Program: Mash-up Madness

This is an outline for a technology program for teens in grades 6-12. Guess what it’s about? That’s right: making mash-ups. Sweet!

Overview

At this two-hour program, middle and high school students will have the opportunity to make their own mash-ups: mixtures of different songs and audio clips. They will learn to use web-based sound editing software, as well as the popular open source program Audacity. Participants will have the option to work in groups or by themselves to create a mash-up using freely available audio files.

Rationale

Teenagers benefit from library technology programs in general. From the ALA’s Teen Tech Week guide: “Teens, in order to gain the skills necessary to compete in today’s job market, need access to digital and online information and trained professionals who can help them use these resources effectively, efficiently and ethically. Librarians and educators know this and work with teens on a regular basis to ensure they develop these skills.”

In this program specifically, participants will benefit from exposure to audio software, including Audacity and several online programs; their ability to use such programs may be helpful in school or the workplace. They will learn about the copyright issues related to music and video, and learn how to find appropriate open source media for their projects. They may work in groups to complete their projects, thereby gaining teamwork and communication skills. Participants will get a chance to exercise their creative talents in a new way. This program will give teenagers an idea of the technology resources available at the library and confirm that the library offers interesting, relevant programming for teenagers.

Audience

Teenagers in grades 6-12 with basic computer skills and an interest in music. Program size should be limited to 15 participants per staff member, so that one-on-one help can be offered during the second half of the session.

Procedures/Resources

–       One computer per participant, pre-loaded with Audacity (freeware)

–       One pair of headphones for each participant

–       Computers may be equipped with basic microphones if participants will be recording their own audio. If possible, a computer with slightly better microphone should be placed in a quiet room that can be dedicated for the duration of the program.

–       Computer hooked up to a projector and speakers, so that participants can watch example mash-ups, and to show participants how to use the software.

–       Program will ideally take place in a computer lab that can be dedicated to the program.

–       Teenagers should bring their own flash drives if they would like to save their work in Audacity, or bring money to purchase a flash drive at the library.

Activities

Inform participants in advance that they may bring their own audio tracks on a flash drive if they would like to use music or sounds that they have recorded.

Once everyone has arrived, give each participant a nametag, and do a quick icebreaker (have each participant give their name and their favorite musical artist, for example). Get them each situated at a computer, and make sure everyone has working headphones.

We’ll start out by explaining what a mash-up is: “a song or composition created by blending two or more songs, usually by overlaying the vocal track of one song seamlessly over the music track of another” (Wikipedia), or “a hybrid song, consisting of slicing, splicing, and overlaying the beats, instrumentation, vocals, or choruses of two or more songs on top of each other” (Wilk). Play examples of a couple different kinds of mash-ups – a trailer mash-up like this one (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pG0VGzxonwk) and “A Stroke of Genius” by Freelance Hellraiser (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShPPbT3svAw), for example.

We’ll discuss how to obtain legal music and images to use in mash-ups and other projects, while pointing out that mash-ups of popular songs may well be fair use. Teens will be directed to the Internet Archive’s music section, which contains lots of great Creative Commons-licensed audio files. Later, we will introduce a few other websites where they can find popular music, instrumentals, samples, and other audio files.

Next, direct everyone to the website Looplabs.com.  This is an easy-to-use web-based program that  allows the user to mix different kinds of instrument sounds and beats (drums, synthesizer, guitar) to create original music. When they choose one of the three applications, Looplabs will provide a sample mix that teens can edit by adding or deleting instruments, changing the rhythm, creating loops, etc. The music created in Looplabs is fairly simple, but the program is a lot of fun to play with.

Once they have had a few minutes to get used to the interface of Looplabs, we will direct the group to Jamglue.com. Jamglue’s web-only mixing software is very similar to Looplabs’s, but unlike Looplabs, Jamglue offers recordings of popular music. Many popular tracks are available both as acappella tracks (vocals only) or instrumental tracks (vocals removed). Each participant will need to either create a log-in (if they have an e-mail account) or use an account set up by the library. If they would like to save their tracks to work on later, they should open their own account. Encourage attendees to “friend” each other on Jamglue so that they can hear each other’s creations.

Show the group how to search for tracks, making note of a few important points:

  1. Adding “acapella” or “instrumental” to your search will limit results to tracks that contain only vocals or only instrumentals.
  2. Many tracks note the “bpm” (beats per minute). You can search Jamglue for only songs with a  certain bpm, but be aware that not every track has its bpm labeled.
  3. If you can’t find a song by searching for the title, try searching the artist instead (or vice-versa).

Next, lead the group through the process of creating a mix.

  1. When you find a track you want to add, click on the plus sign to add it to your mix. (While playing with the software, I did not encounter a limit to how many tracks you can add.)
  2. Once you have two or more tracks in place, you can start to edit them. You can move the tracks around (so they start earlier or later), change the speed, duplicate and delete parts of songs (if you only want to use a few measures of a song, for example). Jamglue does not allow you to change the pitch or key of a song.
  3. At any point during the editing process, you can press the red triangle at the top to listen to what you have so far. Just drag the triangle along to start playback at a different point in the mix.

Jamglue offers several tutorials if participants would like some additional guidance. Jamglue allows users to save their tracks on the Jamglue server, so teens who only use that service do not need a flash drive.

Finally, we’ll take a look at Audacity. Audacity is considerably more complicated than Looplabs or Jamglue, but it is also a lot more powerful. This is the tool they will want to use to make more complicated edits, like changing the key/pitch of a song without altering the tempo. It can also be used for recording music, which is not possible using the above web applications.

Teens should feel free to record their own sounds (though you may want to require them to be “library-appropriate”); if you have a small room or closet that could be dedicated for this, all the better. Recording sounds may be outside the scope of the program – the good news is, teens will have no problem locating pre-recorded music to use. You may want to show them how to record sound so that they have the ability, even if they will not be using the audio they record during the program.

The second hour of the program will be dedicated to exploring the software, getting one-on-one assistance as needed, and working on a track alone or in a group. Participants should be encouraged to use whichever program they feel most comfortable with or are most interested in learning. If possible, staff may want to allow the teens to stay a little past the program end time to finish their projects.

Every attendee will receive a “cheat sheet” that includes important URLs as well as basic instructions on how to use the three programs we discussed. This way participants will be able to refer back to the instructions as needed. Additionally, the library may want to create a web page before the program that contains links to the different web applications, tutorials, and music sources, so that participants can easily find the websites during and after the program.

Evaluation Strategies

Participants will fill out a brief, anonymous survey at the end of the program in order to determine their level of understanding and enjoyment. We will continue to solicit feedback from participants at subsequent technology-related programs.

Resources

Delatte, Monique. “‘Find It! Shoot It! Shop It!’: Connecting Teens to Technology at La Puente Library.” Young Adult Library Services (Winter 2009): 4-6.

Pritchard, Kate and Jaina Lewis. “Music Web Sites for Teen Tech Week and Beyond.” Young Adult Library Services (Winter 2008): 33-35.

Wilk, Joseph J.  “Making Music with Teens (Tech Guide #1).” Young Adult Library Services Association. http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/teentechweek/ttw09/resources/resources.cfm

The Teen Tech Week website (http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/teentechweek/ttw10/home10.cfm) was incredibly useful. There are great resources for all kinds of technology programs for teens, as well as information on the value of these programs. (Yes, gaming belongs in the library!)


Mash-up Cheat Sheet

Websites you can use to make mash-ups online

http://www.looplabs.com/

http://www.jamglue.com/

Freeware that you can download to create and edit mash-ups

http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ (Audacity – what we used today)

Mash-up tutorials

Using Audacity

http://audacity.sourceforge.net/manual-1.2/tutorials.html

http://gsn.k12.oh.us/Westfall/HS/ITL/Mashup/lesson.htm

Using Jamglue

http://www.jamglue.com/?skinId=black_beauty&tourId=intro

Advanced

http://www.paintingbynumbers.com/bootcamp/

Places to find audio tracks

http://www.soundsnap.com (samples)

http://freesound.iua.upf.edu (sound clips)

http://www.archive.org/details/etree (live music)

http://www.archive.org/details/audio (more audio from the Internet Archive)

http://ccmixter.org/view/media/remix (also includes lots of great examples of mash-ups)

http://creativecommons.org/audio/ (Creative Commons-licensed audio files and a blog with related news)

Other cool music-related web sites

www.allmusic.com

www.finetune.com

www.last.fm

www.pandora.com

www.pitchforkmedia.com


Evaluation Form

Name (optional): ____________________________________

Grade (optional): ____________________________________

Before coming to this program, had you heard or watched a mash-up? ______Yes ______No

Before coming to this program, had you created a mash-up? ______Yes ______No

On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate this program:

Did you have fun?

1                                    2                                    3                                    4                                    5

(no, it was the worst)                                                                                                (yes, it was awesome)

Did you think the program was useful or interesting?

1                                    2                                    3                                    4                                    5

(no, it was useless)                                                                        (yes, I might use these skills again)

Do you feel like you know how to make your own mash-ups now?

1                                    2                                    3                                    4                                    5

(no, I don’t really get it)                                                                                                (yes, I get it!)

Would you come to another technology program at the library? ______Yes ______No

What could we have done to make this program better?

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What other kinds of programs would you like to see at the library?

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