Grade Level: 4 (3-5)
Time Required: 45 minutes
Subject Areas: Science and Technology
SummaryStudents are introduced to the concept of the image of music. After listening to a song, they draw images of it by deciding where different musical instruments were placed during recording. They further investigate audio engineering by modeling the position of microphones over a drum set to create a desired musical image.
Audio engineering has a long history involved with the creation of pop culture. Audio engineers can be found in recording studios around the world. They enhance and create sounds and special effects for music and films. Audio engineers make better and clearer the sounds we hear through televisions, radios, MP3 players, speakers and even the public announcement intercoms at sports games. Music and film are the most common industries in which audio engineers specialize.
After this activity, students should be able to:
- Explain the musical image of a song.
- Model the placement of microphones to create a specific musical image.
- Describe the impacts of audio engineering on the music they hear.
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science,
technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN),
a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).
In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics;
within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).
In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.
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More Curriculum Like This
Students are introduced to audio engineers, discovering the type of environment in which they work and exactly what they do on a day-to-day basis. Students come to realize that audio engineers help produce their favorite music and movies.
Students learn how different materials reflect and absorb sound.
Students should understand that sound travels in waves and has a direction of travel. This activity works well accompanying a science unit on sound or waves.
Audio engineers sometimes refer to the image of a song. They are talking about the fact that a recorded song can be split into a left side, a right side and a center. Have you ever adjusted the balance on your radio?
Imagine a four-piece jazz band on a stage in your living room instead of the regular CD player and speakers. The sounds from the saxophone would come from a different place than, say, the drums, since players usually stand apart from one another on stage. What would the band's position on the stage look like if their sounds all came from the same place, like they do from one speaker? (Answer: They would all be stacked on top of one another or somehow clumped together — a very strange picture!)
Audio engineers record songs with a spread-out image to be displayed by two or more speakers. This means that different sounds come from different speakers to create the effect of a band in your living room. Also, they have advanced how we can hear other sounds. Audio engineers create interesting effects such as a sound that moves from side to side or even up and down. Have you ever heard such an effect, perhaps at a movie?
Today, we are going to train our ears to see images of songs. First, we will listen to a song and draw its musical image. Then, we are going to step into the shoes of an audio engineer, pick up some microphones (or, in our case, colored pencils and construction paper to model microphones) and position them over a drum set (also called a trap set) for a desired musical image that we are given. (These are also called the specifications.) Audio engineers often have to try several different arrangements of microphones and instruments to get the desired sound. We will also get a chance to try several different arrangements of our microphones to find the best fit for the musical image.
Poll: Before the lesson, ask students the same YES/NO question. Tally the yes/no answers and write them on the board.
- When you listen to a song on your stereo or MP3 player, do the same sounds come out of both speakers? (Answer: The answer should be no, but exceptions may exist. Encourage students to listen for themselves the next time.)
Activity Embedded Assessment
Voting: Ask students to imagine a person in a recording studio listening to a drummer play. Another person is listening with headphones to what the microphones are picking up.
- Does rearranging the microphones affect both people's hearing? Have students vote thumbs up for yes, or thumbs down for no. (Answer: No, rearranging the microphones only affects the person with the headphones.)
Group Evaluation: Ask students to leave their answers for the Mic a Trap Set on the floor. Have student groups rotate through the different possible microphone combinations for the desired musical image (the microphones can be anywhere on either side of the line as long as they are equidistant from the line). If time permits, have groups volunteer to explain why they chose the placement that they did. Direct other groups to ask questions of each other's designs. How many groups had similar designs?
Lesson Extension Activities
Have students bring in their favorite songs to play for the class. Have students complete Part 1 for the various songs, listing the instruments, and investigating the many different types of musical images that exist.
For students that have been to a concert (or a school concert), have them discuss the sound differences between what the concert sounded like live compared to a recording of musicians.
Dunbar, Brian. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Glenn Research Center's Acoustical Testing Laboratory (ATL), "Cleveland Institute of Music Student in Acoustical Testing Laboratory," May 2, 2008, accessed July 3, 2008. http://www.nasa.gov/centers/glenn/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_004_C2003-399_prt.htm
National Communications System, National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NCSTA), NCSTA Meeting – June 2001, "Images from the Reception/Dinner - June 2001," December 7, 2006, accessed July 3, 2008. http://www.ncs.gov/nstac/june2001/nstac_meetings.html
State of New South Wales through the Department of Education and Training, 2008, http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/
Copyright© 2008 by Regents of the University of Colorado.
ContributorsMichael Bendewald; Malinda Schaefer Zarske; Janet Yowell
Supporting ProgramIntegrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder
The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed under a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education, and National Science Foundation GK-12 grant no 0338326. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the Department of Education or National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.
Last modified: August 10, 2017