Guest Blog: Our Musical Futures Tech Champion Journey So Far…

21st January 2020

Emma Lamb, Head of Music at Lancaster Royal Grammar School reflects on the impact of the Tech Champions project and the use of Ableton Live to inspire students

Having experimented with Ableton at a previous school, but without the expertise and technical support in school to back it up I was really pleased when Dave Shooter, one of our key peripatetic music tutors, approached me with ideas of how to introduce Ableton into our department at Lancaster Royal Grammar School.

We began our curriculum journey in 2017 by introducing Year 9 to Ableton. We currently operate a carousel system for Expressive Arts at Year 9, with boys moving between music, drama, art and photography on a 9 week rotation. Boys were introduced to Ableton as both a composing and live mixing programme. They responded well and on the back of that we set up a lunchtime session for all interested students. Dave also began to teach music production as an individual lesson alongside his guitar teaching timetable.

In the summer of 2018 Dave ran a series of six workshops with our year 10 students to link in with the set work ‘Release’ (Afro Celt Sound System). We looked at how this would have been composed and performed and then Dave helped them to develop these ideas into their own composition ideas.  Albeton also proved ideal to explore the remix option in the Edexcel specification.

When we got the opportunity to be a Musical Futures Tech Champion school we were thrilled as this gave us the impetus we needed to fully integrate Ableton into our curriculum and use it to release creativity in our classes.

Since our first meeting in the summer of 2019 we have begun to integrate Ableton into all year groups, working backwards from the skills we see that they need at A level and GCSE. Year 7 are working on basic Ableton skills in their study of minimalism – manipulating both midi and audio files as well as being introduced to the Push units as a clip launcher. Year 8 take that a step further in using the Push to input, compose and improvise with a live performance. Year 9 work on thinking about structure as part of live performances, launching clips, manipulating effects and then move on to incorporate the use of Ableton and Push units into groups with live musicians on their own choice of song. The aim is for boys to use Ableton as their main composition tool at Key Stage 3 and to give students the option to use it as a performance platform at GCSE and A level.

The following 2 examples show how year 9 students have been using Ableton and the Musical Futures ‘In The Style of…Ed Sheeran’ resources to create their own group performances:

There has been a fabulous response to Ableton and the Push units, giving us real confidence that the students are engaged and reaching deeper understanding of composition as a process. The performance possibilities are exciting and we are looking to incorporate Ableton into a couple of new ensembles – hopefully taking it on our next tour to Catalonia in October 2020.

Excellent workshops ‑ extremely accessible for all abilities and levels."

Claire Armour, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra