Technology, accessibility and creativity in popular music education

Ben Challis

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The demand for electronic music technology at both professional and amateur levels has grown steadily across the past thirty years. In meeting this demand, manufacturers have continually pushed forward technological boundaries offering us higher quality audio, increased flexibility of use, greater affordability and considerable novelty within our music making. There are significant themes that can be identified within this rapid expansion of design and development including: analogue to digital, big to small, fixed to portable, dedicated to multi-functional and, ultimately, physical to virtual. Large-scale multitrack recording is no longer the exclusive domain of the professional music producer, nor is the richness of instrumental sound that such studio production once typified. Anyone with the desire to compose, perform and record music can access really quite sophisticated music production software with little other than a home computer. However, these technologies are generally not designed with the specific needs of individuals in mind and where computer-based accessibility has increased in some areas (e.g. internet access), the same is not true within music technology. Many of the design features that would be seen as desirable to typical users are simply additional barriers to those with individual needs. This article presents an overview of the current state of accessibility within mainstream music technology with a focus on that which is typical within current educational provision. The notion of 'reasonable adjustment' as stated within the Disability and Discrimination Act 2001, is discussed alongside current models of music education practice and typical hardware and software resources. These technologies are contextualised historically and the discussion concludes with a review of novel and emerging music-technologies from the perspective of both commercial and research-based developments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425 - 431
Number of pages6
JournalPopular Music
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2009


  • popular music
  • disability
  • creativity
  • technology
  • accessibility
  • education
  • individual needs


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