EDM producing for music teaching and learning

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Do you ever watch videos that feature musicians sharing their creative process? I find that listening to musicians speak about their music in connection with sonic examples helps expand the ways I think about and know music. It is also interesting to consider the format itself as a model for music learners to reflect on their own processes and share with others. This can serve as a great component of formative or summative assessment in learning contexts.

Consider the following video featuring Joel Thomas Zimmerman AKA Deadmau5 and Steve Duda discussing Deadmau5’s Imaginary Friends (hosted by Razer Music):

How might this connect to or inform music teaching and learning?

Here are just a couple of thoughts I jotted down as I watched the video (and I am curious about yours as well!):






  • The format of the video with two people talking about music informally, screen shots of the music, dialogue, and other aspects can be a model for (or inspiration for our own versions of) inviting learners to create videos of their own music and learning
  • In the context of music teaching and learning, this type of video could serve as a form of formative or summative “authentic” assessment
  • Having learners create these types of videos over time (perhaps archived in a digital portfolio) can demonstrate their “growth and learning”
  • Sharing such learner-created videos with family or community can reveal more of the process of music (since people outside a classroom or other context typically only see the final “product”


  • Electronic dance music (EDM) creation and production provide interesting and robust ways of engaging with, thinking about, and learning compositional techniques and music creation
  • EDM and this type of video provide ways of contextualizing aspects of music that are often presented in a de-contextualized way in some “music theory” classes or units. Consider the musical “elements” or dimensions in the dialogue or through the music. For instance, in the video Zimmerman and Duda discuss, among other aspects of music:
    • Melodic material
    • Harmonic material
    • Form and structure
    • Orchestration
    • Dynamics
    • Timbre
    • Genre-specific aesthetics
    • Performance practice
    • Relationships between music and movement
    • Production techniques

Consider these other curricular foci to help expand from a sole focus on “musical elements” as well.

In other words, even something as short and simple as this video clip let alone something more in-depth such as having students create electronic dance music (EDM) has many potential curricular connections and countless aspects of music to delve into. Creating, producing, analyzing, responding to, and connecting with EDM all provide contexts through which aspects of music will emerge in students’ work. Music educators can then make these aspects of music explicit by asking questions, engaging in dialogue, or providing information.


Responding & Connecting

One of the most basic (and potentially least engaging) ways for music teachers and students realize these connections could be to have them observe the video and identify the aspects of music that emerge in the conversation [note: there is the occasional use of school-inapproriate language]. This is much more contextualized than the types of worksheets or multiple-choice test recall-based approaches to learning definitions of terms that sometimes pop up in music programs. Here we have musicians discussing music in a real-world situation, shared with the world.

How well can our students do this? How well can they see or hear connections to the curriculum they are experiencing in the context of this video? To what extent do music curricula address the music, aspects of music, or musical practices included in this video?

We also can see how these musicians articulate what they know and do in different ways from each other, which could be an interesting point to address in a class as well.

How might learners make connections between this video and the larger world of EDM or dance music, or music production? How might they make connections to their own practice

Creating and Performing

I’m a proponent of hybrid music curricular structures where many different musics and forms of musical engagement can occur in the same space, so when watching this video I think of how engaging it would be for students to have opportunities to create and perform this type of music. (Even better, would be an integrated approach where they create, perform, respond, and connect throughout the process!)

From my perspective, (and in relation to an ethic of hybridity) we don’t need a specialized class that serves as the only location where this type of engagement occurs. I’m excited by students creating EDM next to students performing or analyzing a Bach chorale or practicing a bluegrass tune. (I’m more excited by those students having experiences engaging with each of these types of musics and musical practices and even more excited by them collaborating on each other’s projects).

The larger point is that this type of engagement could potentially happen anywhere in a music program whether it be in a band room or in a music technology lab as well as a hybrid space that is designed for a more comprehensive and inclusive type of curricular structure. It can also be modified for these contexts. Why not have EDM on concert band or orchestral instruments? Better yet, why not have a mix of the technology and instruments that typically occur in EDM with concert band and orchestral instruments?

So, those are a couple of thoughts I had when watching this video.

What are your thoughts when watching the video of Deadmau5 and Steve Duda? What types of connections do you think might exist between this or related videos and music teaching and learning?

What types of connections do you think might exist between this or related videos and music teaching and learning?

How might this reflect, inspire, or inform your own practice as a musician or music educator or teaching artist?

By the way, if you haven’t already taken a look at *Mary Halick’s, recent article What can you teach with Electronic Dance Music? : A music teacher’s guide to EDM It is free (if you are a NAfME member) in the journal, General Music Today.

* Mary is an Arizona State University alumn. We have these types of conversations on a regular basis in the ASU music education department and create opportunities for this type of engagement. Consider being a part of our community!



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