The Digital Music Production Workshops are now in full-swing! The third session, which focused on drum machines, was held last Saturday, February 7th. Resources from the class can be found here.
To launch the session's theme of drum machines and drum patterns, Charles Burchell and MegManMusic (Manny Oquendo) led the youth participants in a call-and-response icebreaker exercise. The group's feet acted as a metronome and set a communal tempo. The teaching artists then clapped out beats and the group would respond by repeating the pattern. After the teaching artists demo-ed the exercise, youth participants were encouraged to step up and lead the group. This exercise then morphed into the Organic Orchestra exercise, which has been a staple of the workshops. During the organic orchestra, small groups of participants are assigned an acapella 'instrument.' A conductor then creates an improvised composition by cueing each part and layering the different sounds. The students are becoming more comfortable with the exercise and in this session they even started volunteering to take the role of conductor.
After the warm-up exercises, we transitioned into a discussion about the drum machine, and a demo of drum machines - both old and new. The teaching assistants had pulled together an amazing array of drum machines that provided a complete picture of the history of the drum machine. Charles and Manny lead the discussion and demos chronologically, starting with an Ace Tone drum machine and working their way up to an SP-404. The lesson also featured clips of Araab Muzik and Jeremy Ellis performing on drum machines.
After a short lunch break, the students split into small groups to begin the production portion of the workshop. The groups worked to complete their tracks from the previous workshop, and then turned their attention to building a new track with the day's lesson on drum machines fresh in their minds.
The Building Beats team spent some more time interviewing students during the break-out sessions. It was great hearing their perspectives on the workshops, as well as their musical inspirations, career aspirations, and favorite eats.
When the afternoon wound down, the small groups came together to share out the work they had produced. As the small groups dive deeper, it’s becoming evident that they’re exploring different sounds and themes in their music. SpazeCraft One’s (Aaron Lazansky) group had spent the previous workshop starting a thematically 'heavy' song, but the one they produced during Saturday's workshop was described by the group as summer-y and upbeat. The throughlines of the larger group activities could also be seen in the works created by the small groups - one of the compositions featured the same beat pattern that had been developed during the organic orchestra.
The students are beginning to settle in to the sessions! They’re forming new bonds with their peers and their instructors as they continue to explore the art of digital music production. It’s a blast watching them learn, practice, and present their work. We can’t wait for the next session!
The next workshop session will be held on Saturday, February 28th.