Best Microphones for Music Lab

When you are first building a Lab for your music class, you might have a lot of questions on what gear to get. I have teachers asking me a lot what Microphone to get, External Sound Card, and controllers. In this article, I wanted to share my top picks for Microphones for a school lab.

There are many different Mics our there, and each one can be used in different ways. There are condenser mics, ribbon mics, and dynamic mics. Instead of going to deep in the theory, I am going to pick my favorite mics and why I would use them in your classroom. I’ve helped schools start up their labs, worked in recording studios, and built my own home recording studio. Over the years I have used many microphones and have distilled that information into this list.


Top Pick: SM-58

SM-58 is perfect for vocal recording in the classroom
Build Quality
Sound Quality

I find that in the classroom I run into one major problem, and that is noise. There is always some noise in the room that I am battling. The Sm-58 is amazing at only picking up what is right in front of the mic. This makes it idea for demonstrations. I also find that I am mainly recording vocals in my class. Sometimes that is for a voice over video project, beat box activity, or singing. This mic is ideal for vocal recording in a louder room.

As far as sound quality, it is pretty flat sounding and without anything special. It’s an average sounding mic, but works great for what I need it for. If you are mainly looking at vocals in a shared classroom, this is a great choice.


Buy the SM-58



Versatile and Solid Mic: SM-57

Sm57 for your instrumental needs


Build Quality
Sound Quality


By | 2017-02-01T08:27:52+00:00 February 1st, 2017|Blog, Music Education, School Gear|0 Comments

Editing Vocals with Ableton Live

Editing vocals can be a really creative activity for students. It allows them to take a track and feel like they can instantly change it and make their own.  I put togeather a class activity based around editing vocals. This class is just one of many that are a part of the Supplementary Activites that come with the Ableton Live Breakthrough Course.

Vocal Edits Activity:

Below is a video walkthrough of the class. I talk about the theory, how I would edit the vocals, and try to demonstrate how I would teach it. After the video, I have a link to the downloads. I put togeather a lesson plan, worksheet, and downloadable videos.


Download Resources


When to teach this class?

I find that once you get the basics of Ableton Live, students want to start creating. The quicker you can have them creatively expressing themselves the better. This activity is perfect once you have gone over the basics of Arrangement View and Warp Modes. Once they have that, editing vocals can be a lot of fun. It also connects to a lot of modern production and electronic music.

I have taught this type of class to 15-year-olds and up to college students. It works for anyone really. This definitely isn’t the easiest activity, but once they are familiar with Ableton Live, this is a great activity to get the students excited.

More Activities:

If you would like to have more activities for your classroom, check out the Ableton Live Breakthrough Course. The course includes activities on Editing Video and Audio, Practicing an instrument with Ableton Live, Djing, and more.

By | 2017-01-24T20:14:01+00:00 January 23rd, 2017|Ableton Live, Music Education|0 Comments

Adding Samples and Clips to Ableton Live

ideax Teaching Ableton Push

In December I had the pleasure of visiting the Kent Library in Washington. I was asked by a new organization, idea X, to teach the Ableton Push 2.  Idea X is a new program by the King County Library System. Here is what Idea X is about in their words:

“We hope to attract a variety of youth with a range of skill levels to these programs. In many cases, however, participants may have little to no experience with digital music tools, since we particularly want to target young people in disadvantaged communities who might not otherwise have access to resources like this. The idea is to provide new opportunities for discovery, creativity, and experimentation, as well as generally increasing digital literacy.”

During the class, I showed a lot of function of Ableton Live and the Push.  I used the Free Push Curriculum I have on this site. I also had questions about adding clips in Session View. I decided to make a new activity to show off adding audio in Ableton Live.  The idea of this quick activity is to practice adding samples to live.

Below is a video walk-through of the activity. Below that you will see the links to download all the samples, lesson plans, and worksheets.

Download Activity

Check out the other activities from Idea X here:

Free Ableton Push Curriculum Resources

The school year has started and already amazing work is being done in music technology and education. Last year Ableton announced their Push education initiative.  It was really inspiring to see how much this company cares about education to donate so much to public schools.

Here at we have been working with the IDEA school in Tacoma in developing a Push centered music lab. We have been building off of our Ableton Live Breakthrough Course to include using the Push. Over the last few weeks many teachers reached out asking for resources with the Push, so we decided to share some of our course development.

Download Push Curriculum


You can also watch our video on Building Chords with Ableton Push by Ableton Certified Trainer Serafin.

If you would like a more in-depth course on Push, then check out our new Teaching Ableton Push course. We take the information presented here and turned them into videos with interviews and live examples.  If you are more of a visual learner, or enjoy learning more from videos, then this is for you.

Join the course.

Ableton Live in Education

Last year Ableton launched their new event, Loop, in Berlin. It was a gathering of teachers, musicians, writer, and developers on the edge of music and technology.  One of the classes they had was on Ableton Live in Music Education. After almost a year they released an amazing recording of the class. It’s a mixture of an interview with three teachers, as well as a panel discussion.

I found this video to be really inspirational. It is full of ideas on how to teach Live and navigating the educational system.

By | 2017-01-24T17:05:59+00:00 August 30th, 2016|Ableton Live, Blog, Music Education|0 Comments

4 Inspirational Thoughts  from TMEA


This year I had the pleasure of attending TMEA. There were many classes that I was looking forward to. The convention had such a high concentration of teachers that are on the forefront of music education.  Each class I went to was packed with information. My mind was firing with ideas and deeper understanding.  In this article I distilled the most inspirational ideas I picked up from TMEA this year.


I went to a wide variety of presentations at TMEA. I found a common thread that inspires me. Many teachers discussed and showed how they made their classes more engaging to their students by using technology the kids are used to.

A great example of this was the Keynote speaker for TI:ME, Robert W. Smith. Robert talked about engaging their students and parents by writing and performing symphonic music to old black and white films. He viewed it as a new way of doing their school concerts. Movies are a medium that kids can relate to and really engages them.

Anne Fennell of Mission Vista HS took this a step further during her presentation. Anne discussed how she has her students share their music through soundcloud and connect with professional musicians via Twitter.  This helped her build a community of students and musicians. Eventually working with professional musicians, having them Skype in, and even connecting kids with pop bands that bought their compositions.

The youth today live in a very different world than we do. The technology they interact with is just as much a part of their daily life as eating.  As teachers, we can use that familiarity to our advantage to make our classes more engaging for our students.


One of the first things I noticed at the TI:ME pre-conference is that every presentation had a very different way of looking at music technology and music education. Even simple lesson ideas, like creating beats were presented in very different ways.

A perfect example of this was a presentation that Will Kuhn and Barbara Freedman taught called Teaching Music with Technology: Two Approaches. The class was very entertaining because it felt like a boxing match. Barbara would show how she teaches beats with notation. Then Will would show how he teaches it by using the grid on Ableton Push and the repeated note mode. They are extremely different approaches.

I also saw a very different approach in Anne Fennell’s presentation. Anne talked a lot about letting students learn through questioning and exploring the concepts on their own. It is a more hands off and emergent approach.  All three of these teachers approached it differently with a unique style of their own.

The big takeaway I had was that all three teachers have extremely successful classes with students moving on to music education and careers in music.


At some point during the class I felt respect towards the presenter and could see their genuine care for their students. It always made me wish I had them as a high school teacher when I was in school. This feeling almost always coincided with the presenter sharing projects their students were working on. Anne Fennell’s students were making amazingly rich and complex compositions. Another teacher, Adam Kruse, did a presentation on making Hip Hop tracks with his students. I was shocked at how groovy and good there music was. I also got inspired when Katie Wardrobe demonstrated how students could make their own film scores.

All of these projects allowed students to feel creative. They also got the joy of having something unique and completed to share with friends and family. I love this approach. There is still value in learning to read and decode written music in a more traditional band setting, but it is just as important to inspire these students to develop their own voice and creativity.


The first session I was able to attend was with Gregg Cannady. In his presentation he demonstrated how he used his music class as a resource for other departments in his school. One powerful example was how the English teacher was having trouble getting their students engaged with poetry. Gregg’s class worked with that teacher in creating backing tracks and recording student readings. Not only did this get the students to talk with each other, but it also greatly helped the English Department. Gregg showed many examples like this. Doing this greatly strengthened his department’s position.

I found this to be really inspirational and look at a lot of new ways of integrating what music students are doing with other aspects of their education. Here are a few ideas that came to mind:

  • Working with the science department to demonstrate the physics of sound
  • Doing an activity with the math department to demonstrate the math behind octaves and notes.
  • Creating custom sound design for the theater group
  • Making student music to play before an assembly.


I am really grateful that was able to attend TMEA this year and present at the TI:ME pre-conference. It was an honor to be with such brilliant minds from all over the united states. After this I am inspired to go to TMEA every year.


By | 2017-01-24T17:05:59+00:00 February 13th, 2016|Blog, Music Education, Music Technology|1 Comment

Top 10 Presentations at 2016 TMEA

We are excited to have been invited to present as part of the TI:ME pre conference at the TMEA conference in San Antonio TX. There are hundreds inspiring and educational presentations and performances happening at TMEA. The full conference schedule is now available. It’s impossible to see and hear everything at TMEA but here’s a list of just some of the ones we’re excited to hear.

Did we miss one? Let us know what other clinics you will be attending by commenting below.

Here’s our list in chronological order.

Wednesday / 10:00 – 11:00 AM / CC 211
STEM Innovations in Music Education
Clinician: Gregg Cannady, STEM School and Academy

Cannady will present innovative methods used as core curriculum in a STEM school environment. Software such as Ableton Live, Sibelius, and a variety of apps and controllers are integrated into a core curriculum as students learn piano, guitar, technology, and music theory. Students synthesize music knowledge and skills to improvise, create, and perform.

Gregg runs a successful STEM music program at STEM Academy in Highlands Ranch Colorado. He has a great story of stumbling into music from years as a choral conductor. His class is always up to amazing projects.


By | 2017-01-24T17:05:59+00:00 February 4th, 2016|Blog, Music Education, Music Technology|0 Comments

Meet the Educators: Barbara Freedman

A few years back I was looking for resources to help me build classes with music technology. A fellow teacher suggested I grab the book Teaching Music Through Composition: A Curriculum Using Technology by Barbara Freedman. The book was a fantastic starting point for my classes.

Since that time I have connected with Barbara and was able to do an interview with her. Barbara shared some fantastic insight from her years of teaching music production in high school. Barbara was named the 2012 TI:ME Technology Teacher of the Year, Band has done a lot of work in music education.


By | 2017-01-24T17:05:59+00:00 January 27th, 2016|Meet the Educators, Music Education, Music Technology|0 Comments

Turn MIDI into Sheet Music

Your class is composing!

Maybe they are using MIDI keyboards, QWERTY keyboards or maybe just the mouse. Melodies, bass lines and chords are flowing into beautifully crafted boxes with every virtual instrument available a mouse click away.

How can the MIDI piano roll editor and standard music notation complement each other? The connection from a MIDI sequencer to printed sheet music is closer than students know. MIDI compositions can easily be turned into sheet music which can then be performed and recorded by student instrumentalists in a few steps.


By | 2017-01-24T17:05:59+00:00 January 12th, 2016|Ableton Live, Music Education, Music Technology|0 Comments
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