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Case study - Plymouth Make Music

19th July 2018

ESF and Lottery logoOver the past 30 years, libraries have moved from humdrum, quiet environments to inclusive, collaborative, colourful surroundings. They’re the perfect place to meet new people from all walks of life and as such, we love to run events in those areas.

On the 21st June, Cosmic teamed up with Chris from POP Plus to deliver a very special digital music event at Plymouth Central Library. It was National Make Music Day, so it was an ideal place to make some noise! Our aim was to teach individuals all about how to make music with just a handful of digital equipment. Our offering was fourfold – we had Garageband, an app for the iPad and iPhone which emulates a full music studio with multiple instruments all from the touchscreen. We had the ROLI Lightpad Block, a small grid-like device that connects to a tablet and can be used to produce synthesized music. We had Aerodrums, a drum set that uses a camera, light and reflective sticks to produce percussion without the actual kit. Finally, we had Rocksmith, a guitar tutition application for major games consoles that you can plug an actual guitar into.

Although the environment was too light for us to use the Aerodrums – like all things in life, sometimes digital isn’t perfect! - the rest of the equipment went off without a hitch. Throughout the day, we saw some 50 people, the vast majority of whom were amazed by what you could produce with just an iPad. The ROLI Block was a particular highlight. Our technician Ben had pre-prepared some loops and showed how easy it was to layer rhythm and bass over drums, all using the same handheld instrument.

Likewise, Rocksmith garnered strong attention. Our digital training assistant, Rob, learned how to play bass almost exclusively from Rocksmith’s lessons and songs, and several participants were in awe at how quickly they managed to pick up a few basic skills. One was concerned about the cost of acquiring all the kit necessary, until Rob pointed out that it was available on older hardware such as the PlayStation 3 and that all the bits required were available in the box. At this point she advised us she was off to GAME to see if she could pick up a copy!

Towards the end of the day, a group of young students who had been doing a coding session came to see us from the bowels of the library. Some had quite creative was of using the equipment, such as playing a guitar sideways, and rolling their head over the ROLI block to create some interesting sounds, but many of them came away with one prevailing thought – how to translate the technology they had seen into new coding projects. Maybe one of them will come up with the “next big thing”.

We managed to refer 10 individuals onto the project by the end of the session, and the library loved the work we did. April Cornew, Development Officer of Customer Services said, "I really enjoyed last week and am glad that it was such a successful day. It was amazing event and I was very impressed with all the tech that you provided! I have spoken to other library staff and they also enjoyed the event and the buzz that the music created at the front of the library."

It’s great to see how the power of digital can break boundaries when it comes to finding creativity. Our participants inherently have dreams and skills that they don’t fully know how to harness – where digital comes in to make it simpler and more effective for them is what we endeavour to show every time we’re out and about. It helps that music is a universal language!