Using Technology to Unlock Musical Creativity

Using Technology to Unlock Musical Creativity

Using Technology to Unlock Musical Creativity

Using Technology to Unlock Musical Creativity


It has never been easier or more fun for students to compose, improvise, arrange, and produce music and music-related projects than with today's technology. Written in a practical, accessible manner, Using Technology to Unlock Musical Creativity offers both a framework for and practical tips on the technology tools best suited for encouraging students' authentic musical creativity.

Author Scott Watson makes a compelling case for creativity-based music learning through eight teacher-tested principles that access, nurture, and develop students' potential for musical expression. Example after example illustrates each principle in a variety of music teaching and technology scenarios. Watson also includes practical ideas for technology-based creative music activities, locating lesson plans and other resources, and assessing creative work. The book provides detailed plans for dozens of attractive projects, each linked to MENC National Standards, and also offers suggestions for making adaptations according to grade level and technology proficiency. Additionally, it includes a valuable section of resources with tips for setting up a computer music workstation, a plain-language description of how digital audio works, and a music education technology glossary. Most of the activities described can be carried out by novice users with free or low-cost music applications.

The book also features a comprehensive companion website with dozens of audio and video examples as well as many downloadable worksheets, rubrics, and activity files. Visit the companion website at


My interest in using technology in a creativity-based approach to music learning developed over many years. Early in my teaching career, I tended to fall back on pedagogical models I experienced when I was a student. These generally did not incorporate creative activity. This is fairly common among all young teachers, and frankly I absorbed some great stuff along the way since I had many fine music teachers. As a composer, however, I have been interested in creativity for some time. I just didn’t see the connection at first between what motivated and facilitated my creativity and my work with students.

It was the concurrence of three things that moved me in the direction of incorporating principles of creativity-based learning. First, I observed that my students—with or without my urging—were naturally creative. Many beginning band students would bring in songs they had written using the first few notes presented in their method book. Their eyes would light up when I helped them typeset their music with notation software, showing them how the software can playback what they had written. One sixth-grade flute student brought me in a self-made cd, recorded and produced with multitrack software at home, titled Vicki’s Greatest Hits. a middle-school tuba player wrote a song about ocean pollution for a social studies project; all he needed from me was a little help producing it using GarageBand. a colleague from a neighboring town established a popular after-school “recording club” and the tunes they were producing were surprisingly well done. and on and on. Just look online at sites like YouTube if you want to see for yourself the types of creativity, especially musical, that kids engage in all the time without the urging or formal guidance of their teachers. It is truly amazing.

Second, I began to recognize the allure and power for music education of the technology tools I was using to create music myself. I dove head first into using Finale music notation software in my composing, fascinated by its many useful features. I swelled with pride when I presented a professional-looking score to a client, even more so when I heard the work’s premiere. the time it took to learn the program was a small price for all that. Did I resent the hours I spent . . .

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