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Gift ideas for 14 year old aspiring composer?

(11 Posts)
AChickenCalledKorma Wed 22-Jun-16 20:28:28

Anyone able to help me choose a suitable 14th birthday present for my daughter who likes to sit in her room making up her own music? She has an old keyboard of mine and a laptop. I'm wondering if there is any milage in getting software that would help her create and record her music. Or a keyboard that will plug into the computer. But I started looking online and quickly got blinded by science!

Anyone out there that knows what I'm on about and got any suggestions? Budget is ideally about £50 but might go higher for something great.

Mistigri Wed 22-Jun-16 20:57:58

My 15 year old has been composing and recording for a couple of years - guitar, piano and voice. She started out using garageband on my iPad, to which she connected her guitar, a mike and either a keyboard (using a cable) or a piano (which she simply recorded via a microphone). She now uses garageband on a Mac and may upgrade to proper recording software (logic pro) in due course.

If the keyboard is a midi keyboard then it should be possible to connect it to the laptop with an appropriate cable and software. I assume it's a windows PC?

For a complete beginner, I suspect the more complex recording software would be rather intimidating. Others may be able to recommend something simple; you could also have a look at garageband for PC as it's fairly intuitive to use (although the full version is less intuitive than the iPad version, which is limited by simple to use and can be learnt very quickly).

I think in your shoes I might have a look at garageband for PC (not sure of cost but it will be cheap) plus an appropriate midi to usb cable and maybe a microphone if she wants to record voice. You could do this for under £50 though you won't get a great mike for that price.

If you can find someone locally to advise you it would be even better of course - does she have a music teacher at school? For a beginner it can be very hard to work out what you need and how to use it.

AChickenCalledKorma Thu 23-Jun-16 16:01:28

Thanks Mistigri - that's really useful and has given me a good starting point. Yes, it's a Window PC and we've just upgraded to Windows 10 which I think may limit things a bit. Will keep looking though. Hadn't thought about a mic - I think she'd find that very cool!

Ferguson Thu 23-Jun-16 20:37:57

I don't have time right now, but will try and come back with information in day or two. Or you can search on my name and music, keyboard, sibelius, jazz, and other related keywords.

Ferguson Fri 24-Jun-16 19:40:27

Goodness Korma! I hadn't realised you were quite so prolific on your DD's music posts - I've just looked back over 4 or 5 years of them!

So, at 14 where has she got to in knowledge of Theory, and what sort of music does she like? Is it clarinet she also plays? Is she in any ensembles? And she want to do Music GCSE does she, and what is she aiming at eventually?

AChickenCalledKorma Sat 25-Jun-16 07:12:21

Am I? I guess it's amazing how they build up 😀

In brief - she's working on grade 5 piano now and probably about grade 4 theory. She likes classical to listen to, but she and her friend like writing songs together. There both play keyboard and a guitar is sometimes involved. I'd hesitate to identify any particular genre! And yes, she also plays clarinet.

She starts GCSE music in Sept, which is one of the reasons I think she'd like to have some kit to work on her compositions at home (although as I write that, it does also occur to me that it will probably open up access to some resources at school that she doesn't use yet).

She's in a wind band at school and sporadically a choir but they struggle to maintain decent ensembles because of lack of a range of instruments. I guess the GCSE students will put some ad hoc groups together.

Not aiming for any kind of career in music but I think it will always be a major hobby. A bit like her mum, but my thing is choral singing so music technology is an unknown world.

BigGreenOlives Sat 25-Jun-16 07:18:53

Why don't you ask the music teachers at schools what they recommend? Then you can choose something compatible with what she'll be taught at school.

notagiraffe Sat 25-Jun-16 07:23:39

Depending on budget you could look into getting her Reason or Sibelius - both computer programmes are really useful to composers. AFAIK (and I'm not at all musical or techie but C are) Reason is like a mega upgrade on Garage band and Sibelius is for classical composition and translates notes played on a keyboard connected to the computer into sheet music. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong - this seems to be what DC do.) Apparently Sibelius has student versions for about £150. (Source DS - not sure how reliable he is on this.)

DS who is very similar level to your DD also has all sorts of plug ins and patches and midi controllers. His first midi controller was about £80. It didn't last long but he did use it pretty much every day. They enable you to actually play the music that goes into the notation instead of having to programme it through computer keystrokes - so it's a music more organic and creative way to compose.

Also - where do you live? Check out BBC Proms Inspire - they do composer workshops free of charge for school age students in London, Birmingham, Cardiff etc.

drummersmum Sat 25-Jun-16 17:53:12

Hi AChicken,
DS (also 14) has the software Sibelius 7 (which was a present from good friends cause it's costly) and a MIDI keyboard called Oxygen49 by M-Audio. It works well, but he still prefers to start and develop ideas at the real piano, then input notes and change things at the Midi because Sibelius is not like magic, it doesn't just input everything perfectly neatly scored as you play. He also notices a slight delay between pressing the keys and the note sounding through the computer speakers. We have fixed that but there's still a tiny delay. However, it's a very good tool and he uses it frequently.
MIDI keyboards with their own independent speakers are more expensive, as they work both as stand alone keyboards and midis.
As far as I know, Garageband for Windows does not exist. You've got to have an Apple computer. DS uses Garage and LogicPro at the school's Macs.

Ferguson Sun 26-Jun-16 20:23:09

THANK YOU drummersmum ! - I didn't know 'M-Audio' previously, but I see now it is a highly regarded US company, that does a wide range of kit.

Ferguson Sun 26-Jun-16 20:24:38

Korma - PM you in a few days.

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