And on keyboards...

26th January 2007 at 00:00
Want your pupils to compose and play music but don't have the instruments?

Don't worry, all you need is a computer, says Stephen Manning

Why not get your class to play along to Bach's greatest hits or compose a tune using the pentatonic scale. What? You don't have a grand piano for each child in your classroom? Then just use your Qwerty keyboard. Smart Skool, The Virtual Music Room is a new online resource for key stage 3, which enables pupils to learn about, and play, music in the classroom or at home, even if they don't have access to real instruments. The "Qwerty Synth" function allows you to use certain keys on your computer keyboard to play along to melodies or even improvise your own.

The resource, published by Smart Learning Concepts, was created and written by Andy Richardson, head of music and ICTAC co-ordinator (information communication technology across the curriculum) at Admiral Lord Nelson School, a comprehensive in Portsmouth, Hampshire. He has been working on it for about a year and it will continue to be developed and updated according to user feedback.

There are lessons on the building blocks of music - sound, elements, notation, form and a section on pentatonic music, a five-note scale as in the black notes of a piano. This last ties in with the global flavour of the resource. Although most are associated with Chinese music, examples of pentatonic music can be found all over the world. Auld Lang Syne and Amazing Grace, for example, are both pentatonic tunes, and you can play along to these with the score provided, using the E, R, T, U, I and P keys on your keyboard.

The lessons are supported by quizzes and accompanied by a guitar practice room, a virtual keyboard, plus a section on how instruments work and what they sound like.

The Great Composers section lets pupils hear, and then play along to, some of the composers' most familiar pieces. This section is a work in progress, with Scott Joplin, the ragtime composer whose best-known work was The Entertainer, about to join the likes of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. The composers are on hand, via an actor's voice, to talk about their life and work. "Could this be the best tune ever written?" asks Mozart about Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. "Some folks thought so. It's certainly catchy."

A school licence is pound;199 for a year. Visit for more details

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