Question: What type of music technology activities can I do with my middle school students?
This question has been popping up a bit lately on Facebook and in my emails. Here are a few engaging, fun and creative music tech projects that are perfect for middle school students in years 5-9.
1. Funny Voices
Students record themselves telling a story (part of a fairytale or Dr Seuss story works well) in software such as GarageBand, Mixcraft, Soundation or Audacity and then edit their recorded narration to create “funny voices” appropriate to the story. Select a section of the recorded narration (the WAV form) and apply preset effects in the software. Try creating a scary ogre, a high-pitched chipmunk voice, robots, aliens or a Darth Vader effect.
2. Guess My SFX Story
Students can work in groups to plan a short story – 3 sentences will do – and work out how they can tell the story with sound effects only. Record the sound effects and piece them together in the right order in your favourite audio recording/editing software. Other students try to guess the story by listening to the sequence of sound effects.
3. Rap My Name
Students write a 4-measure rap about themselves, based on a provided structure and then record a rhythmic backing to go with the rap. They can record their rap and the backing on laptop or iPad. Full instructions for this lesson can be found here.
4. Transform The Blues
If you’ve been teaching your students the 12 bar blues, get them to record the blues chord sequence in a different style in your favourite recording/sequencing software. This can be as simple as recording the basic 12-bar pattern on a guitar or keyboard software instrument and then adding an existing drum loop in an unexpected, non-blues style – like dubstep, trap, or a latin style. They can then improvise a blues melody over the top of their blues accompaniment. I have iPad instructions for a project like this here, but they could also be adapted for desktop software.
5. Movie Soundtracks
Find a short video (one minute or less is ideal) and ask students to synchronise sound to visuals. They can add sound effects to match action on-screen and then create mood music to match the scene. Software like GarageBand or Mixcraft is ideal since it allows you to import a video and create the soundtrack while watching the video. Tip: if you’re short on class time, students can choose pre-made loops instead of creating the music from scratch.
6. Video Game Composer
Along the lines of creating a movie soundtrack, students can compose music that matches different styles or mood or video games. Give students a choice of game styles and ask them to compose music that will evoke an atmosphere for the player. Style examples might include happy and light music for a light-hearted platform game, battle music for a war game, fast-paced music for a car-chase game and so on.
7. Introducing Remixing – A Quick Start
Incredibox is a free interactive website. It’s lots of fun and great to use as an introduction to arranging or remixing. Students can plan a “performance” of the Incredibox dudes which demonstrates a variety of arranging decisions. They can then record their remix using by clicking the record button at top left. This blog post walks you through the basics.
8. The Mystery Remix
Choose a well-known pop song with a simple chord progression (but don’t tell the students what it is!). Songs with cyclical chord progressions work well – I have some listed on my Pinterest account