What in the world ARE Big Music Games?
Stephen Selman, a BMF faculty member and the Director of Big Music Games, explains:
Q: In a nutshell, what is Big Music Games?
A: BMG is BMF’s online world centered around our BLAM games. (If you’ve been around BMF for a while, you know that BLAM stands for Big Lessons About Music.) And our curriculum is based on these games. We’ve played BLAM games with thousands of students over the last eight years, and we’ve long known that those games are a super-effective way to teach music fluency. It’s been a dream of ours for years to host those games online so more people can learn using BMF’s unique and proven curriculum. I’m really excited to say that BMG officially launched in July, and with the help with a lot of BMF community members, teachers and students, even parents, we’re growing rapidly.
Q: Tell us a little about the process. I understand your team has been building this from the ground up?
A: That’s right. We started putting together the online platform back in February. After a few early versions of our games, one of our faculty members, Nich Mueller, took it upon himself to build a way cooler version of one of our games in his spare time using Flash animation. This opened up a whole new world of possibility for us, and led us to where we are now, which is working with a professional game developer, as well as professional game testers. (Those are our students!)
All of the game design and audio comes from BMF faculty. It’s a massive community effort, with contributions from every corner of our faculty base.
Q: But you and Nich are music teachers! How did you go from teaching music to directing game development?
A: Interestingly enough, up until the age of 12, I actually thought I was going to be a computer programmer. Fortunately for me, music got in the way. It’s interesting that life has come full circle.
In a very real way, at least at BMF, “musician” and “game-designer” are not at all incompatible. What BMF does, in a nutshell, is play games. One thing we’ve always been set on is that a game-based curriculum simply works better and is more fun.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge with building Big Music Games thus far?
A: Fully understanding and fully respecting that it’s not what we, the teachers and designers, think is really cool. It’s what works for and inspires the students. It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own imaginations but, in the end, we just have to build and play, and let the kids guide us to where we go next.
Q: What types of games can I play?
A: At BMF we divide music fluency into four categories: melody, harmony, rhythm, and songwriting. You will be able to play games from all four of these categories. At this time, you can play Wait a Second, Major/Minor, and One Note Wonder (if you’ve passed enough levels to unlock it!) on BMF.com. These are some old favorites of ours, and the games that we play in our brick and mortar school all the time.
Q: What are you most excited about for the future of Big Music Games?
A: I’m really looking forward to not only offering BLAM games to the world, but introducing the world to our community here in Brooklyn, starting with our faculty. I’m excited to share our teachers’ incredible experience. They all have so much to offer, and we’re not quite sure what form it will take yet, but it could be anything from writing a song with Grace, to playing drum patterns along with Nik, to learning a new guitar strumming pattern with Dan.
It’s inspiring to imagine a much larger community benefitting from these awesome teachers.
Q: Why should kids play Big Music Games?
A: It’s the best way to practice without even realizing that’s what you’re doing.
These games are really fun to play and, even at this early stage, I’ve had the joy of watching kids get excited about them, and actually beg us for more levels.
As a teacher, and I’m sure as a parent, it’s amazing to watch kids use technology as a tool for musical growth.
We’d love to share what our team has built from the ground up, and inspire your family to play more music at home.