Garageband thoughts

After your initial experience with Garageband, please respond to one or more of the previously posed questions:

1) Is there educational value in using Garageband?
2) Are there potential problems for music educators misusing Garageband?
3) What types of learning activities can and should we provide to students utilizing Garageband?

Please explain.

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24 Comments on “Garageband thoughts”

  1. jlaw2 Says:

    1) I believe there are both technological and musical value to Garageband, Musically it shows how different styles can fit together, and it also shows how loops work in programming and other applications
    2)Yes, it would be very easy to get distracted while working with garage band
    3)We can allow students to take well known pieces and see how different instruments make them sound.

  2. Lauren V. Says:

    I feel there can be educational value in using Garageband, but to a certain extent. It encourages students to be creative and experiment with music and technology. At the same time, it is more fun than educational. The first time I used Garageband, I spent most of the time messing around with the different rhythms and preset recordings. I think it would be hard to teach this program to a younger crowd of students because they would not pay attention and would just mess around with the different settings. It is a good program to show kids how to use so they can make their own recordings at home, but I feel it should be separate from the music technology curriculum at school.

  3. kellyfitz Says:

    Garageband is an excellent tool for all students who wish to compose and further understand music. The danger of garageband is overusing what is given to the student like loops and such and thus not understand the organization and creativity that can be used. I feel that the age of the students who experiment with garage band should be a bit older, because the overall feel is a bit overwhelming, especially when basic concepts of music have not been studied such as theory and ear training.
    Students can use this application to learn how to compose and fit parts together.

  4. danmorrison Says:

    Since music is relying more and more on technology, and garage band is a very user friendly yet powerful software, I think it is a perfect tool to use for teaching music. Obviously just having the students use the loops to make a beat or song would not be very educational, but having students input their own melodies in beats using keyboards and drum machines definitely would be. I think a problem that music educators could run in to would be if the instructor doesn’t have a thorough enough understanding of the program.

  5. bhillho2 Says:

    There is educational value, with many of the presets you can see their notation which does help with learning how certain things sound and how rhythms are also built with a drumset. There are many limitations with Garageband none the less, It is very hard to notate what you want in Garageband and it is also hard to have harmonic rhythm without being a big hassle. For maybe a second level tech course many positive projects can be done utilizing Finale/Sibelius and Garageband. They can make ‘boreing’ songs more modern or even to make ring tones using multiple programs.

  6. jimmcguire Says:

    I agree with Lauren’s comment. Although the program offers educational benefits in an innovative way, it could cause students to stray from the intended exercises that they are assigned in their music classes. I would say that use of garageband in the classroom really depends upon the specific class size, because the larger a class is then the harder it would obviously be for a teacher to monitor the progress of each student.

  7. Rebecca Ryan Says:

    1) Is there educational value in using Garageband? Yes indeed! It’s a great way to get students get started creating music, even if they’ve never had notational or instrumental experience whatsoever.
    2) Are there potential problems for music educators misusing Garageband? Yes – I can completely see this program providing a chance for a creative project to become a “free-for-all”. Students could easily abuse the program by playing with it instead of doing the assignment.
    3) What types of learning activities can and should we provide to students utilizing Garageband? Listening activities I feel would work best (taking a piece of music and giving it new instrumentation and still making sure it is recognizable, etc). An activity giving students a chance to add onto an already created melody/rhythm would also work well, too.

  8. zgeller2 Says:

    I think there is educational value to garage band, especially if you are teaching a group about texture or even genre. You can easily change the feel of a melody by adding specific instruments and accompaniments. At the same time, garage band absolutely is like “takeing crack”. Students will easily want to mess around with it because it is fun. But, is working with garage band a truely musical educational experience? I think it is but it absolutely is no substitute for the basics (theory, aural skills, etc) I think it has potential to be a fun and enjoyable project for a music course but it should not be the only program used because it is limited in its educational ability.

  9. Nick L Says:

    Garageband allows one to compose tunes very easily, even with very little musical background. This ease and potential for wide application makes it easy to say that Garageband has some eduactional value. However, this ease comes with a caveat and that is the creative limitations of Garageband, and how it largely focuses on loop based composition that can include very little or no orignial music writing. Being totally dependent upon this aspect without ever creating anything real would certainly be a misuse of the program. One activity that I enjoy a lot is one like our first garageband assignment. If students were to write their own melodies and tunes in Sibelius or another MIDI program, then garageband can be used to modify it and embellish it in ways much easier than with Sibelius. Anything that mixes the pros of garageband with real intuitive music writing would be a good activity.

  10. thomas22 Says:

    GarageBand is a cool program. I think it’s positive qualities are numerous. It allows you to create something that would normally be out of one’s reach and call it your own. Also, it gives you the chance to play with music you’ve composed and come up with ideas of other ways to add, reduce, or alter the original sound. Unfortunately, it’s limitations are obvious and frustrating. Everything’s in C and 4/4 time. While you are creating something fairly complex that is your own, I feel like it takes away fromt he actual composition process and could in some ways hinder the progress of those studying music theory/composition if not used sparingly.

  11. mus243 Matt Says:

    Hi Thomas,

    Well, “everything is in C and 4/4 time” isn’t true… You can adjust the key and time signature (for instance, when you create a new project). It is true that you can’t change them mid-piece (a limitation that also exists with Finale Notepad), although you can use music of different time signatures within a piece, you just won’t get a lot of help from GarageBand and you’d have to overlay the time signature (for instance, you can take a 4/4 loop, cut off the last eighth note, then pull that loop out to have a 7/8 loop, but the measure numbers atop the screen will be wrong….

    Hi Everyone,

    As for the rest of the comments (so far), I think that there is broad consensus that programs like GarageBand have something to contribute to our vision of music education. Programs like this can allow students to develop a sense of aesthetics, to form musical judgments, and to playfully experiment (which is often a bit like goofing around). The educational question, to me, revolves around where it takes the students/teacher/class; I can imagine a group making their own mixes of a trio or quartet recording, or letting students “conduct” a piece by mastering a recording and playing with the balance of various instruments (that would need to be recorded separately). On the other hand, I know that students can “goof off” with a program like this in a way that it doesn’t deepen their knowledge or experience. How this tool works in an educational context depends on the whole class culture, from teacher to student to community… But I still think it is a pretty cool tool and I’ve both had fun and learned with it.

    Keep the comments coming!


  12. marielemke Says:

    I think that garage band is a good way to start kids off with music technology and composition. This program would be good because it would help a lot of students who have little musical knowledge start off with composition. I know that garage band would have helped me because of the premade tracks, I had no knowledge of composition. But I also think that this should only be a beginning tool and something more advanced should be used afterwards.

  13. geigegirl Says:

    Garageband seems like a neat tool to introduce kids to composing. It seems like it is a tool which would probably not be as overwhelming as Sibelius or Finale for younger students, thus is good for introducing kids to composing. Plus I believe it would make kids excited about composing because it’s easy to make a piece sound good. I can definately see how it’s addicting. However, I was frustrated at the fact that fewer options are available for using 3/4 time and a key other than C. But I think this is a great way to help kids get excited about music.

  14. Leslie Goldberg Says:

    i think GarageBand would have a lot of educational value, especially if you are doing a unit on popular music. I think the preset loops and drum beats and such give way to a great assignment in mixing just those tracks to come up with something unique and different.
    One of the problems music educators could run into is the temptation to take a popular (and copyrighted) song and have students play with it in GarageBand. I know it’s something i would be tempted to do. I don’t think, like many of my peers seem to, that students would just goof off on GarageBand. On the contrary, I think that GarageBand is the most obviously relevant programs for students we’ve studied so far. An assignment given for GarageBand would be followed zealously and have the most chance of going above and beyond, instead of goofing off and not completing the assignment. I mean, my cousins in high school aren’t even in music classes, but they take stuff from thier band with thier friends and play with it in GarageBand and compose songs using the program all the time.

  15. mus243 Matt Says:

    Hi Leslie,

    I have also had experiences where students used GarageBand outside of school. One student I worked with made an animated movie and added his own soundtrack using GarageBand, and it was pretty neat.

    When I was teaching private lessons, I often asked students to practice along with files that I made using GarageBand. If a student was learning to improvise, or learning a song, I would often compose a background or accompaniment that I would burn to CD for them. GB made it easy to drop in a beat (or make several variations on beats) and also add a keyboard part or bassline, etc.

    Finally, I once formed a “virtual quartet” where four or more students each recorded a part to a piece. I let them each mix down a version according to their own tastes, and then burned a CD with all the mixes. It was interesting how different they were (some went for a “great” sound, adding reverb; one boy tried to change and play with the sounds as much as possible using heavy digital processing, etc.).

    Thanks for the comments, everyone! I’m enjoying reading them and feel glad that there’s room to write a bit about our experiences and comment on those of others.

  16. S_Murray Says:

    I think the only educational value there is in Garageband is learning how to sequence and master audio files… It really doesnt do anything on the composition/theory side of music.

  17. sara_m Says:

    I definitely think Garageband can be educational. I’ve already learned a lot about how to put pieces of music together to create my own little piece. Granted, it doesn’t involve a lot of music theory, but I think that as a music teacher, you can create assignments that make students think more about the music theory in the song. But I think a student could also learn a lot of aural skills using Garageband, and that is always helpful as a musician.

  18. dmig2000 Says:

    It seems like the best use for garageband is for basic mixing of music. Also, because of the lack of ability to write much music in garageband, I don’t really think this program can be used in music classes like choirs, bands, and orchestras. However, I think for a general music program, all aspects of music should be looked at, including electronic music and recording. As for the misuse of this program, it can become very easy for students to think they’re writing music, when in fact they are just laying down premade tracks. This might give a basic idea of music, but it is not writing music.

  19. sgritz2 Says:

    I think that there is educational value in garageband, but only for a certain age level. I can see younger students getting easily distracted if you’re actually trying to teach them something with garageband. For higher level students, like high school students, I see a lot of possibility. If some students like to compose, it’s a neat way to hear your compositions. Even on a technological level, it improves students computer skills, and that’s always a plus in today’s electronic world. I think that a fun activity is actually the one we did where we took a midi and got to mess with it. We could compose new parts over it, or add beats, etc.

  20. Erica C Says:

    I think that garage band is a great tool for music educators. This is a great program to get students involved in who want to experiment with music without ever having to touch an instrument. It gives them the oppertunities to explore different sounds and ideas and open a world of creativity. This could be one of many ways to open young students mind to a world of composition. We are living in an era where technology is at an all time high, and to get people started on these programs early, will benefit them in the future when an even more high-tech program comes out.

  21. vabaker2 Says:

    I definitely feel there is a educational value related to Garageband. It allows anyone to “compose” anything. Any voice part combined with all sounds imaginable. Also with how compatible it is with midi files makes is easy to have students compose something and then load into Garageband. This way they are able to elaborate in ways that Sibelius does not offer. Much like we did with our previous project. One of the aspect of Garageband that makes it suitable for everyone is that notation and note values/keys/SATB part writing are not involved. Though these are important elements of music and composition Garageband is simply more fun and is much less intimidating.

    I think any of these programs could be misused…i feel that is looking to far into it. Either way it is computer interaction involving music. Whatever works for the students is what is important. If you have a music tech based class and Fridays are Garageband days it would only further benefit their education….

    Again I think a midi composition file into Garageband is the most beneficial. That way the composition concepts are truly utilized and Garageband just embellishes what has already been created. The best of both worlds I suppose.

  22. cjensen2 Says:

    I think there are definitely education benefits to using garageband. It is important for kids to understand how seemingly subtle changes to a piece of music can create essentially a whole new work. Obviously, garageband can be a distraction, but I think that teachers can work around it if they are creative. I think the easiest and most useful thing for students to do on garageband is make arrangements of already completed works.

  23. CarmC Says:

    I think there is an education value to using garage band, but not a strong/ very good value. i is nice cause kids can learn mood and beats, but it does not teach any formal understanding of music theory. students will “cheat” with garage band. educationally the only thing they would get to learn is how loop tracks go well together. I think that if used educationally it should be taught using midi to create a silent film or something like that.

  24. Nina E. Says:

    I think there is a definite educational value to using garageband. Besides being an easy creative outlet for students, it allows students to think about how instrumentation, phrasing, and rhythm can all greatly effect a song’s outcome.
    Many people are arguing that garageband isn’t effective because it doesn’t teach “formal music theory”. I would like to point out that The Beatles did not have any “formal music theory training” and they were able to produce some of the world’s most beloved music. Anyway you are able to musically express yourself, regardless of the medium, is an educational and VALUABLE tool.

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