Hands-On Review:Teaching Music with Reason
Teaching Music with Reason
Computer-based music production made fun and easy.
By Brian Chapra
Propellerhead’s new curriculum presents a lesson-by-lesson guide to making music in a computerized environment that keeps student interest high and makes the teacher’s job a breeze. Based around hands-on musical exercises that teach mastery of the software environment while engaging musical creativity, the curriculum moves the student from the most basic concepts of computer-based music production through advanced sequencer work and editing.
In an age when most of the music we hear on the radio, in films, and on CDs is produced in large part in a computer environment, it’s a shame that so little formal musical education has anything to do with computer-based music production. It’s tantamount to teaching young pilots to fly bi-winged airplanes then dumping them out on a runway where they’re expected to fly fighter jets.
I can’t count the times students have expressed their frustration that so little attention is given to the practical, hands-on technical knowledge they need to be competitive in what has always been a ruthless business. Propellerhead software has come to the rescue with Teaching Music with Reason—a complete package that includes all the materials necessary (aside from the actual computer hardware) to turn out graduates who are functionally conversant with major aspects of computer-based music production, as well as many of the finer points.
What’s in the box?
The package contains a copy of Reason 2.5 with one license for the teacher and a special version of Reason with 10 licenses for the students. The teacher and students can each run their own copy on 11 networked computers. If, like me, you find yourself cobbling together a ragtag team of computers, this system is very friendly, working well on Windows 98 Pentium II machines operating at 450MHz or better and OS9 Mac G3s running at 300MHz or better. Of course it works with more advanced machines and operating systems as well. Also contained in the box is the extensive Teacher’s Resource File. This wire-bound, hardcover book provides all the information a teacher needs to teach the full 21-lesson course, including discussion of background principles, technical information to get the whole classroom set up, copies of the student worksheets, and how-to guides. Ten copies of the Student Booklet feature lessons laid out with specific tasks and how-to guides to assist with the practical steps to accomplish each task.
The included Reason: Getting Started booklet gives you all the basics for operating Reason 2.5. A supporting CD contains installers for Mac and PC, lesson song material, and PDF files of student materials. The ElectroMechanical Reason ReFill Collection includes the following patches: Rhodes MKI and MKII, Wurlitzer EP100 and EP200, Hammond Model A, Clavinet D6, and the Planet T.
We have the technology!
I have been using this system in the classroom for two months and have been extremely impressed with the huge amount of thought that obviously went into the creation of these lessons. The student workbooks provide precisely enough information to get the students working with the software on their own without bogging them down with too much detail. Already three of my class of nine community college students have advanced on their own to the end of the book, even though we’re only halfway through the course. Admittedly, these are the computer "geeks" of the class, but the less technologically obsessed students have all been enjoying the lessons as well and nobody has fallen behind.
The curriculum does not focus on music theory, so I established a prerequisite of at least one music class. That has proven to be plenty of musical experience to allow these students to be thoroughly engaged by the Reason course, since it requires no formal music theory background.
We have the intelligence!
The course covers the basics of building bass, harmony, and melody tracks; programming patterns and relating these to musical bars and beats; using different textures, instrument types, and sounds; file editing, copying, pasting, etc. to create musical passages; sound shaping with controls for the synths, samplers, and other devices contained in Reason; and working with loops.
The course also teaches the practical application of dozens of processes associated with digital recording of any sort, such as panning, balance, EQ, advanced mixing, automating mixer and device parameters, and the application of all types of effects. All of this is taught in the context of students creating their own computer-based musical compositions.
One giant leap for education
The Teaching Music with Reason program is a great way to get high school and college students involved and familiar with all the critical concepts and processes involved in modern computer-based music production. It opens creative doors into whole worlds of musical possibilities and can be as much fun for the teacher as for the students.
Teaching Music with Reason
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