The plus side to composing on computers

After all of the technology that has flown in and out of my room this week as my students have some fun composing the week before vacation it made me start to think. What is the plus side to having students compose music on technology rather than paper and pencil? When is it proper to hand them a writing utensil and when is it a good idea to get them on a computer?
I do love both don’t get me wrong, I usually have my students writing after learning the basics as a way to assess melody and rhythm writing. I also have them using paper and pencil as a way to get them to visualize the orchestra in their head on their own. Writing melodies on paper is an important skill especially if a student continues on in music. Even though I feel writing on paper is important, composing on technology devices is found a lot more in my classroom. For me there are so many pros and technology available to me that I can’t help but use it all.

You should know I like lists by now, here is a one of the reasons why composing on computers is important:

1.Less Paper=Less Headache- Save a tree! Use a Computer! I don’t know if anyone else has this problem but I for one get a headache just looking at a stack of paper that contains student work taking up space on my already cluttered desk. Some things we obviously can’t get done on a piece of technology but I know if I want to try something with a class on paper that 20 students turns into 60 because I need to carry the same lesson on with all classes in that grade. That can take up a lot of space on my desk and waste a lot of trees. Giving a student a computer to do their work on can save physical space, save the planet, and save you a headache.

2.Store and Share Easy- It’s so easy to save student work and share with anyone if it’s digitized. Any program from Garageband to Finale to web based composition suites make it easy to store anything you create and quickly share with the world at the drop of a hat. The best part about easy storing is you get to keep several years of student work with little physical space involved.

3.Instant playback- The best feature of composing on computers! We can hear what we think a melody or rhythm sounds like in our heads but what is in our heads doesn’t always end up being played by the band. Instant playback gives the composer a way to listen step by step all through the creation process. There is no artistic freedom from a musician involved, the computer plays what is written which is a great tool especially for students who are developing the ability to read music and play it in their heads.

4.Wider variety of composition tools- Composing just isn’t notation anymore, you have your smart instruments, your loops, your dot notations, it’s all there. From Finale to Sibelius, From Garageband to The Quaver Studio. Web based, software, or apps you have everything and it can be all at your fingertips as long as you know where to find and how to use it.

5.Anyone can do it- You don’t need to know how to play an instrument (even though you should learn anyway), you don’t need to know about notes and rests. There are so many ways to compose out there that anyone from the age of 1-100 can do it. With everything that is out there to compose with this puts everyone on a level playing field. Have a student who has a physical or mental impairment? There’s a way to include them. Have a student just doesn’t want to do it? There’s a way to include them. No matter who you are, what you do, where you’ve been, or what you’re going to do with all of the technology music has available you can be a composer.

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