My music and technology timeline

My journey to being able to easily edit audio and using computers in general looks something like this-

I sincerely hope that some of the links here will help you get started on using music technology in your classroom, if you’re not already. The key to success is to not be worried about making a mistake and to just try stuff. And if you are unsure, ask me. I’m happy to help.

1991 – (Age 7- 8 years old) My parents buy a computer. Mostly to  type up school work (they were both teachers) and play games (alley cat, prince of persia, etc.). I am surrounded by music. My mother is a music teacher and my father has an immense LP collection of classical music which he plays regularly.

Photo by Rain Rabbit

(Anyone else remember the theme music for this game? I have it stuck in my head!)

1993 – My dad buys an encyclopedia on disk for our computer, which has been updated many times over. He is very excited to show me a 4cm x 4cm video of Jesse Owens at the Olympics on the encyclopedia.

1995 – My dad takes my typed letters on floppy disk to the university where he works to email my friend overseas.

Photo by pandameixiang

1996 – The first time I use an internet search engine. Also the first time I try and record myself playing piano so that I can sing along with the recording. I spend around 2 hours trying to get it right and realise how challenging it is to record something perfectly all the way through without stopping.

1997-2000 – My music teacher explains every detail of jazz and classical music history and theory that I’ll ever need to know. I submit my first ever compositions (written by hand). I’m so caught up in the ‘rules’ of music that I forget to think about the sound!

1999 – A boyfriend of mine shows me how to burn a CD.

2000 – By now we’ve had the internet at home for a while and I attempt to use internet research on all my assignments for history (cringe!). I love the power that ctrl + C, ctrl + V gives me when trying to get my work edited in a hurry. (My dad tells me the story of him literally cutting and pasting his essays with scissors and glue, and I feel blessed to own a computer!)

2001 – (age 17- 18 years old) I enrol in a Bachelor of Music and Education at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane Australia after successfully auditioning for a place as a classical singer. I quickly learn that I won’t spend most of my time singing, like I’d hoped, but I learn a lot of skills as a musician that have since been very useful. (And it turns out that all I needed to learn how to sing well was practice and to have a great teacher.)

2001 – 2004 – Music technology subjects are on the syllabus. I learn how to use Sibelius, ProTools, Logic Audio, and some others that I’ve forgotten. (I also learn how to use a minidisc player and what an mp3 player is.) I spend many a sleepless night getting frustrated with the Macs in the Music Technology Lab — particularly given that I’ve been a PC user all my life. I learn that if you don’t know the shortcuts in a composing/ sound editing program, it takes forever to create music. And that ctrl (or command) + C and V are still my friends. I also learn about quantization, normalising the volume of a track, all about leads and cables, amps and effects and the power of Howard Goodall to not only teach me music history but inspire me to compose using Sibelius. My mother (also a music teacher) takes a summer program at QUT to learn how to use the cool stuff I’ve been using!

Yes that is a minidisc! Photo by mr.smashy

2005 – Introduced to Audacity by a fellow music teacher at Ferny Grove State High School. I use it in combination with minidisc recordings of my drama students’ voices to create a soundscape for a performance.

2009 – I buy an iMac for the drama room at my school so that I can record and edit my drama students’ work easily. The school has seriously outdated technology other than my Mac, so I quickly learn how to use the iLife suite through trial and error.

2010 – I write and record songs using garageband for a production of Twelfth Night that I am directing. Prior to this I had solely used audacity.

2011– I buy a Roland voice recorder so that I can record myself and my teacher in singing lessons. (Yes I’m still trying to be a good musician)

2012 – (aged 28) Today. I’m using garageband on the iPad, soundcloud, almost all my CDs are on iTunes, I use youtube to share music with my students and Sibelius to help them compose. I still use everything that I have learnt about music technology but now it seems like second nature. I swear I could not do this stuff if I hadn’t been gradually exposed to using computers and music technology!! Just looking at this journey, it’s hard to imagine the skills I’ll need to learn over the next decade!

About Alison Armstrong

Alison Armstrong BMus./BEd. (Queensland University of Technology), Dip. ABRSM (Performance- Singing) I have trained to teach Music (Elementary, Middle and High School) and Drama (Middle and High School). This is my 7th year as a teacher.
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3 Responses to My music and technology timeline

  1. Hi Alison, your timeline is really cool..ohhh gosh how time flies and how technology just keeps on changing sooooo fast. Really like your blog. Nice to see what you can do with music. My dad plays in a band, ever since I was little up until now. I grew up with music around me…now the funny part is that I don’t play an instrument at all!!!!. Don’t know how that happened. Maybe my parents just never had the time to take me to music lessons. I’m hoping that my children will play at least 1 instrument. My hubby plays the piano, but he can’t read notes (I find that quit interesting..he will listen to a tune and than tries to find it on the piano, wish I could do that).

    • My husband’s the same, except with guitar. It bugs me because I NEED the music in front of me!
      I find it so sad that making music for so many people stops once they finish school. Then they just turn into listeners. I used to love hearing my mum — very occasionally — sit down and play the piano. She would do it when no one was watching, but of course we were listening. It really makes me happy being a music teacher and getting to sing and play piano every day, I think it’s why my grandparents are so committed to being in the Salvation Army, my grandfather plays tuba and my grandmother plays the piano or the organ. They’re in their 80’s and they’ve been making music their whole lives. But… I wish it wasn’t just church and school that were outlets to make music.

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