Setting up the Right Template for Students

As students try electronic based music for the first time with hardware it is important to set them up for success.  Music software and hardware can be daunting the first time.  As music instructors how can we set up templates so students can immediately feel the power of the equipment and the potential of their own creativity?

At our school we work with middle school students.  We use primarily Ableton with Maschine loaded as a plug-in.  I have found that loading up a drum kit on Maschine and having a classic sounding synth, keyboard or piano loaded on Ableton is most effective in giving students an immediate sense of awe and inspiration.  With both track armed in Ableton students get the excitement of playing a drum pad and getting a quality drum sound which almost always surprises them in a positive way.  When they reach to the Novation Launchkey they play a note and get a nice sounding synth.  Psychologically they already feel success just by playing the simple notes, and hearing the sounds.  For many of them this is the first time they have played with music in this way.

Important aspects to consider are:

  • what is the age group of the students?
  • what software and hardware do you have access to?

Although this is a simple template it seems to work well in accomplishing the goal of scaffolding students for success. What are some templates you have found that have worked out well when working with students?

Selecting the Right Midi Keyboard for your Educational Program

When it comes to selecting a MIDI Keyboard for a school music program the options can be kind of overwhelming.  There are many competitors that offer similar features, yet some of the detailed features are very important to look at.

Some of the key aspects to think about are:

  • number of keys
  • the overall goals of your program or class
  • the space you are working in
  • power supply
  • what device will it be used with (i.e. tablet, computer)
  • do you need knobs and pads and what do you want to use them for?

In our program we use Ableton Live so I wanted to get a keyboard that worked well with that program.  Although students have iPads we decided that being able to use it with a computer was more important.  I wanted to find a keyboard that was able to have transport control, launch clips, had knobs that were mapped to the program as well as have some pads that were good for drumming.  These features are all important to the students education in the program so a keyboard with these features was critical.

To narrow down my options I looked for video overviews that could be useful about the product.  One of the best YouTube channels I have found for this style of production is Sounds and Gear.  There are tons of reviews and resources available on this YouTube channel and the website

For our particular program we narrowed it to the LaunchKey Series and Akai APC Key 25.  In the end we went with the LaunchKey because the pads double as both drum pads and pads to launch clips.  We went with the 25 key version.

Feel free to let me know if you have any questions about what controller may be best for your program.