• Music Technology Courseware Options

    Mike Lawson | April 1, 2005

    Though multimedia was a buzz word ten years ago, it didn't really become a standard software application for the education professional (beyond PowerPoint) until recently. Hardware, advances like RAM, CPU and storage devices have brought about a multimedia explosion with Flash animation, newer graphics and audio and video file formats such as Flash, animated GIFs, QuickTime, .mp3 and much more. I can't think of a faster way to add impact to your teaching than to incorporate multimedia authoring tools in your daily presentations in traditional music classes and in music technology courseware.

    These new multimedia authoring applications can make it possible and even easy to produce professional looking instructional presentations. For a good summary of multimedia authoring applications, go to ming/resources/cal/mmedia.aspx (this link is dated last updated Sep/03). With 30+ products and learning links that make it simple to use. Interested in learning what to do with multimedia authoring tools? Go to which focuses on four essential topics: 1) creating student multimedia projects, 2) capturing Internet content for portfolios, 3) multimedia presentation software and 4) putting multimedia projects on-line.

    For on-line examples, Camtasia, a PowerPoint Add-On, illustrates e-learning for Qwest at: and for the University of Colorado: SYMPOSIUM/part2.aspx. Michigan State University uses Articulate Presenter at:

  • Automatic Accompaniment Generators

    Mike Lawson | August 1, 2004

    Digital audio recording can have immediate impact on your music program. Most directors view recording as a final-stage tool exclusively for their concerts, but digital audio recording has opened up a whole new world of audio assessment possibilities. Now music educators can share ongoing improvement with students, parents and administrators via CD, either for distribution, playback and/or Internet posting. Fortunately, this technology has become very accessible and is relatively inexpensive compared to the thousands of dollars such software and hardware cost just a decade ago. Today, we have far more user-friendly and portable recording options that busy educators can take on field trips, use in the classroom, or any take to kind of concert hall.

  • Internet Licensing

    Mike Lawson | November 1, 2003

    Recent headlines have brought the use of music on the Internet to the forefront, particularly the 261 copyright infringement lawsuits filed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) against some of the most active fans sharing songs on services like Kazaa. RIAA’s lawsuits are for downloading music illegally over the Internet. The rationale is “downloading songs is stealing money from the pockets of artists” because there are no royalties issued for the distribution of their recordings over the so-called peer-to-peer file-sharing networks.

    In a related copyright issue, I have been promoting Web development for school music teachers since January, 2000, in this column. Among the things promoted are video and audio streaming so that teachers can share their music concerts with the parents and community that they serve. Audio streaming in particular is becoming very popular among music educators. But because of the legal issues of Internet licensing, it is important that this issue be explained in this installment so that licenses can be obtained from the appropriate parties when necessary. In preparation for this installment, I have been in correspondence with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, which are the main music performing rights licensing agencies for the United States.

  • Web Development Series

    Mike Lawson | July 1, 2003

    For the past few years this technology column has provided guidelines designed to turn readers like yourself into Webmasters. This has proved to be a reliable source for how to use most appropriate software to help you master the Web and build your own unique Web site.

  • Music Technology Labs

    Mike Lawson | April 1, 2003

    Computer music labs have always appealed to me especially when I see how enthusiastically they interact with software and hardware applications. I wanted to find out how my experiences were shared by other music educators, so I designed a questionnaire that addressed six categories: 1) how the lab was established, 2) budgeting, 3) inventory of hardware and software, 4) curriculum, 5) set up, maintenance and enrollment ideas, and 6) future developments for their labs. Thirteen music educators responded representing elementary, middle and high schools. I am happy to report that the information they provided was insightful and will encourage your interest in a computer lab.

    For the sake of definition, I defined a computer music lab as a minimum of two workstations that are dedicated to computer music technology instruction. To my surprise, the average computer music lab in this survey was 22 workstations with MIDI keyboards. Some of these music labs began as early as 1987 with the latest starting up within the last two years. Some labs used only keyboard workstations. There was one with a Palm PDA lab of 30 workstations, but most had traditional computers with MIDI keyboards. The most prevalent applications were sequencing and notation. Classes varied from one music technology class a day to several daily classes. The following music educators participated in this survey, representing 12 states: Dennis Mauricio of Hilltop High School in Chula Vista, Calif.; Bryan Bogue of the Libby Center in Spokane, Wash.; Scott Lard of the North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham, N.C.; Richard Smith from North Northwest Classen High School in Oklahoma City, Okla.; Sarah Bush Randolph from Kelvin-Milne Grove School (elementary/middle schools) in Lockport Dist. #91, Ill.; Joe Chase from the Houston Independent School District in Houston, Texas; David Osnowitz from the West New York School District in West New York, N.J.; Mike Matthews from the Vista Middle School in Las Cruces, N.M.; Sebastian Zubieta from the Ross School in East Hampton, N.Y.; Wayne Splettstoeszer from Torrington High School in Torrington, Conn.; Ken Simpson from Brookwood High School in Snellville, Ga.; Brandon Pedigo of Plano East High School in Plano, Texas; Tom Rudolph, from Haverford Middle School in Havertown, Penn.

  • Field Show Design

    Mike Lawson | May 1, 2002

    In the high profile work of the marching band, it’s nice to know there are time-saving options to relieve your stress and stretch your creative energy. First of all, you can purchase good “stock” marching band shows from Warner Bros., Arranger’s Publishing Corporation and MSConcepts, among other reliable companies that offer modifiable software with coordinate music routing. You could also hire a show designer to create an original show for your band with original arrangements which also have modifiable software at a premium fee. The third option is to write your own show from scratch and perhaps hire a show designer to add some sparkle.

    There has never been a better time than now to create with show designing software. The speed of Pentium IV computers is necessary for writing sophisticated halftime shows with ease. Color printouts with graphic instrument IDs for individual students (instead of dots) are attractive and easy to read. Coordinate printouts provide text instructions for individual marching routing, saving more time and paper than before, especially when you start teaching the show to your students. You’ll no longer need to hire the show designer to also teach the show.

  • Technology Literacy

    Mike Lawson | April 1, 2002

    The music education profession is in a technology transition. Today, computer literacy is becoming an essential ingredient in the teaching lexicon, especially for reaching and teaching students of all learning styles and 

    Music educators must now know how to operate PC and/or Macintosh computer operating systems to maximize business and music software applications. Educators are striving to keep up with basic computer hardware and computer applications like word processing, PowerPoint slide show presentations, spreadsheets, database management, Internet with search engines and e-mail, electronic grade books, and more. And there is always the challenge of finding out what is available to do the job better and teach more effectively. Help with this can be found in back issues of this technology column, published online

    When these technology skills are learned, it is good to become familiar with Web development applications, including HTML programming, to spotlight your program on the World Wide Web. That will lead to skills in desktop publishing with computer graphic applications and digital photography as well as audio/video streaming. When I entered college 40 years ago, only business students took typing courses as part of their high school curriculum. The time has come when educators need to become technology literate. But knowing how busy instrumental music educators are, the question quickly becomes: How can this be accomplished after one has entered the profession with the limitations of time and money? Let’s look at a few strategies.

  • Jazz Applications

    Mike Lawson | March 1, 2002

    My favorite music technology applications are in jazz. Jazz by its very nature is a creative process with many opportunities for improvisation, arranging and composing. Technology opportunities abound in jazz education – and they meet national MENC and local school district music standards.

    One of the concerns about jazz education today is that most music educators have not been trained in jazz education techniques, yet are expected to teach it. Consequently, they are hesitant as they experience some limitations in jazz instruction, especially when their ensembles are adjudicated by trained jazz professionals at festivals. But with jazz technology applications, it is possible to accelerate the learning curve toward mastering jazz education principles. Excellent software, interactive CD-ROM, videos, and books are available to expand the jazz education experience.

  • Orchestra Applications

    Mike Lawson | January 1, 2002

    The World of String Technology

    Of all the areas of music education today, string education is perhaps the underachiever when it comes to new, exciting technology innovations. Most string teachers don’t go much beyond the electric tuner when they consider technology. Fortunately, the music scene today is less constricted and open to change and expansion. Contemporary popular music has helped enrich repertory and performance practices with improvisation, sound synthesis, MIDI performance techniques and much more. Home and school recording studios are springing up. Burning CDs and DVDs is now economical, and computers continue to be productive in promoting technology applications for string educators. And then there is the Internet.

    In this article, we’ll explore the use of string technology in several instructional venues. Technology instructional materials have become more valuable as more band directors are also teaching strings as part of their assignment. String technology advances are influencing students and teachers alike with more authentic references to sound production, bowing techniques, maintenance, care and more.


  • Percussion Technology, Part II

    Mike Lawson | December 1, 2001

    In the November issue of School Band and Orchestra, we reviewed tutorial software, MIDI percussion, notation software, instructional videos and technology resources for percussion. In Part Two of Percussion Technology, will cover drum machines, drum machine software, drum software tracks, sequencing software, and hardware.

    The first drum machine was the Chamberlin Rhythmate (1949). Korg released the first all-electronic rhythm machine in 1966, called the MiniPopos. One of the founders and a partner started Acetone in the 1960s. Roland was founded in 1972 and developed its first drum machine, the TR-77. The first programmable drum machine was the Roland Acetone FR-15 in 1975.

    Today, a good starter drum machine is the Boss DR-670 drum machine. This includes 255 sounds and 16 bass sounds for programming drum rhythms and bass patterns, responsive velocity- and after touch- sensitive pads, powerful capabilities for editing sounds, including decay and pitch shift, and slap bass and synth bass sounds to finish a piece. Other Roland drum machines, such as the DR-770, have a built-in effects processor with equalization (EQ) and ambience control ready to record finished and fully produced drum tracks.

  • Percussion Technology- Part One

    Mike Lawson | November 1, 2001

    Of all the music technology available to music educators, percussion technology is probably the least understood. And in some cases, the least available. In this article, you will find a variety of percussive technology materials and creative applications.

    As in other areas of music technology, there has been an upsurge of development in the percussion arts. You will certainly benefit when you discover the variety of hardware/software/videos/books, etc., available for marching, concert and jazz applications, plus percussion instruction. Besides the new hardware and software, there are some excellent percussion books with audio CDs as well as instructional videos for motivating, developing and teaching percussionists.

    In Percussion Technology: Part One, we will focus on tutorial software, MIDI percussion, notation software, instructional videos and technology resources for percussion. In December, Part Two of Percussion Technology will cover drum machines, drum machine software, drum software tracks, sequencing software, and hardware.

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