Why Technology? (Part 1)

"Quite simply, using music technology more frequently and more effectively to create, perform, record, appraise and improve pupils’ work is central to improving inclusion and the quality of assessment of music” (Ofsted 2012)

As someone who has been using music technology for over a decade, the benefits of technology for the children and young people I teach seemed obvious to me. One of the most encouraging aspects of putting together the funding bid for the Music/Mobile Tech project was getting to reinforce this instinctive understanding with research. With this series of blogs, I hope to share some of my findings with you. But first, I'd like to share a part of my own story with music technology.

There are two defining moments, over the past decade, that have helped me to more clearly see how technology can be used to unlock creative potential. Both of these moments involve this Korg sampler:

I was 19 when I first brought a Korg ESX1 sampler and, it quite simply, changed the way I thought about music and my relationship to music changed completly.

Before owning an ESX1, I had been a drummer, and a drummer only: tuned percussion wasn't for me; guitars were for my brother and I had never got on with piano either. But when melody was presented to me as a sequence of steps, ready to be manipulated through evolving changes, it was suddenly accessible to me in a way that made sense to my drummer brain. It wasn't that there was anything particularly magical about that piece of Korg gear, rather, it was just that it was a way of creating music that worked for me. It felt accessible to me in a way that no other way of making music had felt before.

Sampling and sequencing in this way unlocked a whole new world of creativity for me. I started writing and composing music. I started recording music. I started performing that music live. I started to learn about intervals and chords: where there were gaps in my knowledge of the melodic aspects of music theory, I filled them in as I went along. I moved on to sequencing and recording with more advanced computer software and eventually ended up going to university to study Popular Music Production. It was a journey that started with a sampler, but led me much further that I could possibly have imagined at the time.

This leads me on to my second defining moment: the day I saw the £600 piece of hardware that had unlocked my own creativity as a £15 app on the iPad.

I had been using my iPad for making music for a while when I saw the Korg iElectribe app on the App Store and so it wasn't that I'd never considered the possibility of the iPad for making music, but rather it was a clear realisation that came following seeing the expensive hardware that had unlocked my own creative journey as an affordable and accessible piece of software.

And it's not just one app. The iElectribe app is available alongside countless other pieces of software. Each piece of software with its own workflows, each waiting to unlock the creative potential of another young mind, just like the Korg ESX1 had unlocked mine.

Whether it's the "Smart Instruments" in GarageBand making chords accessible and understandable, or the way visually sequencing in Auxy or Beatwave makes scales and intervals come alive, the power of the iPad is in the way the software opens up new routes in to making music. For me, the Music/Mobile Tech project is about harnessing that sense of possibility, and using it to help young find their own way in to making music.