Music - Sounds like progress

16th March 2012 at 00:00
The benefits of online materials are worth trumpeting

It was not so long ago that I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end and my palms and brow begin to sweat as I struggled to bring a video player to heel. Behind me was a class of rowdy Year 11s, who will only wait about 30 seconds for any show to start.

The video player has now been replaced with a computer, an interactive whiteboard and a variety of techno bits and bobs. And as music teachers, the need for the virtual dimension to be part of our teaching has never been more pressing.

On the front line is the amazing array of video clips that bring music alive. Rusty on raga? Jaded about jazz? Video sources such as YouTube, Channel 4 Clipbank or listening guides from the Philharmonia Orchestra can provide a quick virtual trip around the world, and all before the bell rings. Howard Goodall has been teaching virtually in my classroom for years. He has an incredible ability to explain music clearly, providing engaging musical examples and packing it all into a coherent programme.

And this is just the beginning. Powerful software programs such as Sibelius enable pupils to explore notation, while Logic and Traktor Scratch open up the respective worlds of recording, sequencing and DJ'ing. SmartMusic is a versatile practice tool to develop pupils' performance skills, while Band-in-a-Box places a huge range of styles, parts and instruments at your fingertips - perfect for the lone ranger music teacher who has only a piano for pedagogical company. Visiting nearby schools to see what they are using can be a good start.

Then there is the humble virtual learning environment. Steering clear of copyright material is important, but it can house pupil compositions, teachers' musical examples and exercises, and much more besides. I was stunned last year when I looked at the number of GCSE music pupils at my college who were actively accessing music resources in the weeks immediately before their final exam. It made all the hard work to set it up worthwhile.

It is hard to imagine my music classroom without my virtual teachers. Certainly, it is a long way from my video player days, when pupils huddled round a flickering TV. No doubt there will be new apps even by the time I have finished writing this. Your pulse may or may not be racing at the thought of the technology available, but it will always be good to keep your finger on it.

Anthony Anderson is subject leader for music and an advanced skills teacher at Beauchamp College, Leicestershire

What else?

Anthony Anderson has shared a number of suggestions for programs and resources to inspire modern musicians.

Are there technophobes among your classroom composers? Why not try Old Guit's last-minute top tips for the Cubasis software.

For all links and resources visit

From the forums

Can you recommend good music software for a GCSE group? A teacher in the TES music forum wants to know how best to spend their budget.

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