Over the past few months there’s been a lot of good tunes coming out of the Cecil B. Moore library. Being a producer and musician myself, I try to encourage as much music-making as possible. I’ve never been particularly crafty or good with my hands, but I am very comfortable making digital media, so at every Maker Jawn session I’ve run, there is almost always somebody on the laptop making music in Garageband.
The Apple Loops function in Garageband allows users to work with prerecorded samples of music . This is the first thing I show kids who are new to the program and usually they can create a composition in a matter of minutes. This is very gratifying for a lot of kids because the music sounds “decent” and they can play it for their friends, or share it on Soundcloud. A MIDI keyboard is a good source of instant gratification for younger makers, as it is easier to use than the graphical interface of Garageband. Younger kids are also less self-conscious about whether the music they make is “good”, and are happy to bang away at the keys.
Another really cool function in Garageband is the MIDI sampler, which turns the MIDI keyboard into any kind of noise-maker you want it to be. In some cases, kids selected samples from their favorite songs and played them over each other to create remixes and mashups.
Other kids sampled their own voice and looped it to make crazy club tracks.
The Sampler is a lot of fun, but requires a little effort to get set up. I usually have kids find their samples on Youtube or record them in Garageband, then I cut them up and load them in the sampler. Once that’s done, kids can make their own recordings using the MIDI keyboard.
In addition to Garageband, we’ve also been building our own electronic musical instruments using the Makey Makey and my littleBits Synth kit. This has been a very cool way to learn about circuit-building and analog synthesizers, as well as great inspiration for sci-fi sound effects!
Its been a lot of fun making beats, but more importantly, it has given one of my makers a new sense of purpose. For many months, Kasim was one of the most difficult kids in the library. He was disruptive, loud, and would often get kicked out of maker sessions. He was easily frustrated and had trouble focusing. In the past 6 months he has turned into one of the most prolific and productive makers. Every day he asks to use Garageband, and if someone is using the computer, he waits patiently until its his turn. In addition to turning around his behavior he has made some really cool tracks, which he proudly plays for anybody who enters the children’s section of the library.