Composition GCSE Key Stage 3

Building on your Beats

In my last Sound Advice for Soundtrap blog I looked at how to create your first beat. In this blog I will consider how we might build upon this, making our beats more interesting & developed. Building on your beats is a blog for those who want to move their basic beat forward!

If you haven’t yet worked through the last blog then you might like to do that first. And if you still don’t have Soundtrap then do consider getting some licenses for your students. MusicFirst can help you out with licenses and you might then be able to bundle it with Focus on Sound Pro.

Interesting & Developed

We have to start somewhere with a rhythm. But part of the joy of music is building upon this and developing our ideas. Soundtrap is a great place to learn how to build rhythms and then develop them. An interesting rhythm is one that doesn’t stay static – unless of course the music requires that. Interesting might mean stressing different beats or switching the focus to different drums. A rhythm might gradually build or slowly fade away.

Once we have learnt to create a basic beat we can learn to add more regions to this. Adding more regions means that your rhythm can develop, with different sections. But what if we also make sure that each section is interesting. Let’s have a look at some different ideas.

Different ideas

Keeping everything “straight” and “on the beat” might work for some styles, but could easily become more interesting. In the “Patterns Beatmaker” why not try stressing different beats, avoiding always accenting the strong beats of the bar

With the Kick on every beat, try putting the Snare & Hihat on weaker or off-beats
Avoiding the actual start of Beats 1, 2, 3 & 4 and instead stressing other beats – leave that first column empty

Creating Buildup

This a really fun technique that students love to add in to their piece. Often they have created a main beat for their piece, but they want to drop out of that and then build back up.

Once a main rhythm is established, take a region and select the first square of every beat on the kick drum. This is giving the kick drum 4 crotchet beats:

Now lets add 8 quaver beats to the bar, every other square will be selected:

And finally we need a region where every square is selected. The bar will now have 16 semi-quaver beats:

The “buildup” is now complete and students will have a satisfying transition back to their main beat. It sounds great and it also teaches them about how a bar can be filled with different note values to great effect.


Structure is important when creating rhythms. If you want to build on the initial beat, then think about how many bars of that beat are needed before a change. It might be that a fill or drum-roll is added, and this might take place over one or two regions. Here is an example of a quick drum-fill that might help to create some structure. Note that I have added different drums by clicking on the drop down. This arrow appears when you hover the mouse over the names of the drums. As you can imagine, you can select a wide range of drum types for each kit

A Rhythm Composition

Ultimately if you want to build on your initial beat then turn it into a rhythm composition. Creating 3 or 4 rhythmic ideas, adding structure and also buildup, will turn even a basic beat into something really exciting. I like to get my students to think about writing something for someone who is just learning to play drums. A short piece for a Grade 1 or 2 player – they want to have different rhythms, drum rolls and some exciting moments.


Now that you have these ideas and structure, why not add a second kit. This drum kit might be a different timbre or style to the first. It is now easy to start adding some texture to the piece by giving each kit its own role and identify. They might be used for call & response, or even more advanced poly-rhythmic textures. Exploring texture is great for students as it shows how layers can build up to create a piece of music.

Here you can see some texture starting to form in the music – call & response and then a combination of both drums at the same time.

Building on your Beats

Building on your beats is all about expanding the basics to create some fulfilling. Soundtrap can quickly be used to create a rhythmic composition. This can have student exploring off-beats, syncopation, drum-rolls, buildup, structure and even texture. Why not add two different drum kits and get them dialoging with each other. There really are so many ways to take a basic rhythm/beat and make it into something interesting and exciting.

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