Learn to love technology

13th February 1998 at 00:00
There are still teachers who believe the term "music technology" to be a two-word culture clash. But Alistair Jones, education director of electronic musical instrument manufacturer Roland UK, says that "it only happens in music - in every other area of the curriculum nobody argues about the use of computers".

He believes that music teachers who shun technology risk losing pupils' interest and application. "Children are using computers and software in other subjects. If they then go to music and take a step back in time, how can teachers continue to engage their ability and creativity?" The immediacy offered by computers makes composition "a tactile experience", Mr Jones says. You play some music on a keyboard, save it in the machine's memory, listen to it, change it, and then save it again.

With a computer and software you can display what you have written as conventional music notation, without being able to read a note. Depending on your point of view, this is either a wondrous opportunity for the release of hidden talent, or a scandalous invasion of a jealously guarded secret garden. There, perhaps, is a hint of what makes some musicians and teachers feel uncomfortable.

Music technology terms and equipment

Electronic keyboard: now a basic school instrument. A bewildering choice, but for real creativity a built-in sequencer and MIDI are useful. Examples: Yamaha PSR 73 - a basic portable with four octaves and 100 "voices", about Pounds 70. Yamaha PSR 730 Disk Drive Keyboard. Five octaves. General MIDI, sequencer, 695 voices, about Pounds 750.

digital piano: an electronic alternative to an upright piano. Most have MIDI. Examples: Yamaha CLP 611, about Pounds 1,300; Roland HP136 or HP 236, about Pounds 1,000.

Module: an electronic box with sounds or effects to add to your computer package or MIDI-equipped instrument. Example: Yamaha MU10XG, about Pounds 150.

Synthesiser: a MIDI keyboard with the emphasis on creating your own sounds. Example: Roland XP 10, about Pounds 350.

Drum machine: makes drum sounds electronically. If they have MIDI, can be linked to your keyboard or computer to build up a percussion part andor you can play the drum machine live, with sticks.Example: the basic Yamaha DD9 (no MIDI), less than Pounds 80.

midi: a Musical Instrument Digital Interface keyboard will link to a computer or other MIDI-equipped instruments. A MIDI keyboard can be used with a computer music software package.

gm ("general midi"): a music industry standard that implies a high level of compatibility between, say, a keyboard, computer and software package.

sequencer: allows a piece to be composed note by note, then played back and edited. Some keyboards have sequencers built in. They are also available separately. Examples: Steinberg's simple "Cubase Lite" PCAtari software is less than Pounds 50. "Cubase Score" for PCMac, about Pounds 350, allows more sophisticated recording.

scoring software: a computer program for writing music, playing it back and printing it out. Example: "Personal Composer" at about Pounds 80. "Sibelius", for the Archimedes, comes at four levels from Pounds 100 to about Pounds 800. To set up a system with a keyboard, a computer and software, seek advice from a specialist supplier, such as Keyboards in Action (9 Boringdon Mill, Lister Close, Plympton PL4 4BA), which will give guidance and make up individually designed packages.

Gerald Haigh

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