Elementary School Music

My First Classical Music Book (and i-Pad app)

Posted in Books for Teachers, Music Technology by P. Conrad on January 18, 2012

 Genevieve Helsby’s excellent introduction for elementary aged children was published in 2009.  Now, My First Classical Music Book can be used in conjunction with an i-Pad app ($4.99) that opens up the book’s pages into a lively animated encounter with elements of Western art music.

The 60-page book (including an audio CD) is published by Naxos. The i-Pad app can be explored in a brief YouTube video.


Music Technology

Posted in Music Technology by P. Conrad on January 30, 2010

Music technology applications in elementary school can include notation software, software for learning, and the hardware and software used to record and reproduce children’s musical performances.

Notation Software
Various companies make software for music composition and notation, that allow users to print and share professional-looking charts or song sheets.



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Recording children’s singing or musical performance can be a powerful teaching tool. There are basically three ways to do this:

  1. use an old-fashioned cassette player/recorder with a microphone.
  2. use a digital recorder such as a mini-disk or hard-drive audio recorder, with an external microphone or one that’s built in.
  3. use a classroom computer or laptop with appropriate software, such as an i-Mac with Garageband.


Garageband is Apple’s software that allows users to record and produce a song, using either live instruments and voices or by combining pre-recorded “loops” of various instrumental sounds in a layered composition. Quality is good, ease of use is not-so-good.

Garageband is part of the standard “i-Life” package of software on Mac computers found in many schools. Since these classroom desktops and laptops have built-in microphones, teachers willing to spend some time exploring and learning have the ability to record student performances and even burn a CD or post the performance on a school website. However, the basic functions require a little patient study. The Apple store in Manhattan offers free classes in using Garageband.

Audacity is a free download: “Simple but powerful software for multi-track editing and recording.”
Users can record from microphone, mixers, cassettes, records, minidiscs, FM radio, or import sound files, edit them and mix with other files or new recordings.  Finished projects can be exported to various file formats including WAV, AIFF, FLAC, MP3 (with optional LAME library), AAC (import only).  Here’s a Guide to Installation for Windows users.

Learning Software
The choices for software that supports music learning are extensive. There is some question whether time spent interacting with a computer is as valuable as time spent singing or playing music or listening to recordings or live performances. One exception may be the Clearvue line of music appreciation DVDs, CDs and videos.

ma2thumbMusicAce by Harmonic Vision.

jmajma_main Juilliard Music Adventure (Rhythm & Melody) by Tom Snyder.

Essentials of Music Theory by Alfred Publishing.

GNU Solfege is a free software program written to help people do ear training: it includes exercises to train chords, intervals, scales, rhythms and harmonic progressions.

Using a SmartBoard

If you have a music classroom and your school can afford around $1,800 for the equipment, it can be a powerful tool. There are loads of solutions for teaching music on an interactive whiteboard (orSmartBoard) at the “MusTech” Wiki

Downloading audio files from the so-called “peer-to-peer” networks such as Limewire and similar sites is illegal and represents an infringement of the rights of the artist whose song is acquired. ASCAP, the professional body that protects the rights of composers and publishers, has a strong position on the issue. With the Music Educators National Conference, ASCAP has developed a curriculum program (Creativity in the Classroom) to teach children about their own place in a creative community that includes creators, consumers and legal copyright.

According to ASCAP’s definition of fair use, there is no allowance for a teacher to download a file of a copyrighted song or reproduce lyric sheets for use in a classroom setting.


Music Education Technology is a magazine that offers free resources and lesson plans.

Technology Institute for Music Educators (TI:ME) has extensive web resources.

The NYC Department of Education has extensive resources to support instructional uses of technology. Contact your regional Office of Instructional Technology to learn about after-school technology professional development (some with per-session).

Nursery Rhymes with graphics for classroom use

Posted in Music Technology, Repertoire by P. Conrad on December 6, 2009

From one of Amy M. Burns‘s music ed blogs, here’s a link to a set of Mother Goose rhymes:

Hey Diddle-Diddle; Dance to Your Daddy; Baa Baa Black Sheep; Hickory Dickory Dock; This Little Piggy; Jack Be Nimble; Jack & Jill; There Was a Crooked Man; Little Jack Horner; Three Blind Mice; Twinkle Twinkle; Humpty Dumpty; Little Bo-Peep; I Had a Little Nut Tree; Little Miss Muffet; Pussy-cat, Pussy-cat; Old King Cole; Two Little Dicky-birds

for each rhyme you can download a printable illustrated poster; a set of printable cards for sequencing activities; and (for teachers who use an interactive whiteboard) a six-page Smart Notebook file with characters, scenes, sequencing activities and suggestions for activities in class. The cards and posters are Microsoft Word files.

The illustrations are well-done, and posters and cards could be printed as take-home activities for students.

Technology, collaboration and music learning

Posted in Music Technology by P. Conrad on July 16, 2009

Classroom 2.0 is a site where people share and discuss their ideas for using Web 2.0 tools in school, and there’s a section devoted to teaching and learning music.

The term “Web 2.0” refers to the increased interaction between people who post material online and people who look at it, through forums and blogs, social networking, and through online tools for collaboration such as GoogleDocs

and images

For elementary-age children these can be effective ways to present and demonstrate their learning and their achievement, in ways that can be shared with a broad audience.

YouTube is not generally appropriate for all ages, but has some impressive work by the chorus at Staten Island’s P.S. 22.