Chrome Music Lab

photo credit: Jamie Wasilchenko for www.theclio.com

The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum recently hosted some of the Music Ed. students for their Sonic Workshop. If you’re in the Ann Arbor area, this workshop is available through August 31st, and is great for kids (or adults!) of all ages. The workshop is designed to focus on  “the many ways we shape, create and play with sound.”

Really cool set-ups, like the one above, allowed us to interact with sound. You could even make your own instrument with every day objects that produced sound through electricity conduction.

 

Giant touch screen displays allowed us to interact with Chrome Music Lab, an interactive website that teachers can use in their own classrooms for hands on experiments and activities. Also...it’s free!

Experiments

Currently, there are 13 different experiment modules on Chrome Music Lab. You can play with them with on pretty much any phone, tablet, or laptop. I have used it on a touch-screen TV, my iPhone, and my personal laptop. All of them work fine, but it’s definitely better to use a bigger screen. If your school has 1:1 technology (especially with touch-screens), that would be perfect for this!

I have listed the 13 experiments below and included some info on features, as well as ideas for possible uses in a classroom.

1. Song Maker

Features:

  • Draw images, patterns, random designs on the grid.

  • Add percussive beats using  a triangle for high sounds, and a circle for lower sounds.

  • Select from piano, strings, woodwind, synthesizer, or marimba for melody

  • Select from blocks, kit, conga, or electronic for percussive beats

  • Tempo range: 40-240 bpm

  • Sing into a microphone to add your own pitches

  • Adjust amount of measures and beats per measure

  • Adjust subdivision of beats

  • Scale options: major, pentatonic, chromatic

  • Starting pitch

  • Range: 1-3 octaves

Ideas for use:

  • Composition project using melody and basic rhythm

  • Melody transcription

2. Rhythm

Features:

  • Three settings:

    • monkey (high timpani, low timpani, triangle)​

    • monster 1 (cymbal, snare, tom)

    • monster 2 (block 1, block 2, clave)

  • There are three lines below each image that coordinate with each instrument option. Click dots on each line to select what instrument(s) you want to play on that particular beat

  • You can change what sounds on each beat as you go along

  • Tempo is not adjustable on this experiment. So, if you want to go faster, place the sounds closer together. If you want to go slower, place them farther apart

Ideas for use:

  • Transcribe rhythms into the experiment for audio representation of examples

  • Make a beat for a beat-box project

3. Spectrogram

Features:

  • Displays sound waves/overtone series

  • Play  and watch pre-loaded samples like flute, harp, whistling, trombone, drum machine, bird song, modem, and a wine glass

  • Touch the spectrogram yourself to play with different frequencies

  • Use a microphone to analyze your own sounds

Ideas for use:

  • Sound wave scavenger hunt. Provide students with a list of sounds to find, record, and observe. Get them to write down their findings

  • Analyze singing with different sound, spacing, and tuning to visually compare/contrast

4. Chords

Features:

  • Will play and show the root position chord of whatever note you select.

  • Displays major or minor versions of the chord

Ideas for use:

  • Provides a visual of chord spacing

  • Shows visual of lowering the third for a minor chord

5. Sound Waves

Features:

  • Dots respond to  frequency of notes played on a piano (the higher the pitch, the faster the dots move)

Ideas for use:

  • Another great way to visually show how sound changes as you go higher/lower in pitch

  • Students could record the screen as they sing a melody to visually represent what they are doing

6. Arpeggios

Features:

  • Plays arpeggiated versions of chords, and will modulate depending on the note you select on the circle of fifths

  • 5 arpeggiated patterns

  • Harp or piano

  • Set the tempo from 60-200 bpm

Ideas for use:

  • Create a short composition using combinations of arpeggios.

  • Use the simplest version of an arpeggio to teach students how to sing arpeggios to establish tonality.

7. Kandinsky

Features:

  • Sounds are created by drawing pictures

  • Drawing a circle will make a face that sings for you

  • Drawing a triangle creates a percussive sound

  • Drawing higher up on the screen creates higher sounds

  • Drawing lower on the screen creates lower sounds

  • Three separate sound settings are coordinated by color

Ideas for use:

  • Great cross-curricular uses for art! Have students draw on the app, play the musical interpretation, and discuss the artist Kandinsky. The art teacher at my school does a Kandinsky project every year!

8. Melody Maker

9. Voice Spinner

Features:

  • Make unison melodies

  • Can also select to let the computer fill in some additional harmony

  • Bpm range: 70-200

Ideas for use:

  • Pitch transcription. ( have students listen to a simple melody, then see if they can figure out how to re-create it using the app)

10. Harmonics

Features:

  • Run your finger/mouse across the lines to hear harmonics in various ranges. 

  • Can play multiple harmonics at the same time with a touch screen

Ideas for use:

  • Provide additional sound effects for a musical composition.

  • Discuss other possible places or instruments where you might hear this sound

11. Piano Roll

Features:

Ideas for use:

  • Plays commonly known pieces in a player piano-like style to show relationships between pitch, rhythm, duration, and chords.

  • Two sound settings: piano, or electronic

  • Can create your own sound sample with a microphone

  • Watch the notes fly by, or scrub it back and forth

  • Compare the piano roll image with musical notation. Discuss the relationship between the two.

12. Oscillators

Features:

  • Options: square, saw tooth, triangle, or sine

  • stretch the character up/down to adjust the frequency

  • Makes funny faces when you touch them!

Ideas for use:

  • Identifying/matching pitch

  • How fun/obnoxious would it be to have an oscillator ensemble day? You could teach the kids a basic song, then have them work on performing it together as cleanly as possible!

13. Strings

Features:

  • Visual for string length/ pitch relationship

  • Dots divide strings in half

  • Can play either side of divided strings for higher/lower pitch

Ideas for use:

  • If you are using this on a touch screen device, you can create chords by touching multiple strings at the same time. Kids could try to create a simple song by strumming the strings.

Start Experimenting!

To start experimenting with Chrome Music Lab, go to https://musiclab.chromeexperiments.com/Experiments.

If you visit their Twitter page here, you can see how some other teachers have already been using Chrome Music Lab with their students.  Have any great ideas about how to use one of the experiments? Share with us in the comments below!

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