Earlier this year I was invited to do a short 2-hour class on GarageBand on the iPad at Caroline Chisholm Day, 2012, Chisholm Primary Bligh Park. The class consisted of primary school students from year 3 to 6. I had never done anything like this before so I was keen to see how I could engage students in experimenting and learning about musical instruments and musical concepts using Garage Band on the iPad.
My set up was the iPad hooked up to a data projector; sound out to a small mixer and out to stereo speakers. It is important you have good sound and are not just using the iPad speakers, as it does not do bass very well. It just sounds better with proper speakers.
This is what I had as a running sheet on the day:
11 - Introduction
11:05 - Drum kit (if ever stuck, hit the “?” button) and play
11:15 - Smart drums and play
11:25 - Smart strings and play
11:35 - Smart bass
11:40 - Smart keyboard, Let It Be and play
11:50 - Smart guitar and play
12:00 - Smart piano and play
12:10 - Groups, settings and Jam Session
12:20 - Learn song
12:50 – Performance
As you can see I focused on the instruments and the basics, no recording and basically not going to the “track view” side of things at all. This was mostly to keep it fun within the 2-hour time limit. Basically what I did was go through each of the instruments and give each instrument 10 minutes class time (3-4 minutes instruction, 6-7 minutes play time) except for Smart Bass as it is not too interesting and is pretty much the same as Smart Guitar.
It is imperative that all the kids have headphones. Number one, because you don’t want 30 different noisy iPads going at once and number two, because during your instruction it is very easy to look at who still has their headphones on. Make sure you give them enough time to explore each instrument, as they might find out things on their own without you even telling them.
What I didn’t do was allow more time for the very robust piano instrument. There are a lot of things to do with this instrument because of all the synth instruments as well. I also found that the kids wanted to show what they had discovered and share it with the class and me to which I obliged for a couple of kids.
At the “Learn Song” point, I over estimated what was possible in 30 minutes. I had intended to get them all in small bands calling out drummers, keyboard players and guitarists and give them pre-made set up iPad sessions. This actually worked quite well with not much fuss and I thought I had given them good instructions with pages like this:
Now, I’m not a teacher and I went into this pretty blind as to what the students were capable of. I showed a colleague what I had planned and he seemed to think it was good. But as you can see, there are settings to be changed and, if you didn’t know what the tabs were, you would be a little lost even though they look very simple. This had to be added to the fact that they all had to be taught Jam Session just before they went into their groups. I ended up having to go to every group and set them up which took 10 minutes out of the scheduled time. The year 3 group didn’t have a chance. They even questioned their choice of doing Music on iPads as their chosen class.
I now realize that it was a little overambitious for primary school kids although a couple of the groups almost got to the point of playing together. It is probably better for early high school students. I just wanted to give them the chance to get the feeling of playing in a band together. It is an amazing feeling when you get it right and I think more kids should experience this. I hope you can learn from my experience in your own class.