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Music and ICT

Links to research documents provide a context for the Stage 4 activities below which show how ICT can be incorporated in learning experiences in music.

Year 8 Composing on computers

Listening activity

Assessment activity

Music software

two students at computer

The revised Music Years 7-10 Syllabus includes specific outcomes addressing the use of computer technology in music as well as a clear statement requiring students to engage with ICT throughout the music course.

Both Music 1 and Music 2 and Music Extension syllabuses include statements regarding technology noting:

"Musicians are avid consumers of new technology and advances during the twentieth century have influenced, and will continue to change, the ways in which musicians work, both in terms of the instruments they play and the means by which they record and share their performances.

"Developments in analogue and digital electronics have meant that musicians now have access to a wide range of new instruments and sounds as well as the means to record and manipulate sounds in ways which were not possible even a few years ago. Synthesisers, sequencers, non-linear recording and editing systems are the everyday tools of many musicians".

"Teachers are encouraged to use a full range of technologies as available to them, in the classroom and in the wider school context". (Music 1 Stage 6 syllabus p 26)

Research documents

Janet Mills and Andy Murray Music technology inspected: good teaching in Key Stage 3. B. J. Music Ed. 2000 17:2, 129-156 Copyright# 2000 Cambridge University Press. Retrieved on November 9, 2007 from

David Ashworth Electrifying Music A Guide To Using ICT In Music Education. The Paul Hamlyn Foundation January 2007. Retrieved on November 9, 2007 from

Richard Sabey The Creative Use of Music Technology A guide to treating music technology as your slave, not your master, Personalising Extra-Curricular Music Activities for 11-18 Year Olds.The Paul Hamlyn Foundation January 2007. Retrieved on November 9, 2007 from

Jennings, Kevin Hyperscore: A Case Study in Computer Mediated Music Composition. Education and Information Technologies Vol.10, No. 3 (2005): 225-238. Retrieved on November 9, 2007 from

U.S. Department of Education Technology and Education Reform: Effects of technology on classrooms and students, A Research Project Sponsored by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Conducted by SRI International. Retrieved on November 9, 2007 from

How to use ICT in music. Becta 2007, Coventry UK. Retrieved on November 9, 2007 from


The following unit of work was developed to support the new Music Years 7-10 Syllabus and used in a workshop series for government schools during Term 2, 2005. Thank you to

Jane CaterisCanterbury Girls High School
Shane KershawMacintyre High School
Julie MontagueCurriculum K-12 Directorate
Peter SchuhmacherInverell High School
Andrew SmithHomebush Boys' High School
Bill Twyman

Macquarie ICT Innovation Centre

Steve WilkinsAuburn Girls High School

Anne Wisdom

Thank you to the students from Inverell, Homebush Boys and Auburn Girls High Schools who have provided work samples for these units.

 Stages 4 & 5 logo

Click on the icon on the left to find other activities using ICT.

Year 8: Composing on computers

This unit of work focuses on developing students' understanding and ability to manipulate the concepts of music using computer technology. Resources include computers installed with a loop program such as Acid DJ and sufficient headphones and adaptors for students to work in pairs.

Composing on computers (Year 8) Unit Outline    (pdf 53kb)                                              top

Students should already have an understanding of the concepts of tone colour, texture and structure. Their skills in analysing music are developed by listening to demonstration compositions. Working in pairs they then develop their own two minute compositions. Their musical observations  directly inform the process of composing their own piece.

This activity addresses Years 7-10 Music Syllabus Stage 4 outcomes 4.4, 4.6, 4.7, 4.8, 4.10 and 4.12.

two students at computer 

The unit takes roughly ten hours to complete, with approximately half that time in the computer room and the other half in a classroom with a hi-fi and overhead projector. 

Listening activity

Select up to five musical examples to listen to and analyse. Choose pieces that have all been composed using the program ACID. The pieces are listed in order, from the least interesting to the most interesting piece. Acid Xpress can be downloaded for free.                                         

two students at computer  1. Discuss, with a partner, the reasons why one piece seems the least interesting example and what makes another piece so much more interesting.

2. Using the ACID screen of each piece as a guide, listen to each and analyse the use of texture, unity and variety in each one. The ACID Analysis Sheets (pdf 52kb)  may also be used for suggestions. An explanation of terms is included.

Tips for listening and analysis                                                                                                      top 

When analysing the texture of each of these pieces, consider:

  • the tone colour of each layer
  • the number of layers used in each piece
  • changes in the number of layers in the texture
  • the different roles of each layer.

When listening for unity within the piece, listen for elements that remain the same such as:

  • the same tone colours throughout the piece or a section
  • repetition of phrases
  • repetition of rhythms
  • repetition of motifs

When listening for variety within the piece, listen for elements that change such as:

  • new tone colours
  • different phrases
  • different rhythms
  • different motifs
  • contrast between different sections in the piece

Assessment activity

Composing on computers (pdf 70kb)                                                                               top

Student work samples

Sample 1:

Kabi and Nishanthan (mp3 1.2MB)

feedback, analysis and assessment

(pdf 865kb)

two students at computer
 two students at computer

Sample 2:

Mehran and Damien (mp3 909kb)

feedback, analysis and assessment

(pdf 667kb)

Future directions

At the end of this unit students will have a working understanding of structure, tone colour and texture, including the varying roles of different layers of sound. They will also have a greater understanding of how to produce a composition or arrangement that can sustain unity and variety for approximately two minutes. This knowledge and skill will be built on in the next unit of study which will move away from the feel of Dance music.

For example, if the unit was Jazz students could learn to play several melodic phrases, then extract some simple melodic ostinatos from these phrases and then learn a few rhythmic accompaniments and, in groups of 4, create and perform a short composition using their own arrangement of the above. Students could also present a score of their arrangement based on the main screen format used in the Acid program. The “art” of teaching the next unit is to move away from the Dance Music feel of Acid.

Music software

Acid Xpress  
A free download of ACID XPress software, a 10-track version of ACID software. Tutorials are included.                                                                                                

Finale Notepad   
A free download which provides an easy introduction to computer music notation. A simpler version of the full Finale program, it is available for Windows and Macintosh. Very easy to use, notes are dragged and dropped onto the staff, lyrics can be added, the music can be played back, printed and saved. Suitable for Stages 3 to 6.

Soundbyte Music Network  
The Soundhouse at the Powerhouse Museum. Provides free downloads, information on software, lesson ideas and composition opportunities. It is necessary to register in order to access the teaching ideas but there is no charge. Suitable for Stages 3 to 6.

Free audio editing software available for both PC and MAC platforms.

Audio editing tutorial
Click here to find tutorials written by Anne Wisdom as an introduction to audio editing using Adobe Audition.



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