Monthly Archives: April 2010

Teaching, parents and common sense

This is nothing to do with strings or arranging!  I spent a day with my 9 year old son, Dom, yesterday, doing a bit of home educating, because there was no school on Monday (staff training) and he missed the last 3 days of last term, and because I wanted to.  I’d read Curriculum 21 on holiday (very accessible, even as a parent) and I’ve requested the Home-School-Relationships book from FutureLab, so I’m buzzing about the learning revolution that technology has ignited everywhere…..except in schools it seems.

We didn’t do anything extraordinary, no awesome creativity, just some music practice, a bit of music theory, some writing about the origins of snowboarding, some maths exercises (fractions), learned some French words and names of continents and countries.  Wherever possible, we found some fun, interactive exercises online.

Our day working together made me realise I have little idea of what my son is learning, day-to-day, at school.  We meet the teacher a couple of times a year for parents’ evening and each term we get a sheet outlining learning outcomes and topics.  He has some homework. We don’t elicit (or expect!) much daily information from Dom, though snippets do trickle out!  But I don’t know what specific things he is studying and what particular challenges the learning presents.

And that got me thinking how valuable it would be if the teacher tweeted or blogged about the daily topics for her learners, so that parents could support the learning beyond the classroom.  No specifics about individuals of course, just an overview of what’s hot in the classroom and what the children can do to follow on from their classroom activities.

Playing devil’s advocate, this would mean an additional responsibility for the teacher.  But frankly, in our connected, collaborative world, if something like this isn’t perceived as requisite then teacher education is failing our generation.

Reading Curriculum 21, I was both inspired and disillusioned.  If this new vision of how and what to learn to survive in this century is a manifesto for change, it would most likely take many years to reach my son’s schools, while teachers’ typical use of tech in teaching and learning is limited, so my own role in his education takes on even greater significance.  I feel he isn’t going to get these great opportunities (which will be the foundation of good citizenship and work-readiness), in school.

So it’s up to me and the more I see the value of tech in learning, the more critical I will become of a school system that doesn’t exploit it.

10 skills for a 21st Century musician

10 essential skills for the 21st century musician.

skillsI don’t expect another musician to agree with my list!  It is based only on my experience.  In much of the online discussions about being a musician in the digital age, there is an assumption that you are either an artist trying to sell your songs or you are a composer.
In reality, there are many musicians who are neither but are active in the music business and that’s the standpoint I’m coming from.

Play an instrument. An instrument gives you access to making music so what you play heavily influences your musical identity.  It is the medium that carries your most personal musical voice.

Record music on a computer. All those college courses that offer either music tech or music performance – bollocks.  You need both.

Read notation. Music is a language and notation is its written form.  It comes in really handy when communicating with other musicians and coping with complex ideas yourself.

Know some theory
.  Sure, we all feel music, it’s all about the sound, but if you understand how all those notes fit together you give yourself the chance to make more than just an instinctive use of them.

Compose. Even if you don’t class yourself as a composer, music is a creative business; dabble.

Arrange. So you have some musical ideas to say.  Arrangement is the ability to present them; to communicate them in a way that a listener can access.

Publish online. Life exists online, so don’t miss out.  Blogs, videos, podcasts, tweets, social networks, forums – these are the places you build your online identity and where you connect with the collaborators and customers.

Know the technology.  In order to publish more than just text online, get some skills in digital tech – video, audio, images, website construction.  Really, it’s not complicated.

Be a learner. I think there is a need to constantly update my skills and knowledge.

Evolve and adapt. If there is one surety about our world, it’s that it is ever changing – socially, culturally, economically.   If we can’t adapt to change we won’t evolve.

So, what have I missed?  What do you disagree with?

Disco Strings loops pack

Disco – it never really went away and its musical influence pervades many other genres, not least in the stylistic writing for strings that came out of the classic arrangements of the 70s.

So my 2nd loops pack for Loopmasters tackles the fun and emotion that characterises disco strings.

I’ve also made a video, demonstrating some of the features of strings in disco.

The pack costs just under 20 GB pounds and includes nearly 200 files, ranging from single pull-down stabs, to 8 bar phrases.  See the score for all the main loops as a Sibelius Scorch file here.  And post any questions about the pack below!

Special thanks to Bob Christie at Langdale Productions for his advice on disco and his copious reference material!