Send participants on a soundscape scavenger hunt – creating unique beats using field recordings from their surroundings
Music is everywhere and the sounds in the world around us can inspire an original beat or song. Found Sound Sampling Projects can get participants to critically listen to their surroundings and use those sounds to create music that is unique as they are. These projects also empower participants to utilize the technology they bring with them everyday in innovative ways as an alternative to traditional instruments.
Smartphone or tablet
Note: Recording in stereo is essential for capturing ambience – Starting in iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, you can now capture stereo audio using the built-in microphones on supported devices
Emphasize key events and leaders in Black History while creating an original beat
“I used this large group collaborative project during Black History Month to help teach my preteens and teens about their own history – for example, many of them didn’t know the basics of historical events and leaders. I combined an educational approach (researching basic Black History facts) with beat making in our studio to create an original song that we rehearsed, recorded and performed for the rest of our Club.” – Josh Alfonzo
Organize/print age-appropriate historical facts about key individuals, leaders and events to explore during Black History Month – Example resources include:
You’ve heard of the “Masked Singer”… now try the “Masked” Producer!
Social distancing has limited the number of participants that can be served at any given time, which is especially challenging in the studio or smaller isolation booth spaces. So, how do you encourage music production collaborations when you can only have one youth participant in the studio at a time? Use these limitations to your advantage and encourage youth to make beats with an element of mystery.
Projects can be done in either virtual, in-person or hybrid programming models. For Virtual programming – use a collaborative browser-based DAW like Soundtrap
NOTE: Disinfect production workstations and equipment between each use (if applicable)
Set up 3 (or more) Music Production stations in your music program space or multiple rooms
Can be as simple as an iPad and headphones or more complex production workstation
Can be adapted for time, done over multiple days or send files virtually – the key is keeping identity of each participant a secret until the end
Here is an hour-long Mystery Musical (production) Chairs session example:
15 minutes – Assign participants to start a new project (e.g. create a 4-8 bar loop)
15 minutes – Participants rotate to another workstation and must add or build off of what the previous participant has already created
15 minutes – Participants rotate again to another workstation (same as previous step)
15 minutes – Final tracks are played – youth reveal what they contributed to each track
Covert Chords– Multiple participants
Assign all participants to create a beat using the same Keys/synth/guitar/bass loop
Loops can be original, Splice, Garageband, etc.
Determine a timeframe for the project (e.g. 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week, etc) depending on skill level
Participants work on their beats individually and come together for a final listening session
Compare and contrast how each participant interpreted the loop
Ghost Writing – Multiple participants
Decide on a theme for the song/project (e.g. Social Justice, Video Games, etc) – Be creative!
Play a stock beat or loop over speakers (or in Zoom)
Everyone writes 4-8 bars of lyrics based on the theme
One at a time, participants sing/rap/record their lyrics in the studio, but the previous participant’s performance is muted
Play the final mashed-up song for all participants at the end
Production Pen Pals – Two participants
Pair two producers or musical artists together but keep their identities a secret
Determine a production schedule of when each participant will come to the studio (or work virtually) on a track. Also set time limits on how long each participant can spend working on the project. For example:
Participant #1 – Monday and Wednesday 3-4pm
Participant #2 – Tuesday and Thursday 3-4pm
Participant #1 and #2 – Final listening session on Friday 3-4pm
The first participant starts a beat in the studio (or virtually) and each participant take turns adding/subtracting to the beat in isolation and saving any vocal productions for last
On the final day the duo is brought together (socially distanced) to reveal their identities and listen to the final production
Healthy competition that encourages collaboration, talent and self-esteem
Be Prepared – Pack your bag with the latest program ideas – Click Here:
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Turn an iPad into a digital control surface and make beats like a pro
Some participants can be intimidated by the recording studio equipment and process. Empower them by using a tool they are comfortable – iPads and Logic Remote can be used as a control surface to make beats and help participants take control of the recording process. Whether they’re using the transport to record themselves from within the vocal booth, using the iPad as a “second screen” to multitrack mix in the control room, or using the iPad to program drum beats and chord progressions, Logic Remote is a versatile way to make the recording process more accessible to everyone!
Download Logic Remote on iTunes App store (this is a Free App)
Launch your Logic Session and pair Logic Remote to your computer (must be on the same network)
FYI: Logic Remote also works with Garageband
Use your iPad as a “second screen” or a “midi” control surface for your session using these helpful features (and more):
Drum Pads – digital trigger pads are a tactile way for participants to program in their kick and snare tracks. It also has a “Kits” view which is more visual drum set
Note Repeat – perfect for creating authentic sounding trap music “sprinkler hi hats”
Chord Strips – Similar to “Smart Chords” in Garageband, this is an easy way to write chord progressions. Participant can focus on quickly getting their ideas fleshed out without having to worrying about music theory
Keyboard – copying the root motion of the Smart Chords progression, participants can easily add a bass line or synth layers. It also has “Fretboard” features if you prefer
Navigation and Mixing:
Key Commands – Frequently used recording functions like: Recording Transport, Save, New Track, Automation, etc
Mixer – great way to add a “second screen” that gives participants a tactile way to move digital faders during mixing/mastering
Introducing three random samples equals endless beat making creativity for your participants
Rhythm Roulette is a great way to get participants experimenting with making electronic music by getting over the initial hump that’s always the most challenging… “where do I start?!” Getting a project off the ground is always difficult, but being forced to build around a particular sample or sound can be a great springboard for creativity. There are lots of different ways to use the idea of a “Rhythm Roulette” in the studio, and they can be tailored to different ages and experience levels – below are just a few examples.
This program is based off of the Rhythm Roulette | Mass Appeal Youtube series. To understand how this program works, you have to first understand the rules of the Rhythm Roulette: #1 – Find a record store, #2 – Blind-fold producer, #3 – Pick 3 random records, #4 – Make a beat by sampling
The basic concept is… Grab random samples or loops from sound libraries (like Splice or Apple loops) and help participants make a beat using all three samples. FYI: This is a great way to introduce and utilize a Splice Sounds account
Grab a 4 bar instrumental loop (or chord progression)
Each participant (and instructor/s) creates their own drum beat to go with the loop/progression
Don’t let participants listen to each others tracks while they’re making them
Keep the activity short and sweet – have participants only build a 4 bar drum track
Encourage participants to experiment with elements such as: Drum kit libraries, Tempo/BPM, Dynamics, Mute/unmute, Panning, Effects, Layering, Etc.
Everyone plays their track (over a PA speaker), listens and compares what they came up with
Discuss how different grooves and feels can make the same sample sound completely different.
For example: A loop with a 4-on-the-floor feel vs. a trap feel
For more advanced participants:
Choose three random loops and/or samples (Splice or Apple Loops)
Challenge participants to make a beat (in 30-60 minutes) that includes ALL three loops/samples
Introduce more advanced concepts like:
Matching key signatures (Ie. show how some samples won’t work well together because they are in different keys or tonalities)
For teens, before we make any beats, I show them the “I played a show using only the 1991 Casio Rapman” video from Adam Neely’s YouTube channel. This video introduces a topic that is relevant to the activity ie. how limitations can sometimes inspire creativity
Five ways to clean up inappropriate language that you’ll swear by!
It’s natural for participants to want to imitate the music they listen to when they first start out recording or performing. In the context of a youth development music program however, the language and content of these songs aren’t always appropriate. This resource provides several approaches to encourage participants to expand their vocabulary and develop opportunities for growth and maturity including knowing your audience, assigning professional studio roles, rewriting lyrics, “three strikes” rule.
Example #1 – Know Your Audience
“I talk to my students about knowing your audience and the value you get for being flexible. Most times my rappers just want to swear for shock value and because it’s easier than writing how you feel. I just take the time to have a conversation with them and explain the most versatile artists get more gigs, radio play, opportunities and at the end of the day… more dollars!” – Submitted by Corey DePina, Zumix
Ask participants – “How many cuss words can you think of using when you’re angry?”
It might also be helpful to also show participants www.rhymezone.com or other rhyming dictionaries
Help participants understand the limits of using typical cuss words versus other words that may expand their vocabulary, set them apart, and better explain their emotions
Example #2 – Assigning Professional Studio Roles
“Younger participants sit-in on sessions with my older teens who are assigned traditional studio roles to make our studio feel more professional. They’re responsible, trusted and naturally influence younger participants and teach them our rules and if not, I can always step in when there’s inappropriate content. I use this as a teachable moment to have open conversations and help create mindfulness.” –Submitted by Javier Lozada, Malden YMCA
Assign professional Studio Roles
Artist – Typically a vocalist (singer or rapper) recording over a pre-recorded track
Producer – Participants who are interested in using technology to create beats using virtual instruments
Engineer – Participants who are more interested in the “behind the scenes” technical aspect of recording like setting up sessions, microphones, mixing, and using effects
Clearly establish the rules of the studio including language expectations
Help older teen participants mentor younger participants on studio rules and expectations
Participants earn studio privileges while improving their production skills!
The Music Producer Incentive System motivates participants to learn more in the studio by creating 3 levels of “Producers”. As participants advance, they learn studio software and techniques and “level-up” to earn additional studio privileges.
First, set up various levels of Music Production workstations and/or studios in your program space.
For larger Music Studios, this could include various physical studios and/or workstation setups (e.g. Studio A, B, C, etc. in separate rooms)
For smaller Music Studios or single-room studios, consider limiting access to programs, software, and recording equipment (further described below)
All participants start on the most basic setup and “level-up” to more sophisticated studios (or equipment) as they learn more skills. For example:
“Studio A” – iMac or iPad Workstation equipped with Garageband (Headphone based)
“Studio B” – iMac Workstation with Logic and basic interface/mic setup (with speakers) located inside of a practice room
“Studio C” – Professional level project studio, complete with Logic/ProTools, vocal booth, and your program’s most advanced recording studio equipment
Determine what skills participants must demonstrate in order to gain access to each studio. Print and display the requirements for each level of “producer” (Sample levels are provided below)
Create an incentive chart to visually track and help motivate participants’ achievements. Regularly post and update the names of each “Co-Producer”, “Producer” and “Executive Producer”
Want ninja level musicians?! Help your participants earn a musical “black belt.”
A black belt in karate is a badge of honor representing the highest level of skill. The “Karate Belt” Reward System uses different color guitar picks (similar to “karate belts”) to reward participants’ progress and motivate them to achieve their goals on instruments or music technology.
Determine what skills participants must demonstrate in order to “level up” on each instrument or music technology gear. Then print and display the “karate belt” requirements for each instrument.
The Sample “Karate Belt” Reward System Achievements chart below uses 5 colors, each representing different levels of achievement plus an exclusive club called “The Red-Hot Pick Society” for anyone earning a purple pick on 3 or more instruments
Create an incentive chart to visually track and help motivate participants’ achievements.
With help from instructors, participants work to earn each colored guitar pick to add to their necklace.
Note: If a participant earns their “Yellow” rank in more than one instrument, no need to give them another yellow guitar pick for their necklace. Instead, simply note their achievement on the incentive board.
Participants wear their multi-colored guitar pick necklace that proudly displays their rank.
The recommended equipment list below is an example that would serve approximately 30 participants. Your needs and quantities may vary (depending on # of participants).