To date, our digital music production workshops at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute have mainly employed digital audio workstations running on laptops. But with the advent of tablet and mobile computing, there are even more portable solutions for making music on the run. So this week we focused on making music with iPads - specifically, the iPad app BeatMaker 2.
To start the day, Saskia Lane and Manny "MegMan Music" Oquendo led the group in an "Instant Track" exercise. Manny acted as human metronome -- counting out and calling in different sections as the song progressed. Student participants provided a cappella percussion, Matt Aronoff provided a baseline, Saskia sang a melody, and Aaron "SpazeCraft One" Lazansky, Charles Burchell, and student participants each freestyled. As Charles pointed out after the exercise, performing in this manner was a great way to bring presence-of-mind to the sessions. While most of the digital production work is done in a digital environment where things can be endlessly tweaked, it's important to embrace the live component where mistakes can happen and help spark creativity.
The rest of the workshop time was devoted to learning and producing using BeatMaker 2. Manny led the group in a quick tutorial, then youth participants were given iPads to discover BeatMaker 2 individually or in small groups. After lunch, the youth were given the day's challenge. They were tasked with creating an instrumental track with an 8-bar hook and a 16-bar verse. The TA's provided support by floating from group to group answering technical questions or offering advice on the process of building a beat. The 'challenge' framework helped motivate students to the end-goal of creating a piece that would be shareable by the end of the class. The fact that the groups were no larger than 2 also allowed the youth to each set a comfortable pace for their learning. Advanced participants dug deep into BeatMaker's feature set, while others who were less familiar with beat making focused on mastering more basic functionality. There was also a great deal of peer mentorship going on within and between the small groups. As students discovered new features or functions in BeatMaker 2 they would share with each other and help answer each other’s questions.
The share session was particularly strong this week, as we had set aside ample time to play and discuss the student work. While not everybody was able to complete the full 'challenge' for the day, all of the participants had at least the beginnings of a track to share. It was particularly surprising to hear from the participants that didn't consider themselves producers. Working on BeatMaker 2 allowed even the more inexperienced students to create beats that impressed their peers and they all presented unique and personal music to the group.
The next workshop session will be held on March 28th, 2015.