Composition GCSE Key Stage 3

Confidently Create Chords

In this Sound Advice for Soundtrap blog I want to share with you how to Confidently Create Chords. In order to compose music we need to ensure that we can harmonise a melody and create chords within soundtrap. It is a relatively straightforward process and one that your students will enjoy.

Before you start on this work with you students it is important that they understand what chords are. It might also be helpful to show them what chords look like using both stave notation and chord symbols. Soundtrap is then a space where they can create chords, edit them and put them into progressions. Focus on Sound Pro is a good place for students to look up key terms and also hear them in action.

Major Chord – Dictionary in Focus on Sound Pro

Setting up Soundtrap

Hopefully you have been following my Sound Advice for Soundtrap and in my last blog I looked at the piano roll. This is where we are going to start with our chords and I am going to be working in the key of E Major. It is always good to start with some of the knowledge required – key signature, notes in E Major etc. Then you can build on this and students can really begin to understand chords.

Launch Soundtrap and add a piano. Create a 4 bar region and open the piano roll. You should have a window that looks like this:

Piano and Piano Roll on Sountrap

Notice that I have zoomed out on the piano roll to make it easier to see the four bars. Also, I have changed the key to E Major. If you look at the bottom of the screen you will see and “E” just to left of “120”. So the piece is in E Major and is 120bpm.

Adding Chords in E Major

Now that we are all set up we can start adding chords in E Major. Students will need to either know what notes to use, or they will need to know how to work them out. They will be using 4 sharps and these will be on the greyed out piano roll lines. Here is the chord I in E Major:

E Major Chord in Soundtrap

You can hopefully work out that this chord is in Root Position and is played four times in the bar on crotchet beats. You could of course change the rhythm of the chords and in this image below I have entered Chord V in E Major, a B major chord with a slightly different rhythm:

B major in 1st Inversion added to E Major in Root position

Note two things with the chord in bar 2. Firstly it is in 1st inversion with a D-sharp in the lowest position. Secondly, on beat three the chord is played using two quavers giving the progression a slightly different rhythmic feel. Now lets add chord vi, C sharp minor and chord IV A Major:

Four Chords in E Major – I, V, vi, IV

We now have the four chords needed for our four chord song and these can be repeated throughout the song. The rhythms can easily be changed and the inversions can also be altered. You could of course use a different progression, create an alternative progression or change the key.

Adding Bass

In order to add some depth to the chords we can hand a left-hand piano bass line. At this stage you can consider the inversions and you could even use a Tonic Pedal. Looking up these terms in Focus on Sound Pro will help with understanding if needed:

Confidently Create Chords – Four Chord Progression in E Major.

Confidently Create Chords

This blog has introduced you to the process of adding chords in Soundtrap. By simply clicking on the correct notes in the piano roll, chords can quickly be created. It is also possible to use a MIDI keyboard to play the chords in, but this process means you don’t need any additional hardware.

Once the chords are there, students can add drums using the “Patterns Beatmaker” and then work on a melody – I think that is the topic for a future blog!

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