the fact that Soundtrap can perform import and export between other web-only based applications like Noteflight. Very cool. If you have been thinking about checking out Soundtrap for yourself, or for a classroom, I highly encourage it.