Guest author: Tracy Plunkett

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The Most Important Things to Teach Students About Music Production

As a music teacher, you would know just how advanced music technology has become. In fact, you may have already started to include technology in your music lessons. For the most part, though, you probably stick to helping your students re-create music with the help of various programs and instruments.

Just imagine, however, if you could help them produce their own music as well? As you are aware, this technology does exist. These days, there are numerous independent artists who create their own music from beginning to end.

Teaching your students how to do this will allow them to have complete autonomy over their music. At the very least, it will help them become more creative. So, without further ado, here are the most significant elements you can pass onto your students in terms of music production:

Encourage Your Students to “Think in Music”

To a certain extent, music production and composition have a few things in common. The one thing you need to focus on and teach your students, though, is how to think in music. Let’s break this down so you can understand it better.

When composing music, you need to hear it in your head first. It is only then that you can put it down on a sheet of paper or translate it to an instrument. The same concept can be applied to production as well.

Most children are taught how to read music and then play it. While this allows them to reproduce pieces perfectly, it won’t help much with the creative process. To manage this, you need to encourage students to start hearing their own music, in their head.

This is something you can work on, even with younger students. Of course, they will need to have a rudimentary understanding of music theory and sounds. After this, give them the space to come up with their own melodies.

To start with, give them basic instruments to re-create their songs. Remember that, especially with younger students, it is going to sound quite rough. Rather than telling them that their songs sound wrong though, ask them “does this sound like you want it to?” With time, your students will become more adept at creating their own music, thus mastering the first step of music production.

Identifying the Right Production Technology

The next step in this process is teaching your students about the right technology to use, depending on their age and skill level. Believe it or not, there are actually apps that can introduce even the most junior students to music production.

For instance, Crayola DJ allows younger students to mix various genres of music in a rather simplistic manner. Then, there is Toc and Roll that provides kids with samples of instruments and allows them to create their own songs. Although these apps are very basic, they are a step in the right direction.

If you are teaching secondary or tertiary students who are more skilled, you may be able to skip ahead to DAW or digital audio workstations. These software are more sophisticated and the instrument samples are a lot more complex as well.

When teaching students how to navigate DAW, it is important not to jump straight ahead into the remix process. Rather, have children plan out how they will create their sample. While they can certainly change this plan, later on, they should have some idea of how they want to proceed.

Then, you can move onto showing them how the DAW functions and how to utilize it for their songs or remixes. Using samples you have created yourself is often a good way to show them how to use the software.

After this, it is time to start creating their own music. If you are teaching a class, it can be a good idea to have the students showcase their efforts afterward. You should also have them explain the process they went through and why they decided on this particular sound.

Teaching Students How to “Fix” Their Music

Music production isn’t just about creation, it is also about tinkering with a particular sample until it is perfect. This is why, once the children have mastered the concept of creating their own music, you need to move onto the final step.

Talk to your students about the pieces they have created and encourage them to listen to it section by section, carefully. Ask them to pinpoint the areas that sound just right and then to identify the spots that need tuning up.

Avoid trying to point out their mistakes yourself. After all, doing so won’t help your students build the skills they need. It is only if they are really struggling that you should step in and highlight some of the problem areas. At that point, it is a matter of getting the students to work on these pieces until they are satisfied with the end result.

These are the main elements to touch on when teaching students about music production. Of course, you need to keep in mind that due to the subjective nature of these lessons, it may take a while for them to grasp the concepts. With time, though, they are sure to become more proficient musicians.

About the Author

Tracy Plunkett is a self-taught music technician. Her passion for music and creating her own songs have allowed her to experiment with the various tech available on the market, helping her pick up a great deal about the equipment in the process. She now shares her skills and experience with anyone who is willing to learn.