DAW Bundles: Bundle Up With Creative Curriculum and Lesson Plan Options

Mike Lawson • Technology • February 19, 2015

Jumping into the Digital-Audio Workstation (DAW) experience with students is exhilarating, whether fresh out-of-the box or components successfully toggled together. But this hardware and software are merely essential tools that represent only half of the equation. Successfully linking them to a creative, comprehensive curriculum that excites the student’s imagination is a winning combination. Fortunately, there are excellent project-oriented sources available with well-defined, detailed lesson plans to maximize your instruction with every possible interface from desktop, to tablets, and smartphones.

Curriculum and Lesson Plan Solutions

Curriculum and lesson plan solutions are expanding with the advent of DAW bundles. Presently, there are three prominent curriculum resources: Two by PreSonus and Icon Digital USA are tied to DAW bundles, and Datasonics is a generic music suite that can work with nearly every hardware configuration.

PreSonus’ Curriculum Solution

PreSonus is a leader in combining professional hardware/software bundles and dynamic curriculum into the digital music station so music educators have everything readily available to use in the classroom without a lot of preparation time. Their Music Creation Suite DAW bundle includes full versions of StudioOne Artist and Notion plus all the rich audio content that goes with these programs. Both of these applications offer many advanced features that will challenge students, while user-friendly for entry-level projects. Music Creation Suite also includes a free Nimbit account so you can distribute music and begin to share, sell, and promote creative content. PreSonus offers four different versions of the versatile sequencer, StudioOne, ranging from freeware to professional level. To compare their product features in-depth, go to

StudioOne arranges sounds much like GarageBand, which works well for teaching technology and bridging music into projects. StudioOne configures itself for the PreSonus AudioBox USB interface using a template, so you don’t have to map tracks, and buses to inputs and outputs. Notion and StudioOne can be ReWired together, which adds to the ease of use, plus the software itself is very easy to use. I particularly like the Music Creation Suite site licensing system that’s very convenient for a music lab setting.

 The PreSonus Music Creation Curriculum provides a framework for a music technology course at any level and is meant to support the growth of music education with technology. It includes over 45 lesson plans and 50 tutorial videos divided into six learning modules. The Music Creation Suite allows students to learn composition in a DAW with sounds as well as in notation, and provides students with a marketing component to learn how to distribute their music in today’s market. 

PreSonus offers additional resources including the PreSonus Music Creation Suite, Groove3 StudioOne 2 Explained Series, StudioOne Training videos, and Notion training videos. All of the PreSonus 50+ lessons are linked to NAfME national standards located at: aligning both sequencing and notation lessons. The individual PreSonus lessons that can be viewed there contain over 50 PDF and video tutorials. It is nice having both the PDF lessons and video tutorials available. Each lesson has NAfME standards, objectives, and instructional procedures. These lessons are mainly “how to” tutorials that teach you how to do certain tasks using their software.

Users are encouraged to contact PreSonus for updates or sign up on their homepage and be the first to know when new lessons are posted. Presently, their tutorials cover rhythm, music form, recording, composition, and listening assignments. Teachers are also encouraged to share their own lessons by e-mailing their best StudioOne lessons to If selected, their lesson plans are posted as a resource for an open-ended architecture that regularly advances and updates PreSonus’s curriculum and lesson plans.

By bundling Notion with the StudioOne DAW application, teachers have superb sequencing and notation programs for both entry-level through advanced levels. I wish the Notion and StudioOne were not separate tools requiring one to export and import to get from one to the other. 

PreSonus provides technology solutions for music performance. These videos show how much better students learn as they can hear themselves play, and they help teach students how to listen to improve their performance. You can hear and see the results in the video — students pick it up really fast, which shows that there is much more to using a DAW for education than just learning to record. These videos are available at

Mastering Music’s Curriculum Solution

If you want to help a student become a good musician there are important concepts that need to be part of your curriculum, such as performing, composing, notation, music production (including arranging, mixing and digital audio), ear training, music theory, and film scoring. With technology and well-coordinated lesson plans and tutorials, this process can be accelerated exponentially. Mastering Music by Datasonics does all that and more, with or without a DAW. Perhaps Paul Woodward, Head of Performing Arts at Lilydale Adventist Academy in Melbourne, Australia, states it best: “I am very excited by the extent of the lesson material supplied with Mastering Music, supporting the total music curriculum requirements for grades 5-12. This has reduced the lesson preparation time enormously, freeing my time to concentrate on other important musical activities here at the Academy. To cap it all off, both my students and I found dealing with the technology a breeze.”

This extraordinary music suite has seven different software applications using one easy interface. Mastering Music is cutting edge because it is delivered over the web, providing learning anywhere, anytime, at any pace. The software of this well orchestrated curriculum skillfully aligns national standards directly to 400+ lesson plans and 75+ video tutorials that seamlessly run within the program implementing instruction rather than passively observing the techniques. I find the 75+ “how to” video tutorials and multiple help pages extremely pertinent for guiding students through each lesson plan, so that teachers do not need to be an expert in using the software before ever using it with their students.

This one-of-a-kind curriculum, which addresses all ten NAfME (formerly MENC) standards, can be viewed at addressing international and USA, MENC/NAfME standards, plus customized for California, Maryland and Texas. The American teacher’s guide also contains a music curriculum guide for selected states, a lesson order guide, and a year level guide. For more insight go to: To illustrate how versatile Mastering Music’s curriculum really is, it is the only software application on the market that can be used in all twelve TI:ME workshops covering the gamut of music technology ranging from notation, sequencing, digital media, electronic instruments, multimedia, curriculum integration, to performance.

Mastering Music’s suite of seven different software applications has the easiest learning curve for out-of-the-box implementation. Notation and sequencing projects are fully integrated in real-time with other musical aspects of performing, ear training, and music theory in a single interface. This comprehensive integration eliminates the need to export files from one application to another. You can customize the best features of each application and freely move with seamless editing between notation and sequencing initiating powerful compositional elements for electrifying results. .

The unique features of Mastering Music can be best seen at But the integration doesn’t stop there, because this music suite also contains an electronic gradebook that allows students to submit their work and the teacher and/or computer marks their work and then produces reports that are ideal for end-of-year assessment and parent/teacher interviews. Mastering Music handles MIDI, WAV files, and will open and run most video formats. While it does not currently handle MP3, Music XML, or virtual instruments, it is certainly classroom savvy. Mastering Music is not proprietary to most DAWs except that it is not presently compatible with USB/Firewire audio boxes that use ASIO audio drivers. With its cloud-based capability, installation problems and IT help are virtually eliminated, which is great news for classroom or home installation which run the gamut from Windows XP to Windows 8 and everything in-between. Mastering Music presently runs on Windows computers and its tablets and more OS options are coming.

Icon Digital USA’s Curriculum Solution

Icon’s The Whole System diagram is the backbone to the development of a revolutionary education bundle and curriculum and illustrates what is needed for educators to accomplish music education advancement. Icon understands that schools and teachers need to teach on familiar equipment already in their possession or items that fit in the school budget. As such, Icon’s approach is based on “basic” hardware and software all tied together within lessons and application examples speaking to skills, regardless of equipment and DAW brand. According to Cohan, “The textbook needs to teach a skill, not how to use a specific brand.” The importance is not the product or brands that programs use, but rather that students come away with standards-based knowledge and an appreciation for music creation and recording.

Icon has been providing professional and educational workstation rigs for years. These hand-picked education bundles include products that efficiently support education systems with a vision of enhancing curriculum in recording and electronic music.

Icon’s 101 level curriculum focuses on every aspect of recording ranging from: audio basics, all parts and pieces required to record music, recording vocals and choirs, recording instruments, MIDI, computer use to running a simple session. This curriculum is basic in terms of hardware and DAW software to reduce the additional learning curve associated with hardware and software, yet practical, providing instructional tips supported by video tutorials making learning easy and interesting for students. Through these tutorials hosted by industry leaders, the curriculum is stabilized by qualifying product grants and conforms to NAfME standards, objectives, and instructional procedures.

Going forward Icon intends to add more courses focusing on advanced skills and more diverse courses such as audio for video, Middle school focus, live recording, and others.

While portions of the four-part system are in final development, four high schools are currently teaching elective courses based on Icon’s model. According to Gonzalo Ruelas, music and dance teacher at Diego Hills School, when speaking on the subject of student interest in the recording and production class, “The fact that these classes are now available actually makes them want to come to school.” More info can be found at

Closing Comments

National music standards are the foundation of assessing and justifying how music students learn. Music technology can make a huge contribution to successful music instruction; it can also be a classroom time-saver with enhanced accountability. Fortunately now curriculum and lesson plans are readily available with excellent books and video tutorials. Teacher preparation is eased while accountability is enhanced. The comprehensive digital music workstation environment is the fast track in today’s exciting, student-centered music classroom. The sky’s the limit now that composition, notation, performing, recording, film scoring, theory, ear training and marketing can all be seamlessly integrated with new, exciting instruction. You will not be disappointed with these user-friendly software applications that are powerful and adaptive, meeting curriculum expectations and facilitating great student projects. Bundle up for the technology adventure that awaits you and your students!

John Kuzmich Jr., Ph.D. is a veteran music educator, jazz educator, and music technologist with more than 43 years of public school teaching experience. He is a TI:ME-certified training instructor and has a Ph.D. in comprehensive musicianship. As a freelance author, Kuzmich has published more than 700 articles and five textbooks. For more information, visit

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