Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Music Soothes the Beast

I'll be blunt and put it right out students call me a hippie. Which, I take as a compliment. I am peaceful, loving, accepting to all walks of life, and am typically very calm (my 3 year old can unravel that calm and unleash the beast, but a 3 year old has magical powers to amaze and annoy within a matter of seconds.) But, I digress, the point is my students call me hippie, I'm guessing it's mostly because every class starts with Jerry jamming in the background while students enter and begin to settle into the routine. If it isn't Jerry its Trey, if it isn't Trey it's Melodious, a.k.a Thelonious Monk.

So why am I talking about music on a technology for education page? Here are some good music streaming sites, and a few reasons why musics sets the tone* of the class.

*yep, that was intended

First, here are some great streaming tools that are, of course, free.

  1.   Google Music - it speaks for itself. Upload your own, purchase, or stream channels from other users.
  2.   Pandora Radio - You have two options with this one, paid or free. The free version is the same, but with ads. Essentially, you're paying to remove commercials. It has a tendency to downward spiral into weirdness. For example, a station with Grateful Dead will throw in a   Zeppelin song, which is a good mix, but suddenly you're onto a classic rock spiral that gets way far away from the Dead. Or, you put on the Allman Brothers Band and it will horribly spiral into country music. Which will cause you to delete the channel immediately. However, you can combat these downward spirals  if you take the time to "thumbs up or down" certain songs to tweak your channel.
  3. - This is your best place to find live music. You can stream and download shows of just about any decent band you can think of. It is now also affiliated with and 
  4.  Slacker Radio - This is similar to Pandora, the track selection is not quite as deep, but allows you to create some unique channels of your liking. Again it takes some time to customize the channel to avoid downward spirals. Again, the paid service really only removes advertisements. 
  5. Spotify - This isn't my first choice, only because it requires a download and an install. I like to keep things in the cloud. It is a decent service, it allows you to archive your local music, create custom radio stations. However, it always thinks you want to listen to terrible pop, and always wants to share with facebook. 
  6. iTunes - I'll mention this one, only because people know of the service. I don't think it is worth the download and install. In my experience, it always needs an update, it is slow, the store requires so much verification, to the point where you eventually just give up on your purchase and turn to a different place to buy it. It's not friendly with many devices, and the new streaming service is only specific to mac devices. I won't go into this much further. 
OK, so why music? Well music truely does soothe the beast. If you have some ramped up music playing, you will see the energy level of your students rise, to a point where they are out of control. If you play some jazz, or relaxing jam band music, you'll see the energy level reduce and become more focused. The music choice really does set the tone of the classroom. Many times I'll hear students come in and complain about the music playing, but within minutes they are sitting at their table, doing their introductory work, and tapping along with the beat. On the days, that I don't have music playing, I've discovered that these intro activities are a bit more cumbersome to start.  Again, the choice of music is key for the energy you want in the classroom. If you want your students to be very energetic and distracted, then put on current pop music or country music. ( I would never play country in school. Many of the lyrics, and themes are not appropriate, and in my opinion, the music is not all that interesting. However, it ramps up students). If you are looking for alert, but calm, then Jazz is the way to go, hands down. (Medeski Martin and Wood is a great choice for this energy.) If you're looking for calm, quiet, relaxed, and focused I would suggest a jam band of some flavor. Of course as you really dive into various music styles there are various intricacies in flavor. The point is, the right tone can create that attitude adjustment you need to maintain focus and hard work. So rock, on and work with tunes in the background. 

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