CPD GCSE Key Stage 3

Learning in Lockdown: Soundtrap

We are so lucky to have so many exciting platforms to use with our students. I have enjoyed using Bandlab as well as Focus on Sound and various other web-based programs. In this Learning in Lockdown blog I will be considering Soundtrap as an option for not just Lockdown but also student/teacher use in general.

What is Soundtrap?

Similar to Bandlab, Soundtrap is a cloud based DAW that works using a web-browser or app. It isn’t free like Bandlab, but it is affordable and easy to use. Soundtrap is web-based, which is really useful for Lockdown & Home Learning. The software is packed full of great sounds, loops & effects. Not only can you use Soundtrap to create music, but it also has a fantastic podcasting feature. Podcasting is a fresh way to unlock learning.

Soundtrap is a powerful tool for students and teachers. I have been using for a number of months and I love it. This blog will consider some of the benefits of the platform and suggest some next steps for you. I am glad you are here to consider using Soundtrap!

Why subscribe to Soundtrap?

  1. Soundtrap is affordable and subscription based. This makes it easier to pay for each year and spreads out the cost.
  2. It looks and feels great – the interface is streamlined and slick and not at all cluttered.
  3. Students can access Soundtrap from Home or School making it even easier for them to work, compose & create.
  4. As well as a powerful MIDI editor, Soundtrap has a fantastic Loops Library that is constantly being updated.
  5. The podcasting side to Soundtrap is fantastic and will even transcribe what you speak. Not only that but you can edit the podcast using the transcription. Deleting a word from the text will take it out of the audio recording! It really is amazing!
  6. Work is all saved and stored in the cloud, keeping it sae and easily accessible.
  7. Students can collaborate on work in a safe and controlled working space. This can be set up and monitored by teachers.
  8. Work can be submitted to teachers for feedback and this then sits alongside the work. A teacher can even change something before sending the work back to the student. This shows progress and interaction with feedback right there with the music.
  9. Classes and groups can easily be set up so that student work is organised and easy to find.
  10. Assignments can be set for classes, groups or individuals menacing teachers can set meaningful and targeted work.

Collaboration

One of the exciting features of Soundtrap is the ability for students & staff to collaborate on projects. As a teacher, you might set students a starting point for a piece of music and then leave them to add the rest. Assigning a chord patten to a group of students who then need to add drums or bass. Giving a students who struggled with melody a starting point that they can then build on.

Recently I set my Year 10 class an assignment where I gave them the chords for Killer Queen. Their task was to then add a melody. My intention was not only for them to learn more about harmony, but also consider how melodies fit with chords.

What are the negatives?

There will always be something negative when it comes to software as nothing is perfect. I don’t like to focus on what something can’t do and more look to see how it can support my learning. One drawback or negative to any music software is that it doesn’t make a student a composer. Any DAW is merely a tool that we as teachers can use and students can interact with. We still need to teach the building blocks and art of composing. But then we can encourage students to seek out how they will present their ideas.

But I guess there are some things in Soundtrap that you can’t easily do. Unfortunately it doesn’t have a built in score editor and you are limited to 3/4 or 4/4 time signatures. There are potentially less fulfilling sounds and as they are stored in the cloud it may be slower to run. I guess any cloud based software will also rely on a good interest connection which can be a problem for some. And there is also that chance that computers will crash or something will go wrong and work will be lost. But this is always the case and so regularly saving work is a must.

I would say that on the whole the positives outweigh the negatives and I certainly don’t seek out problems. But if you find any issues do share, as it is always useful to know!

Using Soundtrap for Teaching

Here are some ideas for using Soundtrap to teach music.

  1. Allow students to engage with Loops by setting a Structure & Style that they have to use as the basis for their piece.
  2. Use the podcasting facility to encourage students to present research work in a more interactive and interesting way. They could collaborate on this and also add music.
  3. Set a composition task where you provide a chord pattern or melodic starting point that you then share with the class. It is great way to teach composition.
  4. Give classes challenges to create something in a certain style or genre. You could allow them to use only two loops, or give them some other parameter.
  5. Teach key concepts using Soundtrap by creating your own examples to then share. Chord patterns, melodic shapes, cadences & texture – all just ideas of examples you can easily create and share in Soundtrap.
  6. Use the podcasting as a teacher and create podcasts for your students to use – once you have them made you can use them every year. Sometimes students like to listen to something being explained and expanded when they are walking home from school.

Next Steps

It is important that you give Soundtrap a try if you haven’t had a play yet. You need to see if this is something you will use & enjoy teaching with. As a teacher you need to think about your own setting & context. The simple question – is it right for your students? Spending time familiarising yourself with the software will be the best way of thinking about how you might use it.

What I then suggest is that you get in touch with Future DJs who have created some absolutely fantastic resources. Not only do they have entire schemes, they also have the worksheets & presentations to go with them. Future DJs are doing so much for Music Education and they really have got to grips with Soundtrap. I have been using their Key Stage 3 resources as well as their GCSE stuff. It is top quality and they are always there to support me.

If you have any questions about these resources, then please contact Adrian Price – schools@futuredjs.org.

You can then visit their website to download a free sample and sign up for the their training sessions.

Learning in Lockdown

Learning in Lockdown is hopefully soon going to come to an end. Hoepfully this blog will still age well because all of these ideas can be used for years to come. Setting up Soundtrap and integrating it into your schemes of work will be a worthwhile exercise. Soundtrap will be great going forward, not just for classwork, but also coursework and homework.

I hope that you enjoy using Soundtrap. If you have any questions then I would recommend the Future DJs sessions. Or just get in touch with me and I would be more than happy to help you out! I think that the future of Music Education is really exciting. But at the heart of that is the music teacher and I hope that this blog has given you some ideas.

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