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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



Gigajam YouTube Channel Launched

How Gigajam worksGigajam have recently started using the YouTube Video hosting service to promote instructional vidoes of Gigajam in use and How to Use Gigajam. Please feel free to view the growing video channel at:


Brian Greene, Managing Director said, ‘This is a quick and easy way of sharing information and we have produced the short videos in an informal and simple manner, reflecting the ease with which the web can be used to communicate. We will also be publishing the videos in a number of areas of the web, which will include our own support section, as well as community and social networking areas such as Facebook, Gigajam Group, www.facebook.com and the UK music education community portal, Teaching Music, www.teachingmusic.org.uk

For further information on How to use Gigajam, then please feel free to contact us at:

T: 0800 055 6797

E: support@gigajam.com

W1: www.gigajam.com

W2: http://schools.gigajam.com

W3: www.gigajamonline.com

W4: www.gigajam.tv

Gigajam Get Down Under – Australia

Gigajam - Creating Musicians

Gigajam get down under – Australia

Soundhouse Music, Australia has become a Gigajam distributor providing local representation for the first time.

Soundhouse Music are themselves a well established music tuition provider delivering instrumental courses for students, CPD to state schools, as well as running their own music projects within schools. They now offer Gigajam in one of their centres, enriching their offer.

Soundhouse believe passionately in the use of high quality resources and technology which enables them to support more opportunities for students to receive sustained high quality instrumental instruction.

For more information on Soundhouse Music and their work, as well as Gigajam in Australia, please feel free to contact Ken Owen, Manager Soundhouse.com  (Australia).

For more information on Gigajam and how we help create more musicians with our partners then please contact:John Hillier or phone 07956 466440. [vCard]



Gigajam is an affordable ICT based instrumental tuition programme that provides a scalable solution to teaching and learning the guitar, bass, keyboard and drums. If you would like to know more about Gigajam and how it is helping create musicians, then please feel free to get in touch.

Gigajam can provide stand alone, network and Learning Platform VLE solutions for Primary Schools, Secondary Schools and Local Authorities.

Web http://schools.gigajam.com
Tel 0800 055 6797

Brian Greene or phone 07976 208859. [vCard]

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Future School of Finland gets Gigajam

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Gigajam - Creating Musicians

Gigajamming in Future School of Finland

Gigajam has been chosen for the Future School of Finland project in the City of Oulu. This is an exciting project which take a holistic look at education, taking the physical environments, curriculum, and resources as a whole.

The Future School project is transforming education in a similar way to UK initiatives such as BSF, the Music Manifesto and the Harnessing Technology strategy. Although we are playing a small part, we are proud to be involved in such innovation.

More information is available here.


For more information on Gigajam and how we help create more musicians with our partners then please contact:

Email Brian Greene or phone 07976 208859. [vCard]

Email John Hillier or phone 07956 466440. [vCard]

Gigajam is an affordable ICT based instrumental tuition programme that provides a scalable solution to teaching and learning the guitar, bass, keyboard and drums. If you would like to know more about Gigajam and how it is helping create musicians, then please feel free to get in touch.

Gigajam can provide stand alone, network and Learning Platform VLE solutions for Primary Schools, Secondary Schools and Local Authorities.

Web http://schools.gigajam.com
Tel 0800 055 6797

Gigajam goes Dutch

If you are having trouble viewing this email, please view our web version:

Gigajam - Creating Musicians

Gigajam goes Dutch with BOA (Amsterdam)

Gigajam has been selected by Breedbandnetwerk Onderwijs Amsterdam (BOA) for an city wide music project developing the use and connectivity provided by their new fibre optic network.

The project aims to make Gigajam available to all schools in Amsterdam in 2010 across BOA’s network. The initial planning is complete, and Gigajam’s long standing client Muziek skool Amsterdam West (MSA) are spearheading the project.

Gigajam has been used successfully by MSA since 2005. They have recently expanded their work with Gigajam and were asked to use their experience and expertise to support a group of 5 schools in a pilot for the main project.

It is proposed that Gigajam will be available to all schools, their teachers, and learners; at school and at home from the end of this year. Translations for the early lessons, for the younger students, are already available to the Music School and the participating schools. They are really enjoying the opportunity to provide musical instrument tuition to all their pupils.

The Essential Skills Courses for guitar, bass, keyboard, drums, and theory will be available in both English and Dutch so students can choose which language they wish to use.

Initial training began in March led by Brian Greene of Gigajam. MSA are now leading the mentoring and will be supported in May when all project schools will have their third session run by Gigajam and MSA in Amsterdam.

More details will follow shortly so that interested parties in Amsterdam can enquire how to participate.



A website for the project is now available at http://www.gigajamsterdam.nl.

For more information on Gigajam and how we help create more musicians with our partners then please contact:

Email Brian Greene or phone 07976 208859. [vCard]

Email John Hillier or phone 07956 466440. [vCard]

Gigajam is an affordable ICT based instrumental tuition programme that provides a scalable solution to teaching and learning the guitar, bass, keyboard and drums. If you would like to know more about Gigajam and how it is helping create musicians, then please feel free to get in touch.

Gigajam can provide stand alone, network and Learning Platform VLE solutions for Primary Schools, Secondary Schools and Local Authorities.

Web http://schools.gigajam.com
Tel 0800 055 6797

Gigajam supports Tiverton pupils composition skills

Tiverton High, which is a Specialist Visual Arts School, has a wonderful music team and department led by Ian Wright (Head of Music) and supported brilliantly by Joel.

Ian and Joel work together to provide a flow of activities all of which are focused on providing students across all their KS3 year groups with tangible instrumental skills that enable them to access the curriculum. These skills are essential for students who wish to proceed to accreditation in KS4.

The music team provide a range of activities, based around units of work, Gigajam lessons and musical futures activities that all build up and contribute to achieving the desired outcomes of the National Strategy for Music.

The video attached to this blog is just one of the many activities all the students are involved in. This one is based on a unit devised by Ian and Joel to write a song called Valentine Rock.

In essence it is an outcome which demonstrates the range of knowledge, understanding and skills the students have acquired through their classroom work.

1. The students develop rhythm, chords, time keeping and performance skills by working with Gigajam lessons for guitar, bass, keyboard and drums.

2. Ian and Joel take time each lesson to take groups of students to play together in a small band, whilst the other students are working with the Gigajam lessons. In a Gigajam lesson you will have students learning four different instruments at the same time, say 6 guitarists, 6 bassist, 6 drummers and the remainder learning keyboards.

3. Small bands are created and rotated so that 6 or 7 bands have a 5/10 minute band workshop with Ian each lesson, in addition to their time developing their instrumental skills. This is great for the students and the teacher as they get some quality attention from Ian and he learns about what they are doing and how they are developing.

4. The individual skills learned with Gigajam are enhanced in the second teaching area by Joel in a different unit of work as he takes groups of individual instrumentalists (say all guitarists) and provides teacher led whole class activities, focusing on the instrumental skills learned with Gigajam.

5. Over a period of time the students are building the skills that enable them to play the songs, written specifically by Gigajam, that are built with the skills the students have developed.

6. What then is really lovely, is that Ian and Joel provide them with an additional opportunity to take their skills and Gigajam songs to create their own versions by writing a song based around the components of a Gigajam song’s rhythm, style, chords, and then add their own lyrics and melody.

7. You can see that the framework of our song, The First Time (audio file) has been quite radically altered into Valentine Rock by the young ladies in the band. They captured their performance on video.

The chords in the Gigajam song The First Time are Am, F, G, C.

Gigajam is about providing structured lessons that support the development of instrumental skills. Ian uses the Gigajam courses as a ‘platform’ for supporting his students when they need  to learn skills to perform, compose, improvise etc.

This is just one of the ways Ian and Joel create music making opportunities for their students. If you are interested in knowing a bit more Merlin John wrote an article for Futurelab on their work.


Ian and Joel place a huge emphasis on knowing what their students can really do. Really understanding what skills the students possess is possible because they have created a model that gives them time with students so they can really work with them, but whilst a class lesson goes on and the other students are engaged, working and on task. Additionally, the Gigajam analyser software means that students are continually assessed, so both they and their teachers know what skills they have.

Bucks Gets Gigajamming

Mike Woods explains how the School Improvement Service for Music and ICT worked together with Music Services at Bucks County Council to create a simple model for every child in the county to have access to musical instrument tuition.

Schools across Buckinghamshire are now able to offer all students the opportunity to learn a musical instrument, thanks to a project involving ICT, classroom teachers and music specialists across the county. This has been the first project of its kind in terms of creating dissemination centres and collaboration on such a large scale; utilising broadband technology as the delivery mechanism.

As Buckinghamshire County Council ICT adviser, it is one of my priorities to look for ways to develop the creative use of ICT across the curriculum. When I came across Gigajam’s Essential Skills Course, I could see the potential for rolling this innovative software out across the county via BucksGfL, the Buckinghamshire Grid for Learning Broadband Network, as a cost-effective way of linking ICT with music. Also, I envisaged that students would be able to develop their ICT skills using a practical application linked to our VLE (Virtual Learning Environment), either as part of their music lessons, or as an extra curricular activity.

We are a very rural authority with many small schools spread across a wide geographic area and the project also had to involve primary, secondary and special schools, so the solution I chose had to tick as many boxes as possible for all the schools.

Gigajam’s software-based curriculum for the guitar, bass, keyboards and drums provides high quality educational pathways that teach musical theory as students learn how to play a modern musical instrument. To make best use of the software, students progress through the lessons using a computer and a Yamaha MIDI-enabled musical instrument. The suite of instruments chosen for the schools provides students with access to keyboards, drums, guitars and bass guitars, and consist of PSR E403s, DD-55s and two EZ-AGs, to complement the software.

The user-friendly lesson instructions include ‘how to’ videos with professional musicians, audio files, backing tracks and an electronic performance assessment facility for immediate feedback. Students can select multimedia to suit their individual learning styles and the analysis software allows them to evaluate their own progress. The interactive courses are carefully structured so that students learning different instruments develop complementary skills, enabling them to play as a band from the very first lesson.

Thirty schools have been given access to the full Gigajam Essential Skills Course for all four instruments together with the Yamaha musical instruments to carry out the lessons. The schools were chosen in consultation with the advisers responsible for the Buckinghamshire Music Service, not only because of their enthusiasm for the development of music within the curriculum but also because of their interest in the use of ICT. Over an initial two year period we are providing training for them and working with them to develop sustainable curriculum models suitable for each school’s needs.

Five of the thirty schools were selected to take a lead role as mentor schools to become ‘music education hubs’ due to their geographic location across the county and their high level of expertise in music and ICT. Each of these mentor schools was nominated to be the hub for support and best practice guidance for five protégé schools, creating a web of support between all thirty schools. They were also tasked to provide further musical instrument opportunities for curriculum development, as well as after school and out-of-hours community projects.

Access for schools to Gigajam content is through BucksGfL, the County Broadband VLE (www.bucksgfl.org.uk). Gigajam created a website specifically for the project, which was then integrated into the VLE by Atomwide, providers of technical support for BucksGfL. This means that we now have an interactive music school sitting on our Virtual Learning Environment, and our ‘single sign-on’ user authentication system makes the software available to all Bucks students who can log on to the VLE at any time and from anywhere, whether it’s from school or from home.

Via the Bucks Grid for Learning, mentor and protégé schools also have access to a wide range of support resources, including the opportunity to use our Adobe ‘Connect’ video conference system to communicate with each other, as well as with Gigajam’s head office. We are also planning to provide Video Conference Master Classes, demonstrating both musical developments and the effective use of ICT. Schools within the project are already discussing joint rock band performances over the video conferencing link!

All of the other schools in the county who use the VLE have been provided with access to the first five Gigajam lessons for the guitar, bass, keyboards and drums. The Buckinghamshire Teaching and Learning Centre and Music Services Centre in Aylesbury also have full access to Gigajam content and software to enable them to support schools, and a set of loan instruments is also available to any school who would like to join in and ‘have a go’.

This is a huge project in terms of its collaborative elements, and as I write we are only just over a term into the project, but we can already see benefits for pupils and schools beyond those originally envisaged. Schools across all phases and of all types are working together in imaginative ways, delivering true personalised learning to pupils. A whole year of planning has produced a sophisticated, yet simple model of delivery that gives every single child within Buckinghamshire access to music lessons in a new and exciting way.

Feedback from pupils and teachers has been incredibly positive:

Staff have commented that:

“Gigajam has brought my music department into the 21st Century.”

“The project has provided me with the chance to learn to play an instrument in an interactive way and at my own pace.”

“The software has enabled a different group of children to access music in a totally practical way – another pathway to learning has been opened to them.”

Pupils say that:

“It’s fun and easy to use.” Hannah yr8

“The software gives a good insight into new instruments and is great to use at home.” Nathan yr11

“I didn’t know that a PC could be used to teach an instrument, and my Dad’s a computer technician!” Maryam yr8

“It rocks!” Darius – yr8

Gigajam’s Essential Skills Courses get OCN Accreditation

Open College Network Credit4Learning, one of the UK’s national accreditation services
for learning and skills, has announced that Gigajam’s Essential Skills Courses for
the guitar, bass, keyboards and drums can now be studied to earn credits to gain entry
into further and higher education courses.

The courses contain learning outcomes, detailed lesson instructions that are supported
by ‘how to’ videos by professional musicians; play-along and record software to encourage
practice; and Analyser, Gigajam’s eAssessment software. This provides students with
a graphical representation of their performances and a score out of 100. Students
can then store their Analyser files in a personal e-portfolio.

The OCNcredit4learning credits will be awarded to students who complete each Gigajam
lesson. Students have to reach a required percentage score for each exercise to gain
the credits; and each lesson has been awarded a ‘credits score’ based on the number
of hours the average learner would take to complete the lesson. All students have
to do is present their performance to the required standard and have certain key exercises
witnessed by an approved assessor, who could be their school teacher, a private music
tutor, or by submitting performances via webcam to Gigajam.

Brian Greene, managing director at Gigajam said: “Gaining accreditation from OCNcredit4learning
is a major step forward for us. Studying and learning to play a musical instrument
is enough for many students, but giving them the recognition for their hard work that
can be put forward for future studies is a great incentive to continue learning. Many
of our students are school-based and a number of schools have expressed an interest
in some form of qualification or certification from us.”

Katherine Gillard, chief executive, OCNcredit4learning said: “We have worked closely
with Gigajam to establish the correct levels of attainment. For each completed Gigajam
level, students will be able to accumulate 14 credits at the corresponding National
Qualifications Framework level. Completion of each level is the equivalent of 140
hours of study recognised by the National Qualification Framework. Students completing
all three levels of a Gigajam course will now have achieved 14 OCN credits at each
of Entry Level, Level One and Level Two, forming part of the credits required for
entry into Further and Higher education.”

Schools, colleges and other organisations are able to register for accreditation of
the Gigajam Essential Skills courses through OCNcredit4learning. More details are
available on schools.gigajam.com or www.credit4learning.com