Get started with Chrome Music Lab

London CLC’s Peter Lillington shares some ways to use this free creative tool in class.

We really rate the Chrome Music Lab website as a great way for children to get creative with music and explore its connections to science, maths, art, dance and more. It’s free, you don’t need to set up an account and it works across all devices. 

We’ve been using some of the many Chrome Music lab Tools in our Music and technology workshops with children. They are amusing and engaging and everyone can succeed in exploring the different aspects of music such as pitch, rhythm, tempo and so on. Pupils can compose or improvise. They can experiment with changing parameters while their music is playing.They can even be  a co-performer with the device or with other pupils nearby. 

Of course, tools that allow this are not new (the excellent 2Simple activities from the original 2Simple music toolkit are now in Purple Mash, Busy Things has a number of fun activities and there are various other successful and very popular apps such as Garage Band) but we like that fact that the Chrome music lab tools are really accessible and cross platform.

One of the apps which is great fun to use is named after the artist Kandinsky and you can use your finger or a mouse to create strokes on screen with a choice of colour combinations. As soon as they appear they are gently animated. Make a circle or loop and you’ll get some animated facial details appear.

What we usually serve up first is Rhythm, which allows children to choose between four different ensembles of monsters playing simplified representations of actual instruments. You can simply explore sounds but at the bottom of the screen is a graphical score where the three instrument choices are shown by coloured icons. A rhythmic pattern can be created very quickly by design or by chance and it’s possible for the visual element to lead and rhythm to emerge or vice versa. 

While some pupils go through the stage of everything on for every beat, some are more thoughtful in what they do and one pupil recently created the same pattern in each of the four sections/options, deliberately playing them back sequentially.

We also use the Melody Maker activity in our sessions which combines some of the features from other activities. This one has the added benefit of being able to save work and export it in more than one format, so it can potentially be incorporated elsewhere.

There are 13 activities in total at the moment and there are some interesting notes (pardon the expression) on the Experiments page.

We’ll be highlighting a few of the other experiments we’ve tried in the following weeks in our weekly newsletter and, if you already use it, we’d love to hear what’s worked for you.

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