Answer a musical calling

10th February 2006 at 00:00
Glyn Tiltman keyed into his pupils' love of mobile phones to get them creating their own musical ringtones As December discussions of Christmas lists developed in the Year 3 class at St Thomas Primary School, alongside the games consoles and the Bratz dolls, one item made a popular appearance - a mobile phone. By happy coincidence, at the same time the ICT scheme of work required pupils to use software to develop music ideas through the organisation of sounds.

In a key stage 2 survey, carried out by colleagues as part of a General Teaching Council for Wales grant looking at raising boys'

achievement in literacy using ICT and the visual media, it became evident that many children, especially boys, were highly interested in music and mobile phones. So we decided to exploit this to create a cross-curricular ICT, music and literacy project.

Pupils were divided into groups and tasked to design a mobile phone ringtone for a teacher in school. They were also challenged to compose their music to the named teacher's musical taste, thus providing pupils with the experience of creating and selecting sounds to produce a specific result. They listened to the teacher's favourite music track and appraised the piece, picking out instruments and describing the musical characteristics. They also recorded personal opinions of the music. Pupils then provided oral and written reports about the music tracks, responding to a range of stimuli and, meeting syllabus requirements, writing for a different purpose.

Sony's Super Duper Music Looper was the chosen software for the project.

Designed for six to nine-year-olds and allowing pupils to learn the basics of music-making, it records in a simple and enjoyable way. It uses similar principles to those used in other professional music creation software, allowing children an insight into ICT being used in the wider world.

The Music Looper contains samples - a vast variety of percussive, keyboard, string and horn sounds. Fun sound effects and vocals are included and pupils can record their voices and create their own effects. Due to the sheer quantity of loops (more than 700), they needed to explore the sound library. Pupils conducted research in groups, making notes of loops they thought were suitable for their genre of music.

The creation process couldn't have been easier. Pupils simply picked the instrument, vocal or other effect that they wished to use, and "painted"

the sounds into the track (see screenshot), then added extra loops to build up the texture of their composition. The software also allowed pupils to experiment with a range of other musical elements such as structure and duration. There were opportunities to consider what would happen to the composition if changes were made to the pace, pitch or dynamic. This allowed pupils to ask and answer "What ifI?" questions.

Pupils discussed and evaluated their creations while composing, making alterations and improvements on the fly. The children also gained experience in using ICT to organise, reorganise and analyse their ideas.

They worked collaboratively and developed communication skills.

Their compositions were good and reasonably accurate (and appealing enough to find their way to the mobile phone of The TES' ICT editor!). It's fair to say that the boundaries of rock and hardcore trance might have been relaxed a little; however, careers in the clubs of Ibiza undoubtedly beckon for some.

l Sony's Super Duper Music Looper costs pound;20 and can be purchased from Pugh

Glyn Tiltman is the ICT co-ordinator at St Thomas Primary School, Swansea.

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