Fifth Grade iPad Band Adds Innovative Edge to Concert
Fifth graders discovered iPads are instrumental in Corbett Prep concerts as teachers merge music, technology.
Dec. 18, 2014 (TAMPA, Fla.) – Winter concerts at Corbett Preparatory School of IDS this year featured a new type of band — one with instruments that respond to a tap and can be recharged nightly.
Technology and music merged during Corbett Prep’s Grandparents’ Day and Fine Arts Night in November and December. Members of the fifth grade iPad band showed audiences their abilities to perform in innovative and traditional styles, switching smoothly from xylophones to iPads and back.
Music teacher Michael LeBlanc offered students the opportunity to experiment with digital drumming during the concerts. He downloaded free rhythm apps featuring world drums and taught the students how to use the iPads as percussion. The students already knew how to navigate iPads from their experience at Corbett Prep and home, but the musical application took them in a different direction.
The result was a sound true to the original instruments. LeBlanc had students start on xylophones and then put down their mallets to play on the iPads. The performance ended with some students playing xylophones and some playing computers.
“It’s a completely different feel,” LeBlanc said. “I wanted them to blend with the real sounds of the xylophones.”
Fifth grader Julia Martin said students had to adjust the techniques they used on traditional drums for the tablets.
Tapping different spots of the iPad drums produced different tones, which they expected, but the screen was smaller than a drum surface. Students had to use one or two fingers when playing the iPad, instead of their entire hand as they normally would.
“It’s really different, because on the iPad, you can’t press as hard,” Julia said.
The students also had to make sure they kept up the beat. It seemed more noticeable when they fell out of sync on the tablets, compared to when they played on actual drums, she said.
The fifth graders in the group had volunteered for the performance, giving up free time to rehearse. Soon, more students will have a chance to experiment with iPads as instruments. LeBlanc and technology teacher Matt Melnick are working together to develop more cross-curricular opportunities.
The performing arts is a big part of the school day and after school through the Community School of the Arts at Corbett Prep. LeBlanc said he always will favor real instruments over virtual ones, and it is important to make sure students are exposed to actual instruments they can hold and play. But introducing students to iPads as music makers benefits them, too. It is another way to cultivate an interest in learning music, and it paves the way for the future. Computers already are entrenched in the music world, whether performers are playing on apps or enhancing their vocals through software. The role of technology will continue to grow, and future musicians need to be prepared.
“This is the time we live in,” LeBlanc said.