Gigajam – UK
Secondary school students composing songs using technology
This case study shows how an English secondary school uses the GIGAJAM program to help students compose songs.
Tiverton High School, a specialist arts college for 11-18 year olds of all abilities uses some of the latest technological developments in music education. The music department wanted to give every child the chance to start learning a musical instrument with a particular focus on 12 and 13 year old (year 8) students. Teachers chose the Gigajam Essential Skills Course which is an e-learning programme designed for schools to develop instrumental skills.
III. The Example
Two classrooms were adapted for teaching Gigajam lessons. One was set up with enough computers to accommodate five guitars, five bass and 15 keyboard players. A small practice room provided space for five drum kits. The second teaching room and practice rooms were set up with equipment for five working rock bands within each.
The whole of Year 8 (250 children) had the opportunity to learn the guitar, bass, keyboards or drums for an hour a week for a full year. In order to continue with this approach the department has now written a new scheme of work to support these budding musicians into Year 9. Within each class, each group selects a preferred song file from a given list – listening to and downloading the MP3 song of choice.
Teacher- led instrumental support helps students access the parts. Students then use Gigajam software to support the learning of their own part of the song – at their own pace, see Using Gigajam . Once students have become familiar with their own instrumental part - by using Gigajam’s software - they move on to the process of playing the simple verse/chorus AB structure as a band. Groups are given a CD player and often play along to the MP3 files at this stage. A topic is given as a focus, such as – Valentine Rock – students research this topic and compose 4 line stanzas for a verse and chorus. Although the teacher provides tutoring for this process – practical experimentation is encouraged, see Working out Lyrics and Melodies for Valentine Rock . Students often develop their melodies by singing along to the MP3 files accessed from the network. In the final stages of rehearsing, groups are encouraged both to experiment with the song structure – composing ‘middle 8s’ etc. and to consolidate key aspects of the style, finally aiming to create their own individual style Working it out together for the first time and Valentine Rock - Year 9 Songwriting - Final Perfomance .
Teachers assess progress and achievement through formative assessment of musical outcomes and through student self assessment focusing on their musical understanding of the process. This is done through a short focused interview with each student Interview - Self Peer Assessment .
Ian Wright, Head of Music at Tiverton High School says:
“One of the most rewarding aspects of the programme has been the unrivalled enthusiasm many of the students have shown towards their lessons and the incredible progress some individuals have made. It really has brought out the best musical talent in every child. Another very positive effect from the experience has been the number of students starting to take up instrumental lessons with an instrument they have begun to master in the classroom, and, of course, the emergence of student rock bands.”
“A sizable majority of students are well motivated to succeed and are quite competitive in achieving high percentage scores from the Analyser software. However, the transfer from successful scores on the computer does not necessarily ensure a smooth transition to the ‘real’ instrument. One hour a week in reality is not a great deal of time. A major plus factor though is that there are many more students showing an interest in learning an instrument than before they had experienced Gigajam.”
A further assessment of this work can be found in the internet.