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A Musical Revolution Hiding In Plain Site?

When I was seven years old, I discovered an acoustic guitar while playing with my cousins in their basement. My uncle's guitar was in it's case in a closet. I opened the case and looked at it. Something made me want to touch it, so I strummed all the strings and heard a sound like this:

That's all it took. From that moment on I wanted to play guitar. My uncle ended up lending me his guitar and the following year I began lessons.

Fast forward to the present day... Yesterday, my seven year old discovered GarageBand on our iPad. He touched the screen for the first time and heard this:

He was immediately hooked. Within fifteen minutes, he had created his first short instrumental song. I had used GarageBand before on a Mac and an iPod Touch. I had also checked it out briefly on the iPad and noted how fun it was to play around with but truthfully, I saw it as really just a toy. Yesterday's experience with my son has drastically altered my perception. Now I think it may potentially be revolutionary. This tool that my seven year old has at his disposal is mind boggling, especially in comparison to what I had access to at his age.

This piece of software and interface are powerful beyond comprehension. This is a fully equipped recording studio which includes almost every instrument imaginable and the virtual session musicians to play them! With it you also have sampling, synthesis, real time effects processing and artificial intelligence all packaged in a relatively simple interface. Make no mistake, with a few touches, a child can create music but that is just the tip of a colossal iceberg. There are so many layers within this software that it could take years to learn and master.

That was the other revelation for me. This software may be the ultimate modern tool for learning about music, especially music composition. It could potentially be used to teach almost every aspect of music in a fun and interactive way. Here is an example: rhythm. Touch a drum loop and you can hear an example of a beat which contains multiple rhythms. You can then learn about the sounds that make up those rhythms. You can learn about the pattern that each sound is playing. You can then learn how that pattern is played and how to play it yourself. You can then open the drum interface and try playing the rhythm yourself on an actual drum kit using your fingers. You can then learn how to combine multiple patterns into a beat. You can then record your own beat. That beat can be brought into the loop interface and used as the basis of a new composition...

You can also learn about scales and chords and how they fit together. You can learn how to write melodies and chord progressions. You can learn how to structure a piece of music. You can learn how to arrange a piece of music. You can learn how to record, edit and process audio for sampling and looping. You can learn how to record vocals or live instruments and add them to your compositions. You can even learn how to use GarageBand as an instrument and learn how to perform together with others on devices or as a part of a band with live musicians and on and on and on...

I am not, however, suggesting that GarageBand should replace learning an actual instrument. I think that it could be learned in conjunction. Most importantly, I think it could and should be used to spark creativity. The potential is unlimited.

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