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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tascam BB-800: the perfect "all in one box" for music teachers!


If you teach music, Tascam’s BB-800 is the perfect “all in one” teacher device! Every music teacher should have a digital recorder – for some ideas on why, read our article on Portfolio Assessment in Music Education. The BB-800 is unique in that it has speakers built in and is super easy to use. This means you hit the big “record” button and it will immediately start recording using the build in mics to a SD card. Once you are done, hit “play” and it plays back using the built in speakers. No need to set up your computer, hook up to your PA system, find the right cables, etc. Students can hear the recording right away and provide feedback.
During playback you can turn a dial to adjust the tempo without affecting the pitch. Two other dials allow you to adjust the key – either in semi-tones, or a fine pitch adjustment. This can be really useful for transcribing, as you can put your own music on an SD card for playback, and during playback use the “loop start” and “loop out” buttons. Your recording will loop over and over and you can adjust the tempo (or pitch) as required.

In addition to using the BB-800 for recording and playback, you can also use it as a PA system. You can connect one or two mics to the XLR inputs or connect your computer, iPod or anything else using the line level inputs and then use the speakers built into the BB-800. Although it includes a power supply, you can run the BB-800 from batteries, making it perfect for teachers that have to move between classrooms.

To ensure that you only have to carry one device to class, the BB-800 also includes a built in metronome and tuner. A carrying case is also available.

If you plan on doing some serious recording, the XLR inputs provide phantom power in case you have some nice condenser mics you want to use for recording a concert. It also includes a remote for starting and stopping recording or playback from the podium. You don’t need to use the XLR inputs, however, as the built in mics sound great. The BB-800 includes two mics in the front and two in the rear – you can use either pair, or all four if you wish to record an Orff ensemble by putting the BB-800 in the middle of the group. You can also record from the line level inputs if you wish.

The BB-800 is rugged, durable, and easy to use. This means students can use it for recording playing tests. In fact, with support for overdubbing, the BB-800 is the ideal assessment tool. You can put backing tracks from a method book on the SD card and have students record over top of them. That will provide a rhythmic and harmonic context in which they can self-evaluate their own rhythmic accuracy and intonation. The overdub feature can also be a fun way to have students collaborate on a creative project by having one student or groups of students record a drum track, have another add a bass line, then some melody, etc.

The BB-800 is a great tool for teachers, and as I use one myself, I’m available to answer any questions you might have when you purchase it from Kelly’s Music & Computers.

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