Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ten Ideas for Using GarageBand on iPads in the Classroom

Hello strangers--it's been a while! Who knew that raising three kids while teaching full time and conducting a little orchestra on the side could be so hectic? Okay, that does seem obvious now that I write it down. Sorry to say, the blog has been on a waaaay back burner for quite some time. Time to stir the pot!

Since the NCMEA conference in November, I've been meaning to post blog versions of the handouts from my tech sessions. Today's post is from my "iPad Projects that Work" session. I know lots of teachers and students who love GarageBand, but sometimes it's hard to turn that fun exploration into a definable project. The desktop version of GarageBand is more powerful (though the iOS version is catching up quickly), but I love using GarageBand on the iPad in the classroom because kids are naturally drawn to the virtual instruments over the built-in loops. If Apple figures out how to bring a video track into the iOS version of GarageBand, I'll be in nerd teacher heaven!

10 Ideas for Using GarageBand on iPads

  • Give students a chord progression that fits with a song you're singing or playing on instruments. Have them create accompaniments for the song using Smart Instruments. Optionally, record the song over each accompaniment.
  • Teach about scales and modes by improvising melodies on virtual instruments with scale restrictions turned on.
  • Explore popular styles by creating songs using a single category of built-in loops (i.e., Urban, Blues).
  • Lead student songwriters through a studio recording experience as they record each part of their song onto separate tracks.
  • Load a premade accompaniment into GarageBand (easily done through iCloud) and have students compose or improvise additional tracks on recorder, voice, or virtual instruments.
  • Arrange students into bands and show them how to have a Jam Session.
  • Teach about I-V-I, I-IV-V-I, etc. using smart guitar, strings, or keyboard.
  • Have each student record one rhythmic or melodic “snippet” into an audio track. This works well with recorders or xylophones arranged into a pentatonic scale. Individually or as a class, rearrange and/or loop the snippets to create a single song.
  • Keep a class collaborative song in the cloud or on one iPad that each student may add to during free or project time. Depending on the maturity of the students, you may need to create strict rules about modifying vs. erasing other students’ contributions.
  • Show students the joy of your first Casio keyboard by recording sounds into the built-in sampler. Challenge students to create interesting songs from their sampled instruments.

And a few hints:

  • Use headphones! Splitters are inexpensive and very useful for pairs and small groups.
  • Be aware that it is VERY easy to edit other students’ songs, and that GarageBand automatically opens into the most recent song. Teach students to return to “My Songs” before quitting, rename their files to something recognizable, and sort the songs into folders by class or group. If you are not saving documents in iCloud, students will need to use the same iPad each class.
  • Teach to the concept you’re covering, but don’t overteach how to use the app. You’ll be amazed how quickly students of all ages will learn all its features simply by exploring.

Do you use GarageBand in your teaching? Please share your ideas and tips in the comments!

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