Learn to Code as You Create Original Music with EarSketch

There are many different creative ways to introduce students to the joys of coding. Today we explore a web-based tool that connects coding to music production – EarSketch.

EarSketch - Compose music through programming.
EarSketch – Compose music through programming.

EarSketch was created by a team from Georga Tech and combines music composition with learning how to code in JavaScript or Python.  I did a little bit of research on this project and it looks like it has been winning the hearts of educators and awards from educational organizations for a while now. In fact, back in June, it was named one of the best websites for teaching and learning in 2018 by the American Association of School Librarians. You can read more about that on Georgia Tech’s website. Way to go EarSketch Team!

EarSketch is intended for high school students but according to the website, it works for older and younger students as well. Along with the web-based platform, there is also a curriculum that has everything you need to teach EarSketch in your computer class. For more information on their curriculum, go to the FAQs page and read more.

It has been years since I have done any real coding, I’ve never programmed in Python, and I was never one who could compose music. The site said “no experience necessary.” So, I thought, why not give this a try and see what I can do. I started with the Hour of Code Module and jumped right in.

Making MusicEarSketch

The interface looks a little intimidating when you first open it up. However, if you start with the Hour of Code module, there are instructions on the right-hand side of the screen that walk you through everything you need to know step by step. The instructions were easy to follow and in no time, I was shaking off my rusty coding knowledge and making music. Once you go through the first tutorial, the layout of the interface begins to make a lot more sense. It is actually fairly easy to navigate.

In the first tutorial, starts you off with sample code that you edit. Which is super helpful. For me, it is much easier to look at the exisiting code and walk through what it does instead of trying to code from scratch. In this first tutorial, I learned how to change the parameters of my functions and how to add music clips. I also learned how to create my own custom beats using variables. Even though it looks complicated, it was really simple once you knew what you were looking at.

The interface screen makes a lot of sense. The top center shows you your timeline and different tracks. You can see how your clips work together based on the parameters you set in your code. On the bottom, you see the code. On the left-hand side of the screen, you have all your libraries. Here you can find music clips, scripts, functions, and more. I also like how it uses the right language for both music composition and for coding.

By the end of the Hour of Code module, I had and nice little program and composed my first Grammy-winning hit. Ok, maybe it wasn’t that good but it was a song and I was impressed with myself.

In the Classroom

EarSkecth is a powerful tool for your classroom. It is true STEAM – the integration of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. I can see how this site will engage both your students who want to learn how to code and those who just want to make music. I think of students like my daughter who is a musician majoring in computer science. In high school, she was always looking for that one great tool to help her learn to code. I think this one would have caught her attention and helped her build both her coding skills and her composition skills. In fact, I’m sending her this link so she can play around with it on her holiday break.

I can see where this site would be great for the computer science class but also for a media class or technology class. It is also a great addition to your makerspace.

Don’t be intimidated by music composition or coding. Click over to EarSketch and start learning both today. Go ahead, make little music.

 

Product Review: STEAMusic by Dalton Learning Labs

Back in June on the floors of the ISTE Conference in Chicago, I discovered a fun company out of Hong Kong called Dalton Learning Labs.

I was intrigued by their DIY Ukulele and amplifier  – the STEAMusic: Integrated Music Learning & Maker Kit. (Full disclosure – they sent a free assembled ukulele and amplifier home with me so I could play with and review it.) 

Ukulele kit
My undecorated ukulele kit

For weeks after I brought home my kit, it sat in my family room. It was not uncommon for random music to float through the house. My teenage kids (and me and my husband) could help but pick it up, turn on the amp and play a few chords as they walked through the room. I have to admit. It made me smile.

amp
Inside of the electric amp.

The kit includes everything needed for kids to build their own ukulele and electric amplifier. A great example of STEAM in action! I did not get to build my kit, but I wish I did. It seems simple enough to put together that even your youngest aspiring musician can successfully decorate and construct their own personalized instrument. I really like that there is no soldering needed to assemble the electric amp.

Pros and Cons

This is a fun classroom product. Here are some pros and cons of this kit.

Pros

  • Complete kit – the Ukulele and amp kit comes with everything you need to complete a playable amplified ukulele. No special tools or soldering is needed to build your instrument. Everything you need is in the kit!
  • Maker project –  There is something cool about playing an instrument that you made yourself. The kids can become maker musicians. By build this kit, kids can learn about instrument construction and basic electronics. When done, they have a playable instrument. That’s a great accomplishment.
  • Creative expression – My favorite part of this kit is that you can decorate your new instrument and amp to reflect your personality. (I’m going to give mine a nice coat of hot pink glitter paint.) This lets kids make it truly their own and reflect their personality.
  • Companion app – Once you have built your instrument, learn to play on the using the Monster Chords School Edition app for iOS. Monster Chords gamifies the learning process. Cute little monsters help your budding musician learn how to play a bunch of different songs. They can even compose their own music. Monster Chords School Edition can be found in the iTunes store for $11.99.

Cons

  • The only con I saw was that the ukulele does not always hold its tune. You need to remember that this is  beginners instrument that is designed to spark an interest in STEAM and music. It is a great way to get you kids interested in music and learning the STEM concepts, If you child becomes interested in building their ukulele skills, you might want to upgrade to a different instrument. However, this is a great way to let them play and explore.

Overall, this is product is a creative way to introduce your kids to music and STEAM. The kit is wrapping up a successful indegogo campaign that ends on September 29. For $35 (plus shipping), you get the Ukulele and amp kit. for $49 (plus shipping) you can add the app.

I wish Dalton Learning Labs continued luck on their kit. Also, check out their website for their other products such as a downloadable Chord chart, free digital art lessons and their AR app, Mindful Ocean. Happy strumming!

30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 27 Incredibox

Day 27: Incredibox

Is the music in you? Do you need to drop a beat and get your groove on? Me too! Head over to Incredibox and let the music flow.

Incredibox is a flash-based website and app that allows you and your students mix up an original tune with the help of some animated beatboxers. (They are kind of loveable, yet kind of creepy.) There are five different versions to choose from each with its own set of beats, effects, voices, and melodies. Creating a custom tune is simple. Just drag an accessory on to a beatboxer and he starts a loop. Layer on more sounds to create a track that is one of a kind.

Incredibox screenshot
My crew of beatboxers playing my jam.

Incredibox lets you record your track and download it as a wave file. You can also share your it through a link or social media. Listen to my original jam Sunrise. Your mixes are public so others can listen to your musical masterpiece. The ones with the most likes make it into the Top 50. You can search the library for mixes by title or email. Listen, like, and share.

Classroom Ideas

Incredibox a fun and easy way to get your students creating their own music. The controls are simple and don’t get in the way of their creative genius. Just drag and drop.

Here are some ideas for how to use it with your students.

  • Create their own mixes for a student-created dance party mix.
  • Mix up soundtracks for their favorite books and stories. Or their own stories.
  • Generate music for their multimedia productions.
  • Create a theme song for their podcast or video show.

Or – your students could create a live version of their mix like this creative group.

Head over to the Goodies page for more gems like this one.

Whether you want to get your students creating music for their multi-media projects or live out your secret DJ dream, Incredibox is a fun and easy tool to help you let the music play. Now excuse me while I jam. Hit it you loveable, creepy little beatboxers.