Composing, songwriting, and producing: Diversifying popular music pedagogy

composing, Contemporary Issues, digital culture, Instrumental, music education, popular culture, popular music, research, technology2 Comments

You Are Here:, Contemporary Issues, digital culture, Instrumental, music education, popular culture, popular music, research, technologyComposing, songwriting, and producing: Diversifying popular music pedagogy

To Cite or Download the Article: Tobias, E. S. (2013). Composing, songwriting, and producing: Diversifying popular music pedagogy. Research Studies in Music Education, 35(2), 213-237. doi:10.1177/1321103X13487466

My article Composing, songwriting, and producing: Informing popular music pedagogy draws on research from my dissertation and addresses an expanded perspective on creating music in the context of producing music. I make a case for broadening how we discuss and address composing and songwriting to include aspects of producing music and also suggest that popular music pedagogies address production.
The article’s abstract is as follows:

In forwarding comprehensive popular music pedagogies, music educators might acknowledge and address expanded notions of composition in popular music that include processes of recording, engineering, mixing, and producing along with the technologies, techniques, and ways of being musical that encompass these processes. This article advances a perspective of popular music pedagogy that is situated in the role production plays in contemporary music-making. Drawing upon a single intrinsic case study focusing on secondary students’ creation and production of popular music, as well as theoretical frameworks that highlight recording, mixing, and production processes, this article provides an expanded perspective of composition and songwriting within a popular music context and proposes related pedagogical considerations. Themes addressed include: developing a theoretical framework within music education that addresses the role of production in contemporary music-making, expanding notions of aural skills and music literacy appropriate for producing popular music, and incorporating production processes in music classrooms.

The article addresses the following key points among others:

  • Conceptualizing students’ creation of original music through a song and track continuum (This draws on the work of Albin Zak, particularly the book The Poetics of Rock: Cutting tracks, making records)
  • Students’ recording processes and related affordances and constraints of technology
  • Students’ mixing and editing processes
  • Students’ construction of performances via technology such as Pro Tools
  • Broadening the types of aural skills addressed in music programs to include those related to producing music
  • Expanding the types of musical visualizations to address digital notation systems as a form of notation. I make a case that “Given the digital contexts of contemporary music making, visual representations of sound – ranging from MIDI data and wave forms to ADSR envelopes and equalization levels – ought to be considered standard notation in popular music curriculum and pedagogy” (p. 15)
  • A case for including producing, recording, mixing, and editing in music programs
  • A case for broadening genres of popular music addressed in music programs

From a curricular standpoint I am not arguing for production or audio engineering classes per se but rather for addressing producing as a musical practice and way of being musical and for its inclusion in aspects of music programs. For additional perspective on a comprehensive rather than compartmentalized curricular approach to frame such musicianship see my article Hybrid spaces and hyphenated musicians: Secondary students’ musical engagement in a songwriting and technology course. Several articles & chapters in press will also highlight a hybrid curricular approach.

Furthermore, producing classes seem to occur more commonly in the context of Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses. I would suggest that producing occur within a musical and artistic framework rather than solely or in a purely vocational context in music programs.

Contact me if you would like a copy but do not have institutional access.

About the author:

2 thoughts to “Composing, songwriting, and producing: Diversifying popular music pedagogy”

  1. Hello, I am currently studying music and would be very interested in reading this article. If you could please send me a copy that would be greatly appreciated!

    Kind Regards


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