Top Ten Reasons to Enhance Your Elementary Music Classroom with Technology: #6 To Assist With Performances

As I continue this countdown to 2019, I come to #6: technology assisting with performances. Technology, as defined in this series, is to enhance the classroom in ways that traditional methods cannot or lack. This list of 10 items will end on January 1, 2019. It will be followed by a free webinar showcasing the ten tools in action. Please treat this list as a dessert buffet and to try one or two items on the list.

Enhancing Performances

Many elementary general music classes perform throughout the school year. Some of these performances include accompaniment tracks and manipulatives. Some concerns that occur are that the accompaniments tracks are not the correct tempo or key and the manipulatives are difficult to see. The manipulatives I am referring to are when I need to write out the Orff/recorder/ukulele parts for the students to use during the performance if they need a visual.

Accompaniment Tracks

Accompaniment tracks are a nice way to enhance performances as they give the audience a bit of “ear candy” from always having a live piano accompaniment. They also give you a chance to be in front of the students. For younger students, it can be helpful to be in front of them to direct them, especially if they need assistance with the lyrics.

When using accompaniment tracks, there are many things to consider. One is to make sure that you have monitors facing the students so that they can hear the track and not get off with it. Another is to make sure you can balance their sound with the accompaniment track. For this, a mixer is very helpful as well as asking a colleague to run the mixer to help with the balance. However, before all of this, the accompaniment track needs to work well with the students. Some tracks can be too fast or slow and some can be keyed too low or too high. Here is where technology can enhance the track to fit the needs of the students so that they can perform successfully.

Tempo

Figure 1

There are a few apps and programs that can help with successfully changing the tempo. Here are two that have worked well for me.

  • Audacity – Audacity has been around for years. It is a free multi-track audio editor that you can download onto your computer.
    • Once downloaded, launch the program.
    • I find a mp3 or mp4 file and drag it into the screen. If your music is in the cloud, please make sure to download the selection to the laptop.
    • Click on the “Effect” menu and scroll down to “Change Tempo” (see figure 1). 

      Figure 2
    • I experiment with the percentage. In this case, I slowed down the tempo by 5%.  (see figure 2). 
    • When finished, export the file by clicking on the “File” menu and scrolling down to “Export”. Since you need a separate program to export as an mp3, I export the file as an aiff file (since I am on a MAC/wav file would be for PC) and use that file as it sounds better than an mp3 file. However, if I need it to be an mp3 file, then I will convert it using iTunes (see figure 3).
      • To do this in iTunes, drag the file into the song menu of iTunes.

        Figure 3
      • Go to the “iTunes” menu and scroll down to “Preferences”.
      • Click on “Import Settings” and use the menu to scroll to “MP3 Encoder”.
      • Then click “OK” twice.
      • Now click on the song in iTunes.
      • Click on the “File” menu, scroll down to “Convert”, and then scroll over to “Create MP3 Version”.
      • iTunes will now create an MP3 version of the song.
  • Soundtrap – For the purposes of changing a tempo, the free Soundtrap version will work successfully. Soundtrap can do so much more. The EDU version allows students to create music, record music, collaborate with other students in other areas of the world to make music, create podcasts to share their musical knowledge, and more. Soundtrap is cloud-based and can be accessed from most devices from laptops, to chromebooks, to iPads. As stated by Mic Wright of www.thenextweb.com, Soundtrap is “the lovechild of GarageBand and Google Docs.”
    • Create a free account at soundtrap.com.
    • Launch the studio.
    • Drag the song file onto the studio screen.
    • At the bottom of the screen, there is a tempo marking, which defaults to 120. Change the tempo marking and the tempo of the track will adjust to the new tempo marking with very little, if at all, affect to the pitch. (see Figure 4).

      Figure 4
    • To export this file, click “Save” at the top of the screen. I would also retitle the file.
    • Once saved, click the download icon and it will save to your laptop or google drive, depending on the device that you are using.

Key Change

  • Audacity 
    Figure 5
    • Follow the steps above to bring the file onto the screen.
    • Click on the “Effect” menu and scroll down to “Change Pitch”.
    • If I know the song’s original key, I will use the tool that states the original key and the key I would like it to go to. If not, I will use the percentage tool (see figure 5)
    • Then I listen and if I like it, I would export it as stated above.
  • Soundtrap
    • Follow the steps above to bring the file onto the screen.
    • Click the “Edit” menu. It could be the one on the top of the screen or the one within the track.

      Figure 6
    • Scroll down to “Change Pitch” and then determine how many half steps you would like to change the song (see figure 6).
    • Then you listen and if you like it, you can export it as stated above.

Manipulatives

Figure 7

This year, I needed to take the manipulatives I created on the SMART Board and transfer them to print so the students could use them if needed during the concert. In figure 7we used the disco version of Deck the Halls by Teresa Jennings to perform on Boomwhackers. An audience favorite, this song was amazingly performed by my second and third grade students. By the day of the performance, they were rarely looking at the manipulative. However, I felt that they needed it to be able to gain the confidence to perform without it.

There are various ways to make manipulatives into a bigger, printed size. On some xeroxing machines, there is an option to do this. However, on the day that I needed to make this manipulative big, I did not have much time. I quickly googled it and found out that if I took a screen shot of the manipulative, placed it in Excel, and then enlarged it by clicking the side of the picture and dragging it to make it larger, it will now print over multiple papers. I did just this and taped the large manipulative together. It worked wonderfully and saved me time from trying to write up a whole new manipulative on easel paper (I have usually done this in the past).

Check back tomorrow for #5! We are half way to ringing in the new year!

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