Key Stage 3 Composition GCSE A-Level

Learning in Lockdown: Bandlab

Bandlab is an online DAW – Digital Audio Workstation. It is a free, web-based DAW that allows you to create classes, set assignments and collect composition work from your students. In this Learning in Lockdown: Bandlab blog I will be considering some of the features, strengths and advantages of using Bandlab in your teaching. I have already considered Bandlab in my Composing at Home Series, but I wanted to look at some of the features in the hope that you will feel ready to start using it with your classes.

What is Bandlab?

Simply put, it is a cloud based platform where people can make and share music. There is an Education branch to it where you can get up a school & classes and then set assignements for your students. It is free, but it is packed full of great features and it is a great solution for Learning in Lockdown. But it is not just a tool for Lockdown, it is a great way to get students composing & creating music outside of the classroom at any time. The more we can engage our students with composition the better! Music isn’t just about performance and listening, but it is about being able to create music and engage with music technology.

Why use it?

  1. It is Free and easy to set up.
  2. It is a great solution if you are teaching in a classroom without computers. You can cover the topics in class and then provide homework tasks on Bandlab.
  3. If you don’t have Music Room Computers then you can book an IT suite at school and students can easily access Bandlab.
  4. Not only does it have the power to write with MIDI but it is also packed full of great loops that students can use easily to make music.
  5. The interface is easy to use and work is all saved in the cloud.
  6. Assignments can quickly be set for whole classes or year groups.
  7. Feedback can be given on assignments and students can then continue to work – progress tracking is clear and easy to see.
  8. Students can use Bandlab without the need for any additional hardware.

I Do, You Do, We Do

In the same way that I would model in lessons, I like to use do the same in Bandlab. By modelling I mean, showing the students what I would do with a given task or project. Lockdown is a great chance to practise modelling of good practise to students whilst they are tuned in to a Teams or Zoom call. You can share your screen and show students exactly how the software works. Whilst this is possible in the classroom, I think it is quite nice that they have it on the screen in front of them – that is the I DO stage.

Then they can go away and focus on their work and get on with the tasks that you have set. These can easily be seen in their Bandlab area and they can then save their work to the task and submit it – the You Do phase.

The best thing is that as a teacher you can then give them feedback and even make changes to their work. This is a collaborative way not only to give feedback, but to point out where changes can be made – WE DO.

Whilst Bandlab has been great during Lockdown in 2020 & 2021, it will also continue to serve a purpose Post-Lockdown. Setting compositional homework tasks on a free cloud-based bit of software sounds like a great way to get students making music. Not every school can afford expensive software and similarly students may not have machines at home that are powerful enough. Bandlab therefore offers a solution.

Worries, Concerns & Questions

Like everything new online, we often have worries, concerns & questions:

  1. Is it safe for students & okay in terms of GDPR?

    This is a common question and I can only say that I think it is absolutely fine to use with Key Stage 3-5 students. Potentially it would also be okay for Years 5 &6. There are various documents on the website and I stick to the Education version. Students are told to only use their school email. Parents can quickly and easily be made aware, and GDPR information can be found on the website.
  2. Is it easy to set-up?

    Yes it really is easy to set-up Bandlab. You can quickly make a teacher account, add a school and then add classes. Students can then join by clicking on a special link to their class.
  3. Do you need anything additional equipment?

    Whilst you can use a MIDI keyboard and external microphone, and can also just use the computer QWERTY keyboard. So you don’t need any additional equipment, just a computer and a load of creativity!
  4. Are there tutorials to help?

    There are loads of tutorials out there to help you and I would advise you go to Bandlab Academy for everything you could possibly need.
  5. Are there loops as well as MIDI facilities?

    Bandlab has a load of loops and they sound great. Students can easily start creating music on Bandlab straight away by selecting genres & styles that they like. It is a great way to get students composing.
  6. Does it work on an iPad/iPhone?

    There is indeed an app that can be used, but unfortunately the education version doesn’t login on the app. The web version will also not work on an iPad sadly. So it does rely on students have access to a laptop or desktop.

Making the right choice

Bandlab is great, but it is one of many different options available to you when it comes to a DAW. The most attractive part is that it is free and easy to use. But it might not be perfect for you. So I would encourage you to do some research and think about your own context. What are you wanting to achieve with Bandlab? Where does it fit in with your curriocuum? Will you use it after lockdown?

And you may like to consider the other software that is out there so that you make the best decision for you & your student:

The real message is that it is important to consider what you want and remember that FREE isn’t always going to be perfect. But also you can get some great software much cheaper than you might think.

If you have any questions about bandlab then please do get in touch and I would be more than happy to help or point you in the right direction. I love using it and find it really useful for homework, lockdown learning and inspiring Year 9 students to get into composition ahead of GCSE Music.

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