First week back

Just some details about how I start out a new batch of students each semester.

The first week for brand new level I’ers is all about play. Why? Because most of these students, musicians or not, have no idea what to do with a piece of music software. Here’s how I got their toes in the water this time around.

Day 1: The demo
I show how GarageBand lets you write a song in 5 minutes or less. This is important to stress. “Real” musicians know that I’m talking about the loop library, and that doesn’t exactly count as writing a song but to most students this doesn’t matter. The sheer fact that they are clicking a button and hearing something brand new to them is novel, and an important hook to the class.

I show them how to drag loops into the arrangement, how to play/pause, and maybe how to plink on the keyboard.

Day 2: More buttons
Now we still work with loops, but I’m focusing little 7-10 minute segments on different controls. Solo/Mute for instance; I show them how it works, and then for 7-10 minutes they experiment with the behavior of these track controls. I do the same for volume/pan automation. Hear that engineers? I have them start automation on Day 2!

I also show them how to record their voice on the microphone and add effects. This is another hook. Remember, students can drop classes in the first week/week and a half so hooks are very important. P.S. they love “Helium Voice”.

Day 3: Conversation
I extend the voice recording to two tracks, and we do a mini project. I pan each track opposite L/R all the way. Then, I record myself having a conversation…with myself. One person is on track 1, the other is on track 2. Then, I tell them to apply effects so it sounds like two different people talking. Darth Vader talking to a mouse, for instance. Totally fun, totally non-threatening is the key. Haven’t talked about any music terms beyond volume and pan yet.

Day 3 was Friday for us, so I’ll keep you posted. This week is going to be about song forms, so we use those loops to make something reminiscent of the backgrounds to a pop song.

Author: Will Kuhn

I teach music technology to high schoolers. I do some other stuff too. @willkuhn on Twitter.