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Is An iPad A Musical Instrument?
Saul is 22. He is a drummer in a pretty cool rock band called 'The AutistiX'.
I have been working with Saul for 5 1/2 years, doing weekly 1:1 music sessions. During this time he has achieved his Bronze Arts Award, APT-ED 'writing music down' and has started work on his Silver Arts Award, doing Unit 2 (Part C) focusing on leadership, which involved leading percussion activities to a large group of school pupils with SEND last June, as part of the London Symphony Orchestra's 'Explore' day at St Luke's (Old Street).
Saul's weekly music sessions include; working on singing, developing pitch control, improvising through using voice, iPad, piano and drum kit. We also work on reading rhythms and general musicianship skills, jamming as a duo!
Saul also enjoys playing the piano and is working on developing his dexterity, using 2-3 fingers on each hand when playing, moving on from using only his 2 index fingers and playing 2 notes simultaneously (which he is very comfortable in doing). Saul demonstrates on a weekly basis how he can transfer different musical patterns from one instrument to another, for example, when improvising on piano, Saul will play clave, calypso and syncopated rhythms, which he also plays on djembe, drum kit and iPad.
We decided to introduce the iPad into our weekly session in early 2013, using the very famous 'GarageBand' app and specifically it's wonderful 'smart instrument' guitar function. When using Smart Guitar (or keys) you have the opportunity to play full chords by tapping the chord strips/segments on screen. You can also customise and build different chords (welcome to jazz club!).
In Saul's case, it means he can play full chords by using only 1 finger, which makes playing chords much more accessible for him, at this early stage. A total of 8 chord segments can be positioned and customised to suit the musician, in this example, where Saul plays 'I can't take it anymore' (by his band The AutistiX) he uses all 8 chord segments, which covers the verses, chorus and bridge. Saul has worked hard in learning the chord names, and song structures e.g. verse 1, verse 2, chorus, bridge, chorus. So now when we play together we communicate like many musicians do when jamming, calling chord changes and responding rhythmically to tempo changes etc.
During the time that I have been working with Saul, his voice has deepened as he made the transition to adulthood. He now has a strong low range singing voice and we practice singing in higher and lower octaves, as you may hear in this video! Working on singing together has helped Saul to make the transition and become comfortable with his adult deep voice, though he still enjoys singing with a high voice and can switch between them.
Since Saul began using his iPad in our sessions, he has built up a song bank (in GarageBand) of around 15 songs, learning the different song structures and chord sequences, playing songs by some of his favourite bands including; Nirvana and Foo Fighters, Mumford & Sons and of course, songs by his band 'The AutistiX'. We are also looking at using the smart instruments/guitar as a composition tool, where Saul can create his own chord progressions, to start composing his own music and contribute his own songs to the band.
Now with the latest iPad Pro developments (Apple Pencil & 3D touch) it seems iPads could soon (potentially) offer greater opportunities for more expressive playing. Looking forward to exploring this soon!
Below is the short video from our session on 1st October 2015, of Saul playing 'I can't take it anymore' by The AutistiX, using smart electric guitar (I am also playing some acoustic guitar in the background). Here is the link to listen to the original recording of 'I Can't Take It Anymore' by The AutistiX, from their debut EP entitled 'Butterflies & Demons' (I Can't Take It Anymore).
Yes, an iPad can be a musical instrument.