I still wish I’d fallen asleep in the past hour, but alas, we will make do with what we’ve got!
It’s finally struck me that the best way to present my project (working title: “4 producers flip 1 sample, except the 4 producers are me”) is through a youtube video. I’ve been spending the last few weeks filming and editing videos for popular music studies class, and it’s really not my favourite thing to do, but… it’ll look so good.
In the video I can break down my process of creating the four songs, show my process of learning how to use ableton, and show reactions of people listening to the music. Plus there’s the click bait of ‘I made an album in two weeks!’ (yeah, haven’t begun yet… sorry James.) It’ll be a cool resource to have. And my goal is to produce the video entirely independently of this course, essentially accessible to anyone on the internet. Maybe I’ll become a youtuber.
Make your own syllabus, have only some topics available to students.
Design your own test, have it auto-marked, can set everyone the same questions or different ones, choose whether they get feedback straightaway or can see their score.
Make students do the same test multiple times, take their best or worst or combined scores.
Slice data to see scores above or below a certain percentage.
Use the program in browser on almost any device.
Auto-integrate into canvas / other LMS’s.
Purchase a personalised licence for your school (approx. $35 per year per student).
Show or hide the class name students are in.
Uses For Auralia
Year 7 initial diagnostic tests.
Saving time designing basic theory tests and marking them.
Students drilling concepts in their own time.
University aural skills classes and/or homework.
Private teaching – preparing students for exams.
Melodic dictations – instead of playing one for the whole class, having each student practice at their own level.
Would I Use Auralia?
I got to discussing this with my partner after class finished. It’s clearly a well designed software that’s continually improving itself based on feedback from its users – I enjoyed Peter taking notes from Larisa’s query about designing a standard diagnostic test.
However we’re not sure that we’d choose to buy a subscription – we don’t see ourselves using it enough. Software like Sibelius and Soundtrap (educational subscription – though I’m curious to see if Bandlab‘s free education program is on par) would be our first choices. Not only are they more versatile and more inspiring, but can create projects that can’t be replicate offline. Auralia saves time for teachers, sure, but it doesn’t add any new learning experiences for students.
We also recall that students who excelled in aural skills often acquired those skills outside the classroom. I personally gained a lot from group piano lessons I took as a kid, choral singing, and a drive to transcribe and arrange music (encouraged by my school music education).
And you know, Auralia’s a bit…boring. There are other ways to inspire aural & transcription skills:
Transcribing the beginning of the next piece we’re studying in class.
Integrating aural skills into rehearsals.
Listening to pieces and figuring out how to play them by ear.
Transcribing lead sheets (or whole pieces) for songs that don’t have notation readily available – and then playing these in class.
Arranging a song for the specific combination of instruments played by students.
It makes me think about the future of education. I’m realising how contactable people truly are. Teachers (music and otherwise) often teach in areas they aren’t necessarily experts in – consider the wide range of music genres in the year 7-12 secondary music course.
But what if we could always be taught by experts?
With the normalising of scheduled interviews and lectures via zoom, imagine a classroom where every few weeks we contact the Australian composer of the piece we’re studying, or a local Indigenous elder to speak about their musical culture, or a choral conductor to help improve our singing, or a member of a contemporary rock band, or a woodwind player to explain extended techniques, or a teacher from the school down the road who’s studied jazz history. The possibilities are endless.
Of course, in person guests are fantastic – I’m not advocating replacing composers in residence or touring bands or local guests. This is just another tool for enriching the learning experience.
Listening to my class lift pitch their projects was exciting – I may be helping Larisa and Lucy by testing their online makerspace tutorials with my band! It helps me out a whole lot, too – what a cool experience for the band kids.
Will continue trying to stay informed on both the disastrous and innovative impacts of COVID-19 on education. There’s lots of sharing and kindness going around.
Before covid-19 hit Australia and social distancing occured, I had an idea to connect A Cappella groups around the world through a virtual choir project, editing all the tracks myself. I’m fairly involved in USYD’s A Cappella scene (check us out on facebook/insta/youtube) and in 2019 we’d begun connecting with other A Cappella groups from Macquarie Uni and UNSW, and met Whim’n’rhythm while on tour in Australia. Not to mention each year some of our beloved singers leave us for their home countries, having been at USYD as international or exchange students.
I wanted to reach outwards, and the virtual choir would be only one way of doing so. We could contact each other and spread our arranging and directing tips, supporting others with similar interests!
And then The Whole Situation has happened (is happening) and I find myself focusing on the circles closer to me rather than reaching outwards. Besides, I figure USYD’s Barbersoc will end up making a virtual choir video at some point – but it doesn’t have to be a project that I drive.
Can I Collaborate Online Without Making A Virtual Choir?
Yes, of course. Since my foray into Soundtrap I’ve been toying with the idea of improvising in small groups. A friend of mine from Barbersoc (hi, Marc) organised a composing activity on the collaborative notation software, Flat.io. Each participant had 3 minutes to add dynamics, notes, rhythms, anything to the score, then would pass it into the next person, ultimately creating a song together. I’d love to try a similar thing on Soundtrap, using our voices to create a cover of a well known song, or an entirely new improvisation.
I could expand this into a website where anyone in the world could join in, get sorted into groups and create music at set times, take part in a mass Acapella Arranging Project. I think this would challenge me musically (and socially), but not so much technologically. I’ll update this, though, with an example of the project – if it ever gets off the ground.
Besides, remember my desire to connect the acapella nerds around the world? Two big names in the American acapella game – Ben Bram and Shams Ahmed – have smashed it. Their public facebook group arranging+chill begun during quarantine, and has connected arrangers from all over the world to share their music, listen to other’s creations, and ask for advice. I’ve enjoyed the close contact to stardom – social media does allow many of us to interact on a more level playing field. Not only can I participate in discussions with some of my arranging heroes, but join in on exclusive weekly zoom workshops where Ben & Shams interview Eric Whitacre, Imogen Heap, Ed Boyer and Annette Philip (& many more to come)!
And I say exclusive, but it’s open to everyone who joins the public facebook group. I do love the internet sometimes.
What About School Ensembles?
I conduct two primary school concert bands, so earlier last term it suddenly became Very Relevant for me to know how to run a program entirely online. After brainstorming with James (thank you!), I devised a plan: online course over zoom each week, with all lessons and resources in a centralised LMS. The course would include weekly practice tasks to keep them playing, recording projects of our band music, creative composition and improvisation tasks – all focusing on keeping my band kids feeling happy and safe in our new routine.
This could be my tech project! I could definitely pour hours into this, filming tutorials and creating resources and paying to host an LMS. However I.. don’t actually want to do that. I ended up going with the simplest functional option: a wordpress website.
One of my bands didn’t take up the project, but the other did – we shall call them Unnamed Sydney Public School (USPS). I’d only been working with USPS for 2 weeks before lockdown – we’ve now rehearsed more via zoom than in real life.
This won’t be my tech project. The website is functional (and that’s enough) – I don’t plan on expanding the techiness of it. And I’m happy that we’re managing to bond as an ensemble over zoom each week. I introduced them to Soundtrap this morning, and our percussionist has already sent me a message with two songs they’ve made. Excited.
And My Final Idea: Could I Learn To Remix?
What can I say? Last week’s class inspired me. I want to create music. And this is the perfect time to learn how to use Ableton, given I’ve got the 90 days trial, and am confined to at-home projects.
This isn’t inherently an educational or collaborative project. But, if I can gain at least some production and remixing skills, I’ll be able to connect with kids interested in electronic music production, and communicate more effectively with them.
My idea is to remix one song to produce a four song album. It’s inspired by Andrew Huang’s 4 PRODUCERS FLIP THE SAME SAMPLE series, except I’m all 4 producers. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? It only took experienced producers a day of work each to remix the sample, I’m sure I can manage in a few weeks, right?
Upon further discussion with James, he’s suggested remixing something of significance, having an agenda behind it. I’ll be doing some thinking and research on what song to pick.
Before last weeks class, I knew nothing about remixing.
A very cool friend who I admire dearly asked me to create music for two animation projects for uni! This request came right after I’d worked on a Soundtrap cover, so was feeling more confident than ever before in my electronic music producing capabilities.
My Process: Fish Animation
Received a brief from my friend, approximate timing, and a filmed mock-up of the animation (based off their real-life fish tank), and played around on the piano until I was pleased with the results. This became the demo.
Over the next few days began reproducing the demo in Soundtrap. Decided to keep it all MIDI production rather than recording live: I do love recording my voice and adding all sorts of effects, which I thought could suit the animation, but with MIDI I could create the whole track and then easily change the tempo to suit the finalised length of the animation.
I created the bass, melody, musical effects, and sound effects mostly in that order, though obviously re-editing and adding sound all over the place (20 tracks altogether). My inspiration for sound was the theme from Finding Nemo (absolute goals)… though a lot less beautiful.
Bass: I soon realised my love of layering multiple Soundtrap instruments to create one sound. This is three instruments, a piano-type for the two-note chords and two low flutes for the bass.
Melody: This was a pain to program into MIDI, since I don’t own any MIDI instruments. I tried playing it in with my computer keyboard, but the timing was quite tricky and quantising took a while (yes, I only just realised the automatic button for this). Ended up writing my melodies straight into the keyboard roll, made peace with the fact that strict timing > rubato piano from the demo, and then layered the vibraphone line with a glockenspiel.
And look. I say it was a pain to program, but it was still relatively fast: took me about the same amount of time as writing in traditional notation on Sibelius or Musescore. May be doing more music production in Soundtrap (or other DAWs) from now on.
Musical Effects: Six tracks that added little flourishes, countermelodies, the pulsing effect, and the zap at the end of the track. For the warm pad (high countermelody) I enjoyed playing into the computer keyboard, making mistakes and keeping it anyways.
Sound Effects: This is where we collaborated the most: negotiating and agreeing on the neon light, flickering, uncomfortable depths, muffled voices. My friend gave me the exact frame that the ‘camera’ switched, and I added it into the Soundtrap track. There were 30 fps in the animation, and I Thanked the Gods that I’d set the music for 60bpm, because then Soundtrap’s timecode was locked to my beats. I am pleased that it lines up exactly with the animation, it makes me feel like a Real Film Composer.
My Process: Classroom Animation
This is how I want the music to feel.
Upon realising what emotion I was trying to capture (there were a few unsuccessful demos previous to it), I was reminded of the song Afterglow by CHVRCHES, and created a demo track from it.
Once I began production (sorry again Eni for the last minuteness), I soon realised that I wanted to keep the chord progression from the chorus of Afterglow – but as the animator explained, give it more depth and drama.
Begun with two Soundtrap projects open, one for recorded vocals and one for MIDI strings. These were both chord progression loops, aiming for a depth of sound with a little fuzziness. (The bass sound in the vocals is my voice, but pitch shifted two octaves down.)
Next were the guitar tracks. Wrote the line at the piano, reproduced it in Soundtrap. Created the high track first, it didn’t feel frantic enough so I added the mid track at double speed, and then transposed it down another octave just for fun. The amount of reverb and delay on the low track makes me pleased – gives the song even more depth. They sound awesome combined.
Downloaded the projects individually and began mixing the stems in a new Soundtrap project (definitely picked up these terms only a week ago in class), editing volume and reverb and locking in everything to the timecodes from the animator.
Realised some sort of melody was needed, so wrote a sort-of brass chorale (again, with the support of a keyboard – it’s the instrument that really helps me know chords), duplicated the Soundtrap tracks over octaves and added it to the main project.
Last addition to the track was the ringing sound. It took us time to figure out when exactly the music would come back in, whether to leave the start of the explosion silent or add a ringing sound or add ringing and music, and Eni settled on the last one (making sure the ringing sounded like tinnitus).
Boy I am learning a lot about lossless audio. All my stems are mp3s. Ah well, it does sort-of work for the explosion that there are a lot of particles in the soundtrack.
Here’s a slightly less lossy track:
I’m loving creating and producing music in Soundtrap, it’s plowing straight through all my writing blocks. My previous musical knowledge from playing in concert bands, studying percussion, binging youtube, and arranging for acapella is delightfully amalgamating in creating these projects. Keen to continue exploring.