This post is part of my reflection for the Composition in Music Education unit where I had to digitally scaffold composition. As touched on in the previous post, my focus was to scaffold composition within a unit looking at the music of another culture. An element of the Traditional Gaelic music is that the tune usually comes first. I had to develop an alternative scaffold which used a chords-first method, as students may not possess the ability to think with implied harmony. The benefits of my scaffold is that it allows students to improvise over chords on repeat until they find a melody they like.

Looking at a reading by Humberstone (2014), he exclaims the words “DO THE PROJECT YOURSELF” when referencing a brilliant art teacher, Jeff Robin. I am very glad I stopped to think while initially scaffolding as I was aiming to start with the melody. It was not until I realised what was going on in my mind when I was thinking about starting a piece of music with the melody. Starting with the melody would not be difficult for me, someone who identifies as a composer, however, to students, it could be a menace. I was then putting myself in the students’ shoes and thinking about how I could make it easier on them whilst still retaining the elements of my chosen model. Then there’s the technology, which I designed to rely on iBooks, and GarageBand for iOS and OSX (now MacOs). In an attempt to embrace the 21st century, I mainly made my scaffolding based purely on technology, although, students can freely use real instruments and record them if they desire. Understanding the use of meaningful technology is a required skill for the students of the 21st century, as well as to have an innovative drive (Humberstone, 2014). I took this idea of innovation on board and made my own iBooks widget using Hype. Stretching the words of “do it yourself,” I thought it would be pointless to not model innovation and the skills the new generations should embrace. Below is a screenshot of a draft document in Hype which was taken before I added an image and added audio.

Hype Draft

I also tested my own scaffolding throughout because I worked on the steps myself just as a student would. This is evident in my tutorial videos, as a project I worked on was developed through the steps for example purposes. This allowed me to uncover some flaws in explanation one the fly, leading to extra tutorials being made. Some thoughts were, “what if they don’t know how to quantise” or “what if are aren’t very adept with music notation”. This can be seen in the chord progression steps of my iBook as I have a tutorial that lends extra help on writing chord progressions, using chord symbols instead of traditional notation. I think GarageBand for iOS is great with the touch instruments, which is the main reason why I chose do some of the scaffold using it instead of the Mac version. It effectively allowed me to get around the music notation issue and the template would allow students to use the chords in front of them. When transferring to the Mac version of GarageBand, it is based around being able to play the scale, which my widget assists. Using GarageBand also is excellent for putting improvisation before composition with the ability to have loops. As said by Hein (2013, p. 24), “Software is ideally suited to producing endless repetition in support of rehearsal”. Students can endlessly loop their chord progression while they experiment with the Dorian mode to create a melody. Students with lower ability will take more time, which is why GarageBand greatly assists them. Students looking to be extended can record their own instruments, as GarageBand functions as a recording studio DAW as well. In the way the resource is set out, students take an informal learning approach and experience music through playing, listening, improvising and composition (Green, 2008).

Originally I had intended for the students to be able to choose from one of the five modes commonly used in Traditional Gaelic music. One the second day I realised that it could have lead to problems down the line. Below is an example script I originally had that I read off my phone for my introduction to chord progression video.IMG_1710.JPG

I pivoted to focusing purely on Dorian because it can have a very Celtic sound, especially when using the i VII i movement. I still kept the other 5 modes in the iBook with sound files as I thought it would be a great idea to establish the key idea of most of the chord progression; moving between chord 1 and 7. This is because four of the five modes commonly used in Gaelic music have a tone instead of a semitone at the top of the scale (Roche, 1982). This pivot meant I needed to reorganise my example music inside the iBook to feature music in Dorian. This then meant that I mainly used Miriam Stockley’s Perfect Day as a model. Below you will find GarageBand screenshots of the five templates I made for each mode.

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When it comes to lyrics the students have two options that serves as differentiation. They can either write their own words to sing to the tune of their melody, or they can use the internet to find stories to become their lyrics. This will help the students who may not be good at writing, as they can then just read and sing to the tune.

I put structure as the last step because the music is quite repetitive and based around melody. The scaffold requires them to compose two sections at all times, which then gets expanded on in the final step by using loops, and copy and paste. It is a larger step, although it is made a lot more possible with copy and paste. The instructions are to use copy and paste, and then to try and add some little variations through changing instruments and adding ornamentation if possible. The type of music lends itself to the repetition of melodic material so it is not like they are being asked to suddenly compose another 5 chord progressions or melodies. This is my justification for what could appear to be a bigger jump in scaffolding.

In terms of my other resources, I spent a lot of time creating them. With each screen recording, I used a Zoom H5 as my microphone and I processed it in Ableton Live to make it crisp. I tried to master the sound so they all had similar volumes so a student wouldn’t have to constantly tamper with the volume button.

Links to the Files

iBook file

Template for iOS (Also linked in iBook)


Reference List

Green, L. (2008). The project’s pedagogy and curriculum content. In Music, informal learning and the school: A new classroom pedagogy. Aldershot, Hampshire, England: Ashgate.

Hein, E. (2013). Designing the Drum Loop: A constructivist iOS rhythm tutorial system for beginners (Unpublished master’s thesis). New York University.

Humberstone, J. (2014, November 28). Why music education should lead all education in the 21st century. Retrieved October 03, 2016, from

Roche, F. (1982). The Roche collection of traditional Irish music. Cork: Ossian Publication.