Demystifying the world of technology in music education Jump to main content

Demystifying the world of technology in music education

David Ward, Managing Director of TiME UK: Technology in Music Education, explores the power of music technology to enhance learning.

The music world is full of myths; some inspirational and some debilitating. One of the greatest is that music technology is hard and is only for 'boys in bedrooms'. Another that music technology will destroy traditional music making. Wrong!

Music technology opens the doors to composition, songwriting, recording and music production, live sound, arrangement, orchestration, event management and many other creative music making chances and careers; for example, making music for film, games and animation. It is inclusive across all genders, ages, backgrounds and abilities.

However, the language used around music technology often shrouds it in mystery, and is too often used by people to boost their ego. As a child I loved playing with technology. This later led me to opening my own recording studio. In those days, as musicians, we had no idea how recording equipment worked; there was no one to train us and very few books. The books which were available were complicated, full of maths and weird words; they made it sound so hard. So, we decided to simplify the language so that we could understand it ourselves.

Understanding music technology is not hard, but the language that has built up over the years is often impenetrable. Sound engineers often talk in a shorthand that they have learnt from experience.

'I put a D12 on it'. What does that mean?

A D12 is a particular sort of microphone often used on bass drums.

'Turn on the EQ'. What is EQ?

In the early days of broadcast when the sound (the signal) got to the transmitter some of the treble (high frequencies) got lost. So, they used tone controls (treble boosters) to make the sound 'equal' to what had come out of the studio. Thus, tone controls were called equalisers and EQ for short.

Nowadays, there are so many wonderful developments going on under the music technology umbrella, especially in the SEND field, with new types of instruments making the joy of music more accessible.

New microphones like the Dubler enable vocalists and other noise makers to input notes and data into DAW (Digital Audio Workstation, ie a recording studio in your computer). This brings the world of composition and noise making in reach of everyone. The Skoog from Scotland and the Orba from the USA are other wonderful examples of new instruments that we are eagerly waiting to try.

Eye gaze technology helps people with disabilities such as cerebral palsy both to compose, play and communicate with music and there are great developments in accessibility for visually impaired people.

On the TiME (Technology in Music Education) website there are hundreds of resources that de-mystify the language and help us engage with music making either at home or in the classroom. as well as links to an abundance of software packages that bring the joy of composition closer for everyone. There are pages demonstrating the many exciting and wonderful ways that music technology is being used in performance and to help us collaborate with others from our homes.

Our job at TiME is to work with our friends and industry partners to raise awareness of the huge potential of music technology to enhance music making, and to inspire people to make music, compose music, record music and join in the joy of music making for everyone.

We are proud to be members of the ISM.