EC&I 831 has been a wonderful journey this term. Being part of such a knowledgeable group of people was a great opportunity to improve my digital literacy. I am always a little nervous to be a part of these types of learning communities, technology is still a foreign language to me. However, I am a strong believer in growth mindsets and strive to be the person that can one day answer some tech questions rather than just ask them.
My project, like many journeys was not about the destination, it was about the journey. I began with a simple goal in mind, to increase my chops on the bass. Something I have been wanting to do for a while now, and this year it became more important. I play in a “dad-band”, which I would compare to the sandlot in more ways than one. We have one talented player, we do it more for fun than anything and finally when someone moves away we don’t replace them, we just keep playing. When our bass player moved away, it fell on me to take his place in the rhythm section. I would like to think that its because I have broad shoulders and was able to fill his shoes… but in the end I think it was largely due to me being the worst guitarist in the band.
This idea began a self serving one but grew into three major ideas. Exploring gamification, collaborating with people online and learning to edit music and video with different audio/video editing software. The bass guitar turned into a vessel that would guide the direction of these three big ideas.
It sounds made up, and according to my computer it is spelled incorrectly. However, what it means is learning using games. This idea isn’t a new one, the game of chess was designed to teach strategy.During WW2, fighter pilots were encouraged to play squash to sharpen reflexes and learn how to assess and exploit opponents weaknesses quickly.
Moving closer to our time, how many of you used Mavis Beacon as a child to increase typing skills? This could be used as an early example of gamification in the digital age. It used games to make learning a mundane task more fun. This has evolved into an entire market, companies develop games that attract people by learning a task in a non-traditional way. These types of games include everything from music to complex science or math games.
The games and online learning platforms that I explored were:
I don’t believe there is a conclusive answer as to which one is the best learning platform, as that would greatly depend on individual learners. In my opinion, no one tool has everything needed to grow into a competent bass player. The amount of practice time needed to become proficient is extraordinary. However, if you look at it from a cost vs. learning standpoint I think youtube is the winner. Youtube has thousands of lessons ranging from beginner to advanced, what they may lack from a teaching perspective they make up for in cost effectiveness. Yousician and Rocksmith are games designed to be fun and are a great introduction to guitar/bass playing. Rocksmith lacks some essential ideas on music theory and in my opinion gets a little boring after a while. It requires a gaming console, and game/chord, both can be purchased for under $100. Yousician closed some gaps in the theory section that Rocksmith left, but lacks enough interesting lessons to keep me motivated and is rather expensive @ 10.00 per month for a one year subscription. For more info on the comparison between Yousician and Rocksmith please read my week 2 blog.
Fenderplay, Udemy and Youtube would not fit directly in to the “gamification” category but would be considered alternative learning platforms. These would all be wonderful suppliments to Yousician and Rocksmith. All three platforms have pre-made lesson plans from beginner to advanced and if followed would ultimately lead to a well rounded bass player. These online lessons are great, however they are not without their flaws either. I found Fenderplay lacked song selection and was over $100 for a one year subscription. Udemy’s bass lesson package was a terrific source of music theory but lacked song selections that I enjoyed but was a good deal $35 for the lesson package. That being said you could easily find similar lessons to both these sites for free on Youtube. For more info on this comparison please read my week 3 blog.
I used a few different editing platforms for this project, both of which were new to me. For the video software I used apple clips to submit several vlog posts as part of my learning journey. Apple clips was easy to use and their were several helpful instructional videos. Because our school has several iPads I was able to teach a few teachers how to use this in their classroom. I also used screencastify to show some editing progress… with what I will describe as limited success.
I went to twitter and our course community to ask some of my peers what music editing software they had used and liked. One of the stipulations was that I wanted free software. A few classmates recommended Audacity and a quick internet search proved that it was a top recommended software for PC computers. I have access to a mac as well, but I feel much more comfortable on a PC, taking advice from my high school science teacher I thought it would be wise to “only change one thing at a time”. One setback that I quickly realized was I needed much more than just my computer mic to record audio. I was able to borrow all the necessary gear from a friend who also became my mentor and an irreplaceable teacher in my journey to editing music. This was by far the most difficult and humbling experience of my learning journey. I underestimated every aspect of this project, playing instruments to a metronome without any visual cues is difficult, then adding several instruments on top of that just seemed to compound any mistakes. Setting levels and lining tracks up was difficult only because the program is visually overwhelming when you have more than 5 tracks on it. This gave me an entire new appreciation to even the simplest of recordings.
Once I started putting video clips together for the final project I quickly realized that windows moviemaker did not have the options I wanted. A quick search for software turned up Movavi . I watched some instructional videos, some of which were done by promoters, some hobbiests and even a few kids. I was blown away at how well done some of these videos were by people that sound as though they are no older than 12. Movavi does have some good features, but it was easy to be overwhelmed with the split screen option. I had a lot of small technical problems that cost valuable time, and I hope that a fresh start will shed some light on the cause. It has a screencastify option which could turn out to be very helpful. I had to buy a subscription after I found I couldn’t post split screen videos with the free trial software… I found this out after I had finished editing…. of course.
This was definitely my favorite part of the project, I was excited to work with some people out there in internet land. I appreciated Alec’s callout for musicians and although there were some interest, I was unable to line anything up. I was however able to trick Amanda Brace into working with me… She was working on piano and after some discussions about a song that would be a good fit, we landed on The Beatles, “I wanna hold your hand”. Amanda was great to work with, helping me with this was more work than she will likely admit, so please join in helping me thank her. I did manage to work with some other people, during a zoomroom lesson with Brooke Alexander I was able to share some helpful hints and resources to help her along her guitar learning journey.
Learning an instrument is a labor of love, there is no finish line. You could play for an entire lifetime and never be finished learning. Saying that, I have a lot left to learn about the bass, but I am really enjoying the journey so far. I am happy with my progress, I spent a lot of time on the couch practicing scales and boxed methods while watching the beat bugs with my 2 year old. Improving my skills on the bass was the starting point and now seems like a small part of this project. I look forward to each part of this project carrying on in different parts of my life. Audacity and Movavi will come to play in my professional life as I will pass along my newly acquired skills to my rockband project at school. I think recording a song and doing a video for it could be a really cool project for the kids in my club.
Check out the finished project!