Education

3D Printing in the Music Classroom

music classroom

What would happen if a music classroom had access to a 3D printer, and if a music teacher included 3D printing in their lessons?

Guest Post: This article originally appeared on Day in the Life of a Backwards Musical Mind and was written by Catherine Dwinal. Text reproduced with the author’s permission.

3D printing has become a new and exciting tool in schools around the world, allowing students to practice skills such as design, mathematics, problem solving, and even critical thinking as they engineer new products previously inconceivable before.

So far, most of this technology has been reserved for school Makerspaces and STEAM powered classrooms. What would happen if music class included 3D printing into their learning. What would you do if as a music teacher you were granted access to a 3D printer? How would you use it where the students not only are learning about music but also getting the most out of the experience using the unique piece of machinery?

From my experience, every piece of technology out there can be used in any type of learning environment, you just need a little creativity to make it work for you. I thought to myself, what if I had a 3D printer in my old classroom? How would I use it?

1) Printing instruments

Say you are doing your yearly unit on instrument families, how could you take it a step further?

  • Creating new instrument designs from scratch. Have them use their new knowledge about how an instrument works to design their own unique creation. How about composing a song for your new 3D printed orchestra to play for an audience later?
  • Integrate engineering, mathematics, science of sound, and instrument families and anatomies into re-creating instruments. Try making a plastic reed? Can you create a different kind of woodwind with the same family properties? How about a percussion instrument?

2) 3D art interactive structures

Take this opportunity to work with your school art teacher. You teach about the science of sound while they discuss sculpture techniques and history.

  • Build a sculpture piece by piece learning about sculpture techniques and the properties of sound as you go. What shapes make what sounds? Why do we put that piece there?
  • Try integrating the Makey Makey tool into a sculpture (you would need some electrical conductor help.) Can you creative an interactive sculpture that can be played as it’s own unique instrument?

3) 3D Notation

What is better than bringing notation and composition to life in a 3D model?

  • As students discover musical notation, build symbols, notes, and even a grand staff to create an interactive composition tool for your classroom.
  • Create visuals that would allow students to actually touch and feel what they are learning about. Create manipulatives to use during instruction time, learning toys for center times, Keeping students as part of the projects all along the way. I would love to see a grand staff with shelving that students can place notes and rests on to compose and create new music.

My favorite 3D printers come from MakerBot. Well let’s just say they are the favorite printer company I frequent at conferences to stare longingly at their awesome products. If you want to try free hand 3D printing, try 3D Doodler. The one I have is an amazing piece of awesomeness.

Image credit: Popular Science / Chris Philpot