Welcome to BeatSwap!

The BeatSwap project is an exciting inter-school music project designed by Andy Fowler of RhythmZone and Claire Hurst (Deputy Head) of Oxford Road Community School. Follow us throughout the year to see children from four Reading schools develop and perform their own piece of world percussion music.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Rhythm Exchange!

We've just finished the first two 6 week blocks of BeatSwap project sessions. Phew! All of the children from Oxford Road Community School and Churchend Academy have worked really hard and achieved LOADS! Partner groups have now exchanged their rhythms!

Wiktor Kepa of ORCS made up his own rhythms using beatlab, wrote them down and brought them in to share with his group. His rhythms were excellent! Well done Wiktor!

Here are some of the workbooks completed so far. These are filled with taught and self-created rhythms and composition ideas. It's great to see all of these fresh and exciting ideas in one place.

Tomorrow I will be visiting Newtown Primary. Miklands Primary start their sessions next week. 

Children from partnered schools discuss their performance ideas at the end of the first block of sessions. I will be working over Christmas to put all of these ideas together into a performance structure which we will learn and enhance over the second six week block. 

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Andy's top videos!

Here's my two favourite YouTube videos right now! They both show how lots of people working together can make something really special.

The first shows some Egyptian and Turkish drumming (after a short introduction). It takes a little while to build up but the rhythms are really cool and well worth watching / listening to.

The second one is an INSPIRATIONAL group of deaf and dumb dancers. This is amazing!

Think about your performance.... What ideas do you have that will make it more interesting for the audience? Write down your ideas so you don't forget them!

Make your own rhythms here!

You will need to come up with a few of your own rhythms for the project. Why not make them now using the beatlab website!

Click the beatlab logo to see the site or read on for some helpful hints and tips:

Write your rhythms down and try coming up with a topic and words for them. It will help you get ahead - you can always change them when we get together in the BeatSwap club.

Hints and tips:

Click on the boxes to turn sounds on and off. Try starting with beats on the four pulses (darker grey) and then add more beats from there.

The top three rows represent the bass drum, high hat and snare in a drum kit. You can pretend these sounds are Bass, Tone and Slap for the Djembe. 

Here's some other music making resources you might like:

Tonematrix uses the same 16 beat pattern as us. Click some boxes and see what happens! You might come up with some cool rhythm ideas from playing around here.

Pulsate is a little bit more unusual. Click in the big black box a few times and see what happens!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A visit to Gold Coast Drums

So, we're approaching the end of the Summer holidays and I got the great news that BeatSwap had received some funding from Reading Borough Council to buy musical instruments!

I drove out today to collect some djembes and djun djuns for the project from Gold Coast Drums. Andy was helpful as usual. I can wholeheartedly recommend buying from him. Great products, prices and service. Check out how many drums he has! The drums stacked up in this picture were 3 or 4 layers deep up to the shelves on the wall. Thanks Andy! - and for carrying them all down to my van. You're a hero!

After watching Andy work up a sweat I headed off to BINA Musicals in Southall to buy mridangas. You can read about that experience at my mridanga site here.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Oxford Road Drum and Dance Extravaganza!

It's the last day of term today and I just collected loads of video taken from the BeatSwap taster session I ran at Oxford Road Community School. Thanks to Sylvia Beeton for arranging this - I had to upload it as quickly as I saw it. Great stuff!

A few of the girls wanted to add some of their dance moves to the music, so we decided to take the party outside! Pupils have been enjoying dance classes in school and as you will see, they are clearly inspired! Quite a few passers by had stopped at the school gates to enjoy the show and share our smiles...

This short video gives two takes of our performance. The first half shows off our drummers (and the girls pretending to be shy). In the second half (1:08 onwards), you'll see a polished masterpiece where you get a real flavour of the characters within the school! (2:00!!!) The girls only took about 5 minutes in between takes to find their confidence and arrange this GREAT dance routine. Thanks too for the awesome drummers holding down the groove. Enjoy!

The children from Churchend share their ideas!

Churchend Academy (Ofsted - Outstanding) is a wonderful school with a supportive and motivated staff team. Every year group has African Drumming classes with me for a whole term each year, so when I went in to talk with the children there about the BeatSwap project, they felt comfortable telling me exactly what they expected.

The children got quite excited about the project and started to visualise their final performance. They requested that we invite the Queen - and asked if we could demonstrate our new drumming skills at the London Eye!

I encouraged them to keep 'THINKING BIG' and the ideas continued to flow. Other pupils asked if they could perform various instruments, if we could get on the local news and radio, and if we could design our own t-shirts.

I left with a real buzz and felt that they were totally on board with the adventure we were beginning. Here's a snippet of the ideas they shared:

Monday, 25 July 2011

The birth of BeatSwap!

In September 2010, after months of planning, we finally submitted our Youth Music funding application for the BeatSwap Project. We quickly realised that although our application was unsuccessful, the planning process had helped us to develop a forward thinking project that would benefit children and schools way beyond those initially involved.

The application had asked us to work in partnership with other organisations or schools. We chose three local primary schools (serving children from a range of backgrounds) that I had already established working relationships with. This seemed to be a great opportunity for me to give something back to them and say 'thank you'...

So how were we going to get the children and schools to benefit from these new school partnerships? What would the legacy of the project be? What performance opportunities would we provide? How would we develop new young music leaders?

Together, Claire and I looked at the work that I had been doing at the schools so far and came up with the BeatSwap concept.

All year 6 children (ages 10/11) from the four partner schools would
be invited to participate. After taking part in taster sessions during school hours, children could sign up to a series of after school clubs and the project would unfold.

Schools A and B would be paired. As would schools C and D. Two sets of 6 week clubs (at each school) later and each of the children would be prepared for their BIG final performance, having:

  • Learned drumming technique and traditional West African rhythms
  • Gained confidence with a simple and accessible style of notation
  • Experienced and applied increasingly complex musical elements
  • Created and notated their own rhythms (and developed their own styles of notation)
  • BeatSwapped! - Swapped their compositions with children from partner schools
  • Learned and enhanced partner schools' compositions
  • Researched and shared videos of performance styles and elements
  • Selected, developed and applied performance elements to taught, shared and self-created compositions ready for their final performance

The whole project was planned so that it would provide loads of opportunities for large and small group work, backed up by ICT links between the four schools. We also have links with a host of local events that would all be happy to provide a public platform for our children.

A further aspect of the project was the development of young music leaders. It was hoped that we would be able to support participants to build their confidence, musicality and leadership skills by helping them to set up and run their own lunchtime drumming clubs. This planned legacy for the project now relies on us securing external funding. Interested? The money would cover drums that were to be shared between the four schools and would also allow us time to support and mentor promising leaders. Watch this space!

Each of the schools had originally committed to contributing £750 towards project costs. When we found out that our funding application had not gone the way we had hoped, we asked them if they were still willing to commit the cash. Obviously they all said 'YES"!

We put together a letter to distribute to all year 6 (2011/2012) children. To help each school cover their initial £750, we highlighted text (requesting a payment or contribution) that they could modify according to their own requirements.

BeatSwap is now under way. With a few of the promotional sessions completed, Claire and I are both really excited to be leading this new project for children within our community.

Take a look around and enjoy the BeatSwap journey with us!