Genuinely interactive technology in instrumental tuition is more than e-Learning – it is Real Learning!

“All children should have the chance to learn an instrument” —  Michael Gove


Nobody would disagree with Mr Gove’s aspiration; especially parents and pupils.

The scale of the challenge set by Mr Gove must not be underestimated though, and we have long argued that we need to utilise technology to support our workforce to deal with the issues of scale and reach.

Teaching with technology (interactive technologies)

However, those of us involved in teaching with technology must be clear of what we mean by interactive technology. We must also convince traditionalists that technology produces real outcomes, is not a gimmick and is designed to be used in addition to, not instead of, high quality teachers and teaching.

Technology in musical instrument tuition, in formal education, must be about being part of a system that creates more instrumental opportunities than is currently possible.

So let’s start by being clear and demanding of our vision of elearning in instrumental tuition – it must be real learning.

Real eLearning – Good teaching and learning

For elearning to be real learning, it needs to;

  • incorporate good teaching and learning,
  • use a mix of learning models to support learners of many styles,
  • blend activities to enable skills development to support academic development and musical literacy.

Musical instrument tuition needs to be even more demanding of technology for it to be meaningful and it must be genuinely interactive, so that it can provide formative feedback to the learner and, an opportunity for the teacher to provide personalised assessment to support the learner’s progress.

We, of course,  believe that Gigajam is unique in its offer and well placed, not only, to meet the current demands, but to evolve its services and meet the continual improvement that we demand from our technology in helping raise standards.

Let’s interogate the basis upon which Gigajam was created.

Learning Models

Firstly, Gigajam’s courses and software were developed on strong learning models. The interplay between the curriculum and the software is built upon Bloom’s Taxonomy:


Knowledge – Delivery of high quality information, containing multimedia: Narrated text, Video Clips, Diagrams and Graphics, Glossary, ordered into lessons that can be used by teachers, as detailed lesson plans and absorbed by students when working on their own.

Example.01 Drum lesson One – Multimedia lesson, simulating an instrumental teacher

 Drum Lesson One

 Fig01 Digital Curriculum – Multimedia lessons available online anytime, anywhere

Understanding – Pupils understanding can be supported by delivering the lessons  in a variety of ways;

  • Full narrated lessons, with explanatory text and diagrams, how to videos, and glossary of terms.*
  • Video lesson version only, where students can use imitation and modelling to learn.*
  • TV lesson version, which is more detailed and provides a more ‘whole’ approach, rather than learning chunks. *
  • PDF book lesson for students who prefer to work from a music stand rather than a computer screen.*
*all lesson formats linked to exercises interactive software.
Example.02 Drum lesson One – 4 lesson variations for multiple learning styles


Fig02 Independent learning – Instrument, Digital Curriculum and interactive software

Application – This is where the majority of instrumental learning takes place, with the student being able to repeat an exercise to develop competence. Gigajam’s Xtractor software is, firstly, a play along device, and was designed to simulate playing along with a teacher.

Students can adjust the exercise; making changes to the tempo, the mix of the backing band and also isolate sections of the exercise to loop around, so they can focus on small technical difficulties.

Students can also record and listen back to their performance, as well as save it for future reference and share with teachers and peers for their feedback.

Example.03 Gigajam in action Year 8 lessons (video) Bradley Stoke Community School

Fig03 Xtractor – Gigajam’s award winning interactive play along and recording software
(practice engine)

In terms of learning skills Xtractor is hugely important. Within Bloom’s Taxonomy, application (practice to musicians), is explained more deeply in Reynold’s Model of Developing Skills.

Using Xtractor to practice is the first level of interactivity, as the student interacts with the software to do what real musicians do – practice, practice, practice!  This is very real learning and is essential in becoming competent.

Fig04 Xtractor – Reynold’s Model of developing skills

Developing the ability to be consistent in the performance of the task is the key and this takes repetition. The horizontal line in Reynold’s model represents competence and is consistent with the the popular theory of Progressive Competence

■Unconscious incompetence

■Conscious incompetence

■Conscious competence

■Unconscious competence

Analysis – Gigajam Analyser provides the second level of interactivity, and is highly significant in its impact on outcomes for the learner. It is significant because in the learning process Analyser provides immediate formative feedback to learners. This is almost impossible to do with groups of pupils and when the pupils is away from their teacher.

Specifically, Gigajam Analyser does the following:

1. Provides immediate feedback for the student, which enables the student to form a judgement as to how they are doing and what they need to do to progress. This formative assessment takes the form of:

  • % score that incentivises students to score as well as they can (generally by practising more).
  • Graphically represents whether the students have; played the right note, in time and for the right length.

2. Students can keep all of their performances by uploading directly into their online locker, which contains a dedicated ePortfolio, and enables students to view their progress in two ways.

  • Progression in each exercise.
  • Progression through the course.

  Drum Portfolio SMALL

Fig06 Student’s Online Locker – ePortfolio (assessment for learning) – continual, formative and summative assessment
Example.04 Gigajam in action Year 9 lessons (video) Pleckgate High School

3. Teachers also benefit from the Analyser; as students can capture all of their performances, this provides continual and summative assessment. Teachers can view all of their students work and provide comments to deepen the assessment for learning. The analyser’s ability to score students work means that all of the students work is automatically scored, even to the point where the system can produce lesson completion certificates automatically.

Without technology it is incredibly difficult to provide continual assessment in a music classroom. The analyser, in conjunction with the reporting functionality of the website, means that continual, formative and summative assessment, as well as communication between students and teachers, is  an added service, only possible when using interactive and dynamic technologies.

Synthesis – Gigajam’s curriculum is based on a tried and tested pathway of study written by professional musicians and educators.

Brian Greene

(Director of education and content development Interactive Music School – former Head of Academic Drum Studies – Thames Valley University)

David Young

(Trinity Guildhall Licentiate – Guitar)

Terry Gregory

(University of East London – Institute of Contemporary Music Performance)

The courses written are designed so that students develop their own instrument specific skills, and are complementary with the other instruments in creating a band. Students can play together at the end of each lesson, each grade (lesson 2, 4, 7, 10, 20, 30) and each level.  Additionally, the Rock Orchestra module enables Gigajam rock musicians to perform with an Orchestra, as the songs for level one have been scored for an Orchestra and Rock Band to play together.

06 - Gigajam Classroom Band

Developing students into musicians must incorporate the opportunity for students to come together and develop their live performance, recording and composition skills, so that the tangible music skills they learn, both performance and academic, can be brought together in a series of music making activities.

Example.05 Gigajam in Action – South Manchester CLC (video)

Teenage Kicks – Year 6 students bringing their skills together, downloading lyrics and working a song out wth their teacher which contains skills they have been developing.

Example.06 Guitar, Bass, Keyboard Drums and Theory – course outline

Example.07  Live Performance Workshops

Example.08 Music Classroom of the Future – Learn to Play<Play Live<Record and Compose Music

Evaluation – Once teachers have faciltated the opportunity to synthesis music making, whether at the end of the first session, or the 30 lesson, group evaluation, and peer moderation supports pupils to further evaluate what they need to do to progress. Pupils will then be able to reflect on their individual skills and also the methods and approaches they have taken and make evaluation of how theu can change, or refine the process and their approach.

Blended Learning

At Gigajam we believe that by blending the benefits of good interactive technologies, alongside solid teaching and learning, technology has a significant role to play in upskilling pupils with tangible music making skills. Blending the activities so that students can distill their skills and demonstrate meangingful and lasting progress will support greater participation and raise standards.

Genuinely interactive technology used alongside good teaching and learning is about developing real skills, using real instruments and providing real outcomes.  

Brian Greene


For more information on Gigajam then please contact us:

01494 534880

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