When starting your RAMP course, it may seem a little daunting. If you’re unfamiliar with modern digital recording, here are some easy steps to getting started.
Determine Your Curriculum
What are you hoping to teach? Where does your skill set offer the most expertise? What will your student body find most pertinent in the field of music production?
As my own classroom has evolved, I’ve found that students have many different interests, but they generally boil down to only a few particular areas:
- Performance Methods (guitar/bass guitar, keyboards, drums, vocals)
- Composition and Production (writing/arranging/orchestrating original music)
- EDM Music Production (creating loops, beats, etc. in software apps)
- Engineering and Mixing (manipulating recorded tracks)
My classroom has been structured to allow students to create a rock band with fairly traditional instrumentation (guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, drum set, vocals). This led naturally to the development of a curriculum that incorporated the elements of engineering and mixing. Students, however, are also often motivated to create their own compositions, some digital and some analog.
When designing your curriculum, consider your own abilities on the instruments you would use, as well as your own experience with the technology necessary to run the course. With the availability of instructional tools through online resources, however, you may find that students can learn beyond your own skill sets with minimal guidance.
Since 2011, I have been able to gear a very independently led classroom atmosphere, with the exception of only a few students who are not intrinsically motivated to create or perform music. Nevertheless, there are plenty of options to incorporate less musically inclined students into the process.
If you find you have musically reluctant students, consider these options to guide their learning:
- Technical Engineering (microphone placement, hardware expertise)
- Mix Engineering (balancing and editing recorded tracks)
- Instrument Technician (care, maintenance, etc.)
While these skills may not seem crucial to the musical elements others are learning, they do offer a chance to think musically about the elements that make it possible to create a finished product. For students more mechanically inclined in their interests and skills, these applications could provide enjoyment and interest. After all, in large professional studios, there are often specific career paths that are reserved specifically for such individuals.
Define Your Structure
After determining the areas you hope to teach, it is important to establish a structure for your class so that students understand the expectations, outcomes, and processes they will be working within each day.
My own classroom has always been a student-led experience, with guidance and coaching in the pursuits students wish to follow. However, this may not fit your environment, philosophy, or personal educational style. Prescribed curriculum elements, self-determined paths, or any combination between can facilitate an amazing experience in this realm of music.
Your structure may also vary based on enrollment and timeframe. If you have a high enrollment, prescribed curricula may be a wiser practice than the student-led structure for a limited enrollment. I feel that student-led curricula functions best in classes that stay close to five participants, where exceeding that number brings challenges in keeping students on track when teacher guidance is often necessary.
Define Your Outcomes
When the semester (or year) is complete, what should your students walk away with? I have always seen this class as a project-centered experience. For this reason, my goals have generally been either a performance or a tangible record of their work (physical or digital, with technological artifacts as a great option). But in your own classroom, where do you see your students finishing? Here are some possible options:
- Physical (digital) product: the students come out of the class with a portfolio of work that can be shared, distributed, and possibly even utilized as a career path.
- Performance opportunity: I had students in the past who performed at concerts when the main focus of the class was guitar methods. While they may not have a long-lasting and shareable product, they will have an experience that will not soon be forgotten.
- Traditional products: research papers, reflections, analytical and evaluative artifacts.
- Original Works: students walk away with their self-created products, including original music of various styles. This is my favorite, and it seems to be the most satisfying to many of the students. A by-line credit is a phenomenal take-away!
The Last Word
The greatest part about a music technology-based course is that there are ENDLESS possibilities. Do not limit yourself or your students if it is possible to stay open-ended. You will be shocked by their ambition, interest, and passion almost every time! In the short time I have offered this course, I have had students record and perform almost twenty separate pieces, of which nearly half were original works! For me, a question is always an invitation to new learning, even if the path is unexpected, unusual, or unorthodox.