Ever thought of having a rock band in your music class?
Well if that thought sends you into a world of Jack Black surrounded by guitars…you are not far off!!
Having a rock band unit or project allows for huge amounts of learning to occur. You get to experience the physical curriculum requirements along with students gaining many intangible lessons.
How do I lead a group? What makes a good band member? How do I play AND sing? What is all this equipment around me? How do I make use of the stage? Can I interact with the audience and still perform well? How do you make a set list? What are the steps to putting on a show?
I completed with my 11-12 music class a rock band unit. We explored what it takes to create a rock band, perform in a rock band AND lead your own rock band! At the end the students put on a show that they designed and created themselves.
The students were asked to lead their own rock band with a song of their choosing. They would also have to play in at least two other classmates rock bands. This meant that not only were the students going to play their own song but they would have to learn other song choices and other instruments! The class was excited and ready to get started ! As the facilitator be sure to monitor the song choices: are they too hard? Too easy? Can you meet the instrumentation needs? Will there be enough people to perform this piece? Equally important is monitoring who is doing what in whose bands. You know your students best so ensure they are not taking on too much or too little and that the groups being created can actually work together!
Once your bands are chosen then you can get rehearsals started!
This is where the real learning begins. Students need to navigate how to run a rehearsal, work as a team member, practice, be responsible, communicate effectively about music, work with technology, practice stage presence and that is just to name a few. Each lesson we would add a little bit of musical technology knowledge. We started with adding a practice room so the students would have the main area as well as a practice room for their rehearsals. The practice room had an electronic drum kit, two mics, a bass, a guitar and an electric keyboard. We had one speaker and one soundboard to control everything. Lets just say it was a tight squeeze when you added people to this tiny practice room!
With the practice room students were able to learn the basics of how to hook instruments up and amp them. How to hook up a speaker system and run equipment through it, how to trouble shoot issues and how to care for this electronic equipment. We set up a tutorial sheet so students could follow the instructions to hook various pieces together. After the initial introduction it was expected that they trouble shoot and work together to keep the practice room in working order. Of course if needed assistance was provided.
As the unit moved along the students started to work with more stage equipment. They learned how to handle mics and their stands, set up monitors and stage lighting and how to use a DI box. All of this learning is practical and useful in the real world for the students. Most of the learning occurred as needed, if there was a problem we would work to solve it or learn a new skill for the equipment. We had a plan for the basic skills they would need to understand to take care of the equipment and develop from there according to the student’s needs what else was covered.
The students learned basic skills associated with the use of the stage technology. Without the technology the students wouldn’t be able to take the music skills and transfer them to real life application. Musicians need to be able to use the equipment available to them if they want to produce their music or perform. The learning also helps students develop problem solving skills when something goes wrong.