Since St Cyres School has adopted the one-to-one iPad program, I have digitised all of the music department’s resources to allow me to teach in a paperless environment. This academic year I have become one-hundred percent digital.
I have just started a new unit of work with Year 7. The topic is called ‘Ostinato’, which is the Italian musical term for a melodic or rhythmic pattern that constantly repeats throughout a piece of music.
Ed Sheeran’s song ‘Shape of You’, Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ and Gotye’s ‘Somebody I Used to Know’ are all very well known number 1 hit songs that I use in class to demonstrate the use of ostinatos or more commonly known in pop music as ‘loops’. The loops are very short four beat patterns that repeat around and around throughout the songs whilst the structure, instruments, melodies, chords and other parts to the song create the unique sound.
The first task that I have set for Year 7 is to create their own ostinato (loop) composition. Before the pupils had their own iPads, I would usually give each student a piece of paper to write down the individual note letters of their loops and then learn to perform them on the keyboards. Once they were happy with their loop, they would then extend this task by adding notes or chords in the left hand and also try working with other pupils to create a more interesting and detailed piece. Due to the pupils only having one music lesson a week and for the majority of pupils this is the first time they have ever had regular music lessons, this process usually takes around three or four weeks to create the finished product.
As well as each pupil having their own iPads, in my class I am very lucky to have a suite of Mac Minis running Logic Pro X. Logic Pro X is Apple’s professional music production software which is used for producing the majority of records we hear on the radio today. How amazing that an eleven year old music student has the same tools available to them as their hit making idols such as Coldplay, Adele and Taylor Swift!
Within Logic Pro X there is a feature called Apple Loops. Apple Loops is a bank of pre-recorded highly professional sounding patterns to be used in your compositions or music productions. You can time stretch them and pick the correct key so they will always sound fantastic when multi-tracked together. You can choose from hundreds of loops including beats, synths, guitars, pianos, orchestral instruments plus many more. This was a perfect choice to use within the ostinato lesson.
The first part of the lesson was spent learning how to set up, start a new Logic Pro X session and how to access Apple Loops. Within twenty minutes of the pupils ever seeing the software they were on their way to professional sounding ostinato compositions. The whole class were engaged and really excited to create. The room was alive with each Mac Mini playing out high quality sounds as the pupils arranged their compositions.
Towards the end of the lesson the pupils were very proud to AirPlay their ostinato compositions to the classroom Apple TV. This allowed the whole class to see the loops the individuals used but more importantly hear how they sounded. We used this as a peer-assessment exercise and to give feedback on what went well and how to improve. The pupils were all very proud of their creations and they walked out of the class buzzing to return next week to continue working on them.
If the school didn’t have Apple technology and if we had remained with the paper composition sheets, the pupils would have probably only had time to compose their melodic ostinatos and practised performing them on the keyboards. Not only has Apple Loops sped up the composition process but the quality of work is far greater, allowing the pupils to achieve higher levels and proving the impact and success of Apple Technology at St Cyres School.