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Studying Music Technology? Are your tutors assessing you fairly?

If you are studying Music Technology at college or university, the chances are your tutors are assessing you on criteria that don't make sense in the real world. Are your grades suffering because of this unfair bias?


I had an interesting conversation the other day with someone in the field of Music Technology education. He didn't know me, so that means he hasn't read any of the 400+ articles I have written on the subject for magazines such as Sound on Sound, Audio Media, Studio Sound, Recording Engineering and Producer (the list goes on...)

So if he hasn't read those magazines ever... Well you can draw your own conclusions from that.

Anyway, by way of introduction I stated my position on Music Technology education. On hearing what I had to say, I swear that if it had been the middle ages he would have called the king's men and had me hung, drawn and quartered as a heretic!

So what did I say that caused such a fuss?

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Simply that I believe that Music Technology education is about the technology, and how that technology can be used in the service of music.

If anyone wants to study music, then they should go on a music course, of which there are plenty to choose from.

I firmly believe that having any talent or background in music should not give anyone an advantage on a Music Technology course. That would be an unfair advantage. It is perfectly possible for someone with no skill or aptitude for music to become an excellent sound engineer and rise to the top of the industry. Clearly an interest in music is essential, but an aptitude?

Definitely, no.

There is a further point... What about creativity? Should a Music Technology student be assessed on their creativity?

Well plainly, creativity is a desirable attribute and should be encouraged on a Music Technology course. But so should simply doing the job in an efficient way.

There are plenty of jobs in sound engineering, perhaps the majority, where creativity is simply not necessary. All you have to do is do the job damned well in the service of creative people.

So I would say that a Music Technology course should in no way give advantage to those who have a natural flair for creativity, because it is putting others at a disadvantage. Others who could go on to become excellent employees with no barrier to how high they can rise in the industry.

Of course, musical ability and creativity should be encouraged in those who want to develop in that direction. But it should be in optional modules, not core modules that everyone has to take.

So if you have a keen interest in the technology of music, and have an aptitude for setting up and operating equipment, perhaps even designing and constructing it, then if you feel you are being downgraded because you don't have musical or creative talent, then your college is treating you unfairly.

Do you know that most colleges have never even thought about this issue? Not even for a moment. And then when challenged they will immediately say that musicianship is good, creativity is good. And that's what they assess on.

I would love to hear comments on this. Don't get me wrong - I respect musicianship and creativity. I like to think of myself as a creative musician in fact. I also think that these qualities should be encouraged and taught on a Music Technology course, but only as options.

Let me know what you think. Do you feel that musicians and naturally creative people have been given an unfair advantage on your course, while you are a damned good sound engineer but you get marked down?

By David Mellor Monday November 28, 2005