Inspired by the Hip-hip genre, I love Eminem’s meaningful rap songs where he raps to us a heartfelt story with a simple yet very groovy backing of a drum beat, chords and counter melody. I decided to scaffold a much more simplified version to teach to students in Stage 5.
In my composition task, my main goal is to get students composing original rap songs whilst learning to integrate technology using CUBASE 7. The use of the producing software will enables students to have an experience of how the hip hop and pop songs are electronically produced. As stated by Hein,“truly authentic practice should embrace the culture in which students live in” (Hein, 2013). To incorporate relevant producing software in the classroom means that students are working with musical practices are prevalent in their generation. As stated by Humberstone, “for the industries of the future, we are told, students will need to understand meaningful use of technology, to be able to collaborate on multi-disciplinary projects, to have an appetite for innovation and change, and to be self-motivated” (Humberstone, 2014). In this task as the student has a taste of working with a producing software, this compositional task might inspire a student to develop and passion for and pursue producing to a professional level in the future as the format and layout of many industry standard DAWs tend to be quite similar.
In my way of baby-stepping, I created very specific tasks and limited the choice of key, chords and notes to use. In my opinion, these limitations will make it easier for the students to work with as the chosen notes and chords work harmonically. However, as a form of differentiation, student can also opt to choose their own chord progressions and their own melodic line with free choice of notes.
There are three main parts to compositional scaffold:
- Learn to create a loop with ALL PARTS
- Poem writing workshop for lyrics
- Vertical editing to create different textures for each section.
I have created a video tutorial on each and every part and step in where I talk through what I do and how I do it. The on screen videos created by Screenflow and very helpful as a video allows the flexibility of being able to rewind, pause, skip and fast forward. This also allows the learner to learn at their own pace and they are able to pick up whenever they are comfortable.
Ideally, this task would be set over a whole term. The teacher is to introduce and show and model step by step to the students on how to use the program and how to input notes snd sounds, similar to the videos that I have made. The drum beat, chord progression, accompanying melody and bass line comprises of the loop. I chose to loop this part because the repetition meant that students could listen to their track and make sure that it flowed. Loops are also a great tool and it is it is essentially the same concept that minimalist composers use in their musical works. Introducing looping to students in a music task can initiate a positive music-making experience as looping involves ‘chunking’ where a long piece is broken “into short, tractable segments” (Hein, 2013).
In the Vertical editing, the use of then changing the loop and copy and pasting the parts for the length of the lyrics creates a highly visual way to structure the song. Hein also expresses that in popular and electronic music, “copy-and-paste is the defining gesture of digital editing tools, and infinitely looping playback their signature sound.” (Hein, 2013). Students in turn learn how to edit their songs digitally.
Once the vertical editing is finished and the structure of the tracks was finalised, that is when the lyrics are recorded over it. The teacher can spend a lesson on a “Poem writing” workshop where students write three stanzas of something they are passionate about. I have written a Poem workshop writing idea which prompts students to write something when given a brief for each stanza. The fact that the song is a rap make its easier for the Verses because students don’t need to think too much about the melodic line. The spoken voice makes it much simpler for the student. The only part which requires some singing is the Chorus, but usually students can intuitively sing a melody over it. If not, they can continue with their spoken voice. It will still sound like the Chorus as it is a repeated part.
Teachers teaching this compositional activity should always show and model how to do things step by step in front of the classroom. A good way is to compose for the students whilst explaining step by step on a smart-board in a keyboard lab that is hooked to computers with CUBASE installed. When students are working on their tracks, the teacher should facilitate and allow autonomous learning and exploration and assist when needed.
Hein, E. (2013) The problem: Why are so many young people alienated by music class? in “Designing the Drum Loop: A constructivist iOS rhythm tutorial system for beginners”. Masters thesis, New York University, New York.
Humberstone, J. (2014). Why Music Education should lead all education in the 21st century. Music Australia. (https://musicaustralia.org.au/2014/11/why-music-education-should-lead-all-education-in-the-21st-century/, accessed 15th December 2014)