Classroom music project – play, learn, record, the Beatles on Skoog!

Getting Better All The Time! A classroom music project based around the music of the Beatles involving students with a range of abilities and musical backgrounds. All students were supported in learning and performing a musical part on Skoog.

This exciting and ambitious recording project was run for pupils from the Learning Centre of Maxwelltown High School in Dumfries, which provides additional support to pupils with special educational and behavioural needs within the school, .

This post is a guest post by Maggie Tam and Colin Murphy who delivered the project.


 

The aim of the project was to learn and record ‘Getting Better’ by The Beatles and ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon, performed almost entirely on the Skoog! Having arranged the music specifically for this project with the help of Colin from Tape Your Mouth Productions, we worked with the pupils and teachers at the school across 5 weekly sessions, in which we gave a crash course on ensemble playing with the Skoog. The pupils were divided into 2 bands – a group of 4 in the morning and a group of 5 in the afternoon – but there was certainly no division among their determination and rock star ability for mastering their instruments!

Skoog players
Skoogists

We began our first session with some games, the objectives of which were to familiarise the pupils with the Skoog. These involved playing ‘Twister’ with the Skoog Flash Cards – laid out on the table in the shape and order of the Skoog colours to help everyone memorise their location – as well as some rhythmic games using a metronome to get used to the idea of beats and counting. These games proved to be brilliant ice breakers as we gradually got to know each other! We also learned about the instruments in the two songs through exploring the sounds that they could produce, and the many different ways that we could manipulate the Skoog.

playing Skoog
Using Skoog in class

By the second session, we had a rough idea of everyone’s interests and abilities – we proceeded to assign parts for each band member. It was a difficult decision at times – everyone wanted to play the drums! With the advice from the teachers, however, we managed to come up with parts that everyone seemed happy with and we spent most of our second session breaking into pairs and learning our parts.

 

When we initially arranged the music, we laid out our transcriptions in Skores just like the ones you can download from the Skoogmusic website – but we very quickly realised that it was much easier for the pupils’ focus if we kept each page to 2 bars maximum, and to have the beat number written in also. Others alternations on the Skores that proved helpful included using grey blocks for rests to show when everyone needs to come in – vital when playing polyphonic ensemble music! For the next few sessions we worked hard on getting everyone to play together as a band – it was challenging to start off with as everyone was used to playing at their own speed, but it didn’t take us long before we developed the crucial ability of listening to one another and playing together as a group It was lovely to see that everyone was engaged and just genuinely had fun making music – so much fun in fact that when word got out about our project, a boy not originally part of the group (although was coincidentally named after one of The Beatles!) persuaded his teacher to let him out of his lessons to join us! It was also great to see that there was already so much talent in the class – when we learnt that a couple of the boys could play the guitar and the euphonium, we decided to come up with some new parts for them and have them play their instruments with the Skoogs in ‘Imagine’.

 

Skoog
Skoog action

We would like to give our thanks to all the pupils and staff at the Learning Centre in Maxwelltown High School for the hard work they have put into these recordings, and for making us feel so welcomed! It was an absolute pleasure to work with everyone and we hope that you keep up the good work with your music making!


beatlesYou can download all the support materials Maggie and Colin created for the project and make your own Beatles mash up!  http://wiki.skoogmusic.com/resources/transcriptions


Just think what these guys will be able to achieve with wireless Skoog 2.0 and they can use Skoog’s with Garageband’s Jam mode, for live skoog band action… Awesome!

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