What do you do with a musical kid who loves technology, too? Did someone say, “garage band?â€
Matt is musical and spends plenty of time hanging with friends and playing sports, too. But I want something a bit more educational to replace the video games he likes noodling with when there’s nothing else to do. Something educational and also fun.
Digital Music-Making to the Rescue
I’ve found the answer: Creating and recording music on our home computer. Specifically, using GarageBand ($99 as part of the iLife ’08 Family Pack at apple.com/ilife/garageband), which we have installed on our Mac. You can find similar software for Windows, such as Cakewalk Sonar Home Studio ($100 at cakewalk.com), M-Audio Pro Tools ($249 at m-audio.com) and others.
Chris “Sharpie” Sharp knows just a little bit about this whole digital-music thing – on a somewhat grander scale. As the monitor engineer for Rob Thomas on his recent tour (he’s also worked with Nickelback, Usher, Evanescence and others), this guy understands music and the digital world. Sharp is the off-stage presence who mixes the sound the on-stage band hears in their earpieces while playing, and he thinks my husband and I are onto something by getting Matt a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) controller to use with GarageBand.
This keyboard-like device (prices start at around $200) doesn’t record sound waves like a tape recorder does. It digitally encodes the start of a note, its pitch, length, volume and musical attributes, such as vibrato. As a result, MIDI music files take up a lot less space than digitized sound files. Soon he’ll be able to write and record his own songs and send MP3 files to his friends.
Using a MIDI controller with computer software like GarageBand can open up a whole new world of creativity for a kid, Sharp says. And today’s digital technology means you don’t need an entire board, like the monster board Sharp uses on tour, to record your own music. A kid can do it at home. Pretty cool.
“Music is where we can meet our kids halfway,” Sharp says. “Music speaks to each person,” he adds, noting that he tries to share in the types of music that interests his kids while also subtly sharing his favorite music with them. (And in his line of work, he’s definitely on the “hip-dad” side of things, which helps.) “It’s sort of like fishing. You can’t force your kids to be interested in a certain thing, but you can try different types of bait.” So you’ll hear hip hop, rock, Tejano and other types of music around the Sharp home.
Sounds like good advice. And while my husband and I love to share our favorite music with Matt – and like learning what he likes, too – we’re looking forward to hearing him make and record some fun music of his own very soon. Because a kid’s desire to play with electronic stuff can be satisfied while he’s also learning about music and all things digital.
Kathy Sena is an award-winning freelance writer and a music fan. Her writing has appeared in Newsweek, USA Today, Woman’s Day and other publications. Visit her blog at parenttalktoday.com.