Getting Started with Technology in the Music Classroom

By Dr. James Frankel


Over the past year, I have received many email messages asking how to get started with technology in the music classroom.  While there are a few good resources available to answer many of the questions posed, it is often easier to talk to someone who actually uses technology in the music classroom.  Quite often, there is also a lack of suggestions for specific software titles and specific companies that specialize in technology for music educators. 

            This article is an attempt to answer many of those questions and to make specific suggestions for relevant software and companies that specialize in educational music technology. 


Where should I begin?


            The first thing that you must ask yourself is what you expect to accomplish using technology?  Technology must be thought of as a tool for enhancing education.  You should look for opportunities to utilize technology that exist within the music curriculum you are currently teaching.  There are applications for technology in virtually all aspects of music education, in all grade levels. If you have the freedom to completely revamp the curriculum to accommodate technology, there are some wonderful curricula that currently exist.


What equipment do I need to get started?


            The most basic of all set-ups is a computer and some software.  The computer should have at least 32MB of RAM,   500MB of ROM, a CD-ROM drive, internet access, a built-in microphone and some type of sound card.  Ideally, there should be some type of projection device to get the image on a larger screen so that the students do not need to crowd around the computer.  Software titles should include a word processor, internet browser and specific music software titles relevant to your curriculum.

            The next step in building a basic music technology  lab  is  to add a

MIDI synthesizer, an amplifier and an interface device.  Many synthesizers currently on the market are now equipped to interface directly with Macintosh computers without the use of a separate interface device.  Many PCıs also come equipped with a MIDI interface device.    Teaching composition using synthesizers and notation software allows the students to instantly hear their compositions played back in any orchestration they choose.  Synthesizers also enhance many music theory software titles by allowing the students to enter information using the keyboard.


How much money have you spent so far?

These figures are approximations.


Computer (PC or Mac) with specifications listed-                                   $1,100

Synthesizer (any of the major brands)-


Amplifier (at least 40 watts)-



Music Software Titles-

Theory- There are many theory titles currently available.  Here are a few:

Practica Musica - $100

Harmonic Hearing-  $30

Inner Hearing- $30


History- This is a sampling of the many  Music History CD-ROM titles available.

Bach & Before- $25

Beethoven & Beyond- $25

Discovering Music- $95


Notation- There are many different levels of difficulty when dealing with notation software.  Here are three titles from basic to advanced.

Basic- MusicShop- $75

Mid-Range-Finale Allegro


Advanced- Sibelius- $300


Younger Students- There are many software titles perfect for students as young as Kindergarten. 

Grades K-3

Thinking Things- $35

Menlo the Frog- $75

Childrens Songbook- $30

Grades 3-5

Making Music- $40

The Musical World of Professor Piccolo- $40

Julliard Music Adventure-


A word to the wise...

Make sure you check each software titles compatibility with Mac and PC.  Some of the titles listed are only for PC, others are only for Mac.


Projection Device-

Most projection devices are extremely expensive ($2,000-$4,000).  There are however, inexpensive devices which allow the user to connect the computer to a television set.  These devices cost between $100 and $200.  Focus Enhancements makes these devices.


Total Cost:    $2,500-$3,000

(This figure includes the necessary hardware and four software titles, one from each category.)


Where do I go from here?


            Now that you have a one-computer music classroom, the important thing to do is to make sure that it is used.  Technology is a big investment.  If it is not going to be used, your money is better spent on other pieces of equipment.  The other important thing to do is publicize what you are doing with technology to the teachers, parents and administration.  There are so many exciting things that can be done with technology, it is easy to impress anyone who sees and hears what you are doing. 

            Once you have gained the support of both parents and teachers and the enthusiasm of your students, it is time to expand!  In an ideal world, there would be a workstation for each student in your class.  More realistically, one station for two or three students works.  I have used four students at one workstation and quite simply, it doesnıt work.  This type of music technology lab is a large investment.  To give you an idea, here are some estimates:


16 Workstations (includes computer/synthesizer/ software/networking capability)-  $45,000-$55,000


16 Workstations (same as above without computers)



8 Workstations (includes computer/synthesizer/ software/networking capability)-  $20,000-$25,000

8 Workstations (same as above without computers)



How can I afford this?


            Donıt let these numbers overwhelm you.  You donıt have to buy all of the equipment at once.  You can slowly build your lab over the years.  The only drawback with building slowly is that buy the time you have the size lab you want, most of the equipment will be obsolete.  There are many ways to fund your investment in technology.  Grants are certainly one avenue to pursue, as well as funding from school organizations such as the PTA or Foundation.  Another way is to raise the funds yourself through the many fund- raising opportunities available today. 


Where do I go to find out more?


            There are many companies that specialize in educational music technology.  Your local music store is a great source for trying out different equipment, but is not always the best source for the educational applications of the equipment.  I would highly recommend using one of the following companies when considering starting a music technology lab:



1 (800) 963-8733


This company, a division of Korg, is a great resource for technology-minded music educators.  They publish a Resource Guide quarterly, filled with articles, product reviews and testimonials from educators around the country who are currently using technology in their classrooms.  They will answer any questions that you may have, and can provide you with schools that you can visit in your area, to see first hand what technology can do.


Lentineıs Music Inc.-

1 (800) 822-6752


This company, although not affiliated with any one brand, is very similar to SoundTree.  They too offer wonderful resources for setting up and maintaining a music technology lab.  Their music education division is geared specifically for teachers who are just starting with technology, as well as the seasoned veterans.



1 (800) 253-8490 ext. 4940


The Yamaha Music In Education System (MIE) is an extremely well thought out system of music instruction.  Far more rigid than other systems, it is well worth investigating.    It involves synthesizers, a networking system, software and an in-depth curriculum.    It is less expensive than other systems ($10,000 for a 16 station lab (no computers)).  They also have attractive leasing plans available.


            There are many other sources of information regarding music technology.  One of the most comprehensive sources is the Technology Institute for Music Educators or TI:ME.  This organization provides information on the latest developments in music technology, professional development courses to become familiar with technology, a strategies guide with ready-to-use lesson plans, and links to other resources and organizations whose focus is music technology.  Their website address is:


            Hopefully the information presented here will give you an idea about how to get started with technology in your music classroom.  It is a big investment, and one you should carefully consider before making.  Technology provides both teachers and students some wonderful learning opportunities.  I suggest finding a music teacher in your area and using them as a resource.  Observe their classes, ask them questions.  Most technology-minded music educators love to answer questions about technology.