Composition GCSE Key Stage 3

A Slice of Soundtrap

I love pizza, and I think it is a food group that features the most in my musical analogies. Without the base, you can’t have the toppings – you get the idea. I recently came across a wonderful website called Groove Pizza and I can’t stop playing with it. The great thing is that it links directly to Soundtrap meaning that the ideas students create can then be developed. A Slice of Soundtrap, sound good to you?

What is Groove Pizza?

Groove Pizza is a free website created by NYU Music Experience Design Lab. It uses a circular rhythm approach to create patterns, which can then be developed and shared. It works on the idea of shapes, and it is visually very appealing. What I like is that it is completely different to anything I have seen before. If we want our students to create and experiment, then it is quite good to give them experimental ways to do that.

Groove Pizza main screen

You can create your own ideas, but it also comes with a range of “Specials” to get you started. Here is the preset for the Jazz Swing Special:

Jazz Swing in Groove Pizza

You can see in the image above that lines, squares and shapes are used to make up the rhythm. It should also be clear that the circle is split up into sections, just like a pizza. I find this a useful interface, it makes you think about how rhythms are create and split up into beats.

Cooking your first Pizza

The best way to learn this software is to have a go at cooking your first pizza. Now okay, cooking is maybe a stretch too far, but you get the idea. You can start with a plain pizza and begin adding your first rhythm. What I like is the way you can adapt your pizza so that you start with 4 slices. You then simply click on the small circles and you can see there is an inner, middle and outer layer – one for each drum.

In the image below I have changed to just 4 slices and I have put a bass, snare and hi-hat in every slice:

This has created 4 squares on the pizza and each drum has a beat in every slice. It doesn’t sound great, but it is just an example to show you what it looks like. Let me know create a standard 4/4 rock beat:

A rock beat in Groove Pizza

In this image you can see the bass drum is playing on Beats 1 & 3, the snare on 2 & 4 and then the hi-hat is playing 8 quavers. It might be good to show students what this looks like using drum notation so that they build the necessary knowledge and understanding of rhythm and metre.

Twist and shift

The circular design of this app is super because it allows you to twist your pizza to change the sounds and even affect the swing. In this image I have turned a rhythm to a new beat and also shifted the swing. You can click and drag on each section of the pizza and this is a great way to start experimenting.

Experimenting with rhythm and swing

There is so much that can be changed and adjusted and students will enjoy creating different shapes and rhythms. If they run out of ideas then that can always look at the specials for inspiration.

Specials & Shapes

Specials are pre-made pizzas that will give students ideas and inspiration. They can use these specials to then come up with their own ideas. There is a “Trap” special which is likely to appeal to students and this shows how multiple pizzas (4 maximum) can be combined to make a set of 4 rhythms. In essence trap is a sub-genre of hip-hop that has a characteristic semi-quaver pattern on hi-hat.

The grid at the bottom looks a lot like the pattern beatmaker in Soundtrap and underneath this you can see the 4 circles, 1 for each pizza. Listen to the trap rhythm for yourself and you may like to challenge your students to create their own:

A Trap rhythm made up of 4 sections

Shapes are exactly that, shapes that can be dragged on to the pizza. They are broken down into numbers and they can be used to build up a pizza. I like the focus on shapes and it gives some links to maths. Students will start to see how shapes can translate into sounds, and there is a lot that could be developed using this idea.

Here you can see that I have dragged three 8 shapes onto the pizza:

Shapes on a pizza – each shape here has 8 points

Sharing

Pizza is perfect for sharing and groove pizza allows you to share ideas in a number of ways. I was particularly drawn to the ability to share with Soundtrap and Noteflight, two bits of software I use a great deal. Sharing has its own tab on the left, and once you have something you would like to share there are various options:

Sharing your pizza

You can download the beats as audio or Midi and you can also share straight into Soundtrap. Here is the trap rhythm shared directly into Soundtrap. From here, students can start to add other instruments and maybe think about adding a bassline.

A trap rhythm pizza shared with Soundtrap

A Slice of Soundtrap

If you are looking to engage your students in understanding rhythm, then Groove Pizza might be the place to start. It is fun and easy to use, and also has a unique interface. Whilst it is easy to create your first pizza, it is then possible to develop it and make it quite complex. The ability to share ideas to Soundtrap is excellent and students can also export as audio or midi to use in another piece of software. There are so many possibilities with this free website that I thought it was worth sharing with you. And now I am sure you are hungry, so go and enjoy making your first Groove Pizza.

Still need help? Check out this YouTube tutorial to help you get started


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