In a theoretical school, there is a problem: one of the middle school choirs wishes to collaborate with a special education class on a vocal music project. The classes are unable to work in person, due to scheduling conflicts. In my Digital Lab class, my partner (a music therapy major) and I found a solution: the two classes could collaborate with technology. With the help of the choir teacher and music therapist, they could using recording technology to create a song, and then share it with friends/family/peers.
Below is our finished product, as well as our process.
The first step was to choose a song. We needed to utilize our pedagogical skills in suggesting a song that fit both middle school voices and special ed voices, including making a percussion element for non-vocal children in the special ed class. After deciding on “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” (well known by most middle schoolers), I found a choral arrangement for the middle school choir, and my music therapy partner arranged it to fit the needs/abilities of the special ed class. My partner arranged and recorded an accompaniment part to use as a guide for learning with her group. Depending on what the two groups wanted, the accompaniment could be left in or kept out of the final recording. We did not include it in our final piece, preferring only voice and percussion.
The next step was to record the parts. The middle school choir would record the harmonies while the special ed choir and music therapist would sing the melody and play percussion. During the recording process, I learned a lot about recording hardware and software. I used GarageBand to record the harmony tracks for the song, then doubled the tracks a few times to make the sound a bit more like a choir. I discovered how important setting a tempo was, so that all the tracks being recorded would sync up. This is especially important, since in a real situation each choir student would need to record on their own time, alone or in pairs. After some struggling with matching parts, my partner and I realized that the special ed class would need to record first, since they have a harder time with rhythm, and then the choir could record over their track so as to be more sure of keeping time. Also, since the special ed class had the melody, it would make it easier for the choir to record with it.
I learned how to edit tracks in GarageBand, so I didn’t have to re-record an entire voice part – I could simply cut and paste from a better track to replace the incorrect section. I had to learn how to split a track and connect it again, move parts of track separately and various pieces together at the same time, how to connect and use microphones with Garageband, and avoid the track being polluted with outside noise.
The next part was coordinating my partner and I’s efforts. We had much difficulty sharing files before we got the knack of zipping files, unzipping, using Dropbox (a file-saving and file-sharing website) and using SoundCloud. On SoundCloud, my partner and I created a group and we posted our rough mixes. Using this website, the people involved (students and teachers) can comment and make suggestions. Eventually, we finished the final project and posted it. In the scenario, students could then share their creation with anyone they chose.