Opening Up through Inclusive Musical Learning

I’d like to connect with other OE champions who have an interest in music and inclusive practices.

Over the past few months, and based on some years of participatory-action research around music and technological appropriation, I’ve been planning some activites around social inclusion through musical learning. People often claim that music can cross borders, allowing shared understanding despite language barriers. At the very least, music helps people develop of sense of belonging without relying on language.
Music is also welcoming. Christopher Small has inspired a number of us to think of any participation in musical activities as a form “musicking”. From singing around a campfire to dancing during a ceremony and from tapping your feet during a concert to creating a playlist, there are many ways to get involved in music.

Though music opens itself up, musical teaching tends to close itself down through a number of practices which limit participation. For instance, it’s common nowadays to use musical notation as the basis for any type of musical learning despite the fact that much musical practice happens without much use of transcription, if any. In this sense, “learning music” often feels like having to learn a foreign language.

In addition, it’s been my experience that we can develop diverse competencies through musical learning. In other words, music is also an approach to learning, often through direct collaboration.

I want to collaborate with diverse people to design, explore, prototype, and test diverse approaches to musical learning. Hopefully, we should be able to plan learning activities, share content, build resources, and remix existing material to support inclusive musical learning.

Though it’s a sideproject for me so far, I’m hoping to make this into something more formal at some point in time.

So please get in touch if you’re interested in this emerging project.


Oh oh, interested! :raising_hand_man:t3:

I am fairly sure we have a good number of music lovers in the mix here. At last year’s conference, we had an interesting thread on open music collaboration, leading to talent sharing by @GinoFransman @Mario and @IrwinD

I still own the guitar my parents bought me at age 15 when I wanted to take lessons. I only lasted a year and I am still on a long learning curve. But over the years I got to know many generous and naturally talented musical friends in education, and having the opportunity to “jam” at in person conference.

So I see much value in the self-motivated learning that can happen, with practice, if one can move beyond the fear of performance (which is huge for me).

I am thinking of a colleague from British Columbia I knew a while back, Bryan then was a high school teacher, and I helped with his web site where students, as well as open participants, could learn together, and share their efforts on the site (it’s old, links broken, but much is still there)

Let’s get a band together!


Performance anxiety is a real thing. So it’s very useful to have jams which aren’t performances.
(Disclaimer: Performance Theory was a significant part of my PhD coursework. Verbal Art as Performance on JSTOR)

Inclusive jams are quite a thing. One way to put it: they’re like “condensed friendship”. It’s no joke that a lot of learning happens in those contexts.

In fact, there are many other approaches to learning which bear some relationship to inclusive jams.
Settlers in Canada occasionally talk about “learning circles”. There’s a lot of insight we can develop through indigenization of Higher Ed.

I’ve never said no to something like this!


I was counting on that response, Irwin. I relish so much our times together with guitars.

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You and me both, Alan.

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Count me in for a music collaboration project. Not a musician but I dusted my guitar recently and got a new one too, and went back to lessons at a music school near my place. I know some audio editing as well. And performance anxiety is definitely a thing, one more reason why there are many garage players (or bedroom players) :slight_smile:

There aren’t many learning resouces for music theory or practice, at least that I know. That’s a cool way to share lesson materiales @cogdog on that website.

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Remember when people used to be able to play music together? Those were the days (Those Were the Days - YouTube). I don’t know if I have much to offer, but I’m interested.

And Electronic Music can work well for interdisciplinary work! @KellyM mentioned Electronic Music - Inquiry Unit | IEEE Reach. Sounds relevant.

@Enkerli, yes! Thank you for the mention. IEEE REACH ( has an Inquiry Unit (lesson plan/secondary education) on the history of Electronic Music found here: Electronic Music - Inquiry Unit | IEEE Reach. I am in the process of creating a hands-on activity for it and once travel is back open we will be creating videos for the lesson plan. Happy to connect!


I was not too sure where to share this fantastic video that demonstrates both musically but also visually the git version control process. I might finally “git” it!


For one of my graduate courses, as a complementary activity I developed a basic chord melody and then did weekly surveys with students on what style to use, which instrument to layer next, inviting lyrics, and then a student stepped forward to sing the final version. Each layer represented another perspective that we were adding to our discussion to build a more rounded and deeper understanding. They really enjoyed the whole process and when I have more time I’d like to develop it further as a pedagogical concept.


Reminds me of other forms of “livecoding”.
TOPLAP – The home of live coding
My favourite approach is Sonic Pi - The Live Coding Music Synth for Everyone (
For instance:

Taught it to children and adults, through workshops. The tutorial itself is quite neat in terms of learning experience because it asks you the right questions before giving some piece of code to try.
Plus, this approach to digital literacy is probably the most fitting I’ve heard so far.

Think about why people learn to read and write.

And this is what I sent @jsebesta1 for the Talent Show (in case I wasn’t able to make it live).

The Sonic Pi code itself is on Gist (Github):
Getting a few things together, in Sonic Pi. Pulse width and ring modulation driven by breath. Lip pressure (sent through MIDI as pitch bend) modulates the ring modulation mix. Incoming notes for the melody (with TB-303 type synth), counter motion for the counter melody (in FM synth). (

use_real_time # Preventing latency
use_tuning :just, :c # Just Intonation
delta=counter=naute=idx=0 # Initialize a few things
previous=60 # First note for the counter melody
gamme=(scale 50, :hex_dorian, num_octaves: 5) # Setting a “ring” of values in which to find incoming notes
counter_gamme=(scale 38, :hex_dorian, num_octaves: 2) # Same for the countermelody, an octave below
with_fx :compressor, threshold: 0.2 do # Preventing clipping
  with_fx :reverb, room: 0.8 do # Everything on the same reverb
    with_fx :ring_mod, mix_slide: 0.02 do |ringy| # Everything on lip-controlled Ring Mod
      with_fx :rlpf, res: 0.7, cutoff_slide: 0.02 do |lipf| # Everything on breath-controlled low-pass filter
        tibi = synth :tb303, note: 0, wave: 1, pulse_width_slide: 0.02, res: 0.7, release: 1000, amp: 0 # TB-303-inspired pulse
        counter_melody = synth :fm, divider: 4, note: 0, release: 1000, amp: 0 # FM synthesis
        live_loop :notes do
          note_on, velocity = sync "/midi/USB_Midi_Cable/4/1/note_on" # Incoming notes from Yamaha WX-11 wind controller
          if velocity > 0 # Only use actual note-ons
            delta=note_on - previous # Are we going up or down? By how much?
            if gamme.index(note_on) # If you find the note in the scale…
              idx=gamme.index(note_on) # Set the position in the scale
              control tibi, note_slide: 0 # No portamento
              control tibi, note_slide: 0.25 # Otherwise, add portamento
              if delta > 0 # We’re going up, so go up the scale
                idx=idx-1 # Otherwise, go down the scale
            naute=gamme[idx] # Find the note in the scale
            control tibi, note: naute, amp: velocity / 150.0 # Incoming note
            if delta < 0 # If we’re going down
              counter=counter_gamme.tick # Increment the counter if we’re going down
              counter=counter_gamme.reverse.tick # Decrement it otherwise
            control counter_melody, note: counter-12, amp: velocity / 160.0 # The counter note goes in reverse motion, an octave lower
            previous=naute # Set the current note for the next time around
            control ringy, freq: naute-20, amp: velocity / 160.0 # Assign a lower frequency to ring mod
        live_loop :windy do # Use the incoming breath control, MIDI CC#2, to modulate the low-pass filter
          control_change, breath = sync "/midi/USB_Midi_Cable/4/1/control_change"
          if control_change==2
            control lipf, cutoff: breath # Breath control opens/closes the low-pass filter
            if breath==0
              control ringy, amp: 0
            control tibi, pulse_width: 0.5-(breath/256.0) # Also modulate the pulse width: lower is closer to square wave
        live_loop :bendy do
          bend_change = sync "/midi/USB_Midi_Cable/4/1/pitch_bend" # The WX-11 sends lip pressure as pitch bend
          bent=(bend_change[0]-8192)/ 8192.0 # Convert pitch bend to -1.0 to 1.0
            control ringy, mix: (bent.abs) # Use the absolute value to modulate the ring mod mix
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Though these modules are closed source, I’ve been discussing some options with the program’s creator, Joe Hanley. I find that much about this approach matches what I’ve been trying to do. If we could create something similar in the open, I think we could reach something close to Inclusive Musical Learning.
Building Blocks: Music Theory & Composition Course for DAW Musicians (

Also works for the “renewable assignment” idea… emphasizing collaboration across cohorts. (Despite the notion that this one is the best :wink: )

I really like Sonic pi… I have played a couple times with it and it’s amazing to see a live performace!

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One way I’ve used Sonic Pi is a simple demo I’ve done in museums. I’d use some MIDI controllers to both play notes and put blocks in Minecraft, using three lines of SPi code. As simplistic as it was, the effect was really neat. Children and teenagers would pass by, noticing Minecraft. Then, they’d notice my windcontroller, which is rather unusual (though older than them). Having them intrigued, I could show the three lines of code and spend a few seconds to a few minutes explaining how musical coding works.

The other approach has been based on the tutorial. After some introductory comments, I’d let people explore SPi on their own, using the tutorial, and I’d go from one person to the next to answer questions or prompt them with questions of my own about the learning process. It worked quite well with children and with adult learners. More difficult with teachers, as they tended to question the approach and voice their expectation that I’d be “instructing” them.

I’ve based much of this article (in French) on my SPi experience and experiments:
Son propre son : bricolage sonore et appropriatio… – Anthropologie et Sociétés – Érudit (

As for live performance…
My casual noodling on Tuesday wasn’t through Sonic Pi. I do have a few audio excerpts on Soundcloud and a tiny video of one of my museum experiments.

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Don’t let this conversation fade out!

Just swam through a long twitter thread from someone on teaching music

by the author of this possibly relevant book

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Thanks for keeping the mic open!

For me, it’s likely to become a longterm project. In fact, it’s the convergence of a longterm project of mine with focused action.

Hein’s thread is particularly interesting in terms of pedagogy, as befits a PhD candidate putting finishing touches on a dissertation about Music Education. There’s a lot of value in “thinking out loud” about such issues as differences between Music Tech and Music Theory. And it can lead to useful connections among people who will bring this whole thing forward.

As we settle back into our routines and dayjobs, prompts like these are an important reminder that we’re part of a larger movement.