Pedagogy and Music Technology

This project and website has grown out of a blog post written by Jeff Kaiser, called, Why Reaper? The post led to an ongoing  discussion on pedagogy and music technology between Kaiser and several colleagues, long-time audio-professionals and educators who teach music production, including Pro Tools, Logic, Ableton Live, Max/MSP, and more, in universities, community colleges, K-12, tech schools, et cetera. The discussion explored the idea that while the desire to familiarize students with the specific software applications that are most commonly used in the professional studio world (Logic, Pro Tools, etc.) is understandable, and necessary if students wish to be employed by certain market arenas, it should be balanced by introductions to—and instruction in—tools that permit a greater diversity of use and of users. We concluded that we ought to advocate the introduction of the digital audio workstation (DAW) Reaper and other alternative platforms as options in educational institutions and other contexts frequently dominated by Pro Tools and Logic, et cetera.

NOTE: The author (Jeff Kaiser) does not have any affiliation with the makers of Reaper, or the various other products they discuss here.

In our conversations, we asked the question, "What might a forward-looking pedagogy in music technology look like?" Such a pedagogy must certainly teach the current context, applications, and technologies, but it should also address technologies and applications that may not yet be common in the industry, but have the possibility to bring about innovation. We believe education is about much more than the transference of information and technological solutions from instructors to students. For us, education must also explore possibilities, and should be a time to learn about options, to construct and solidify conceptual knowledge, and to create a meaningful future. There is strength in knowing how to achieve one's goals quickly in a familiar working environment, but we also believe that there is considerable value in learning larger concepts that are transferable, and working towards equitable, accessible, creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial futures.

Broadening one's learning and exploring new and various ways of working also carries additional benefits, of course. It can improve memory, communication, listening, and comprehension, teaching one to appreciate different values and points of view. It fosters insights into the ways other people might think, encouraging empathy toward and support of one’s colleagues. It also helps one to become a good critical thinker and creative problem solver, able to make connections across complex ideas. All these skills will contribute to an opening up of opportunities as the student moves into a future filled with possibilities.

For us, a forward-looking pedagogy in music technology should be:

1. Equitable

It should create awareness of—and access to—music technology instructional resources to as broad a group as possible. There should be as many free and inexpensive resources as possible, encouraging the potential of students who lack the means to purchase expensive options.

2. Accessible

  • Geographically—Such a pedagogy should incorporate a focus on what can be learned away from studio locations with the inherent financial investment they require. We do not want to take away from the importance of studio located coursework— access to professional equipment, in particular hardware, is a joy, but it is also a privilege not accessible by all. One goal we envision is that students who own, or even just have access to, a laptop can not only produce music, but complete their coursework in their bedroom, at their kitchen table, in their favorite park, coffeehouse or library—anywhere, in fact, without requiring additional costly software.

  • Financially—it should be accessible to people of varying financial means.

  • Ability—it should be usable by people of varying abilities.

3. Cross-platform

The pedagogy we envision should not simply dictate investment in a specific computer brand, OS, or software, in its choice of teaching tools. In addition to expensive standards, it should introduce students to, and instruct using affordable professional software that supports different operating systems and different vintages of computers.

4. Creative

This pedagogy should encourage students to express musical creativity while learning music technology fundamentals.

5. Innovative

A forward-looking pedagogy must, almost by definition, reinforce the value of innovation even while it recognizes and learns from the rich lineage and history contributed by the music technologists, producers, engineers, artists, and other innovators that have gone before.

6. Professional

This pedagogy should offer transferable skills that will enable students to work in various studio environments and at a distance from the studio.

7. Entrepreneurial

A pedagogy of this kind should encourage, or at least introduce an entrepreneurial approach, presenting scenarios in which students might own their own means of producing  music rather than be locked into studios owned by others. It should attempt to educate independent thinkers who can embrace solutions outside of expensive options.

8. Critically-Engaged

What does it mean to be critically engaged in music technology?

For us, it means to explore and ask questions about the frameworks in which music technology is created and used.

Technology is not created in a void, it is created by people living in cultures with shared meanings, values, tools, art, institutions, and other structures. How do these things inform and influence what is being made and how it is used? Who made it, why did they, and for what purpose?

The recording studio itself is a location of cultural production, both in terms of cultural products (recorded music) as well as meanings and values, et cetera.

Among others, we ask these questions:

  • What kind of culture has been created by past producers, engineers, and artists?
  • How does that culture affect us and the music that we produce?
  • What kind of culture can be created by future producers, engineers, and artists?

This website is in the developmental stages.

Content will continue to be added and pages updated regularly.

Please check back.