Making Rap Beats with Students

This is the third lesson in my unit on rap music.

Today, we are looking at creating a drum beat using a simple and free drum machine that can be easily downloaded.

There are several of these programs that you can use. I used Hammerhead simply because it was already installed on our school computers.

This drum machine is really easy to use.

All you need to do is select an instrument from the drop down panel in Channel 1. Then, you colour in the beats you want that instrument to sound. The yellow buttons are for Beat 1.

Here is a handy trick for making a nice backing track for you to rap to.

  1. Set the tempo as low as it will go – 50 bpm
  2. In Channel 1, select a closed hi-hat cymbal and set it to sound on every beat.
  3. In Channel 2, select a bass drum (BD) and have it sound on every yellow button (Beat 1)
  4. In Channel 2, select a snare drum and have it sound on Beat 3. 
That gives you a typical drum pattern that is easy to rap to. 
You can switch the pattern up a little by having the kick drum sound on Beat 1 and Beat 2. This will give you a nice double kick sound. 
You can do the same thing with the snare at one point in your pattern by having it sound on Beat 3 and Beat 4. 
You can also change some of the hi-hat sounds to an open hi-hat or a crash cymbal. 
If the students don’t like the tempo, they can speed it up. In the above picture, it is set to 135 bpm. 
I prepared an instruction sheet that you can give to your students. 
Rap Instrumental Assignment PDF
Rap Instrumental Assignment MS Word (you can edit this one however you like)
I had every student create two different beats and then save their creations in Audacity. 
In the first lesson of the rap unit. we simply looked at a television show and analyzed a song.
In the second lesson, we looked at the structure of rap songs and started writing a four bar lyric.
In this lesson, we are creating instrumental tracks that we could rap to. 
In the next lesson, the students will form into small groups and begin writing a song that they will perform in front of the class. When the groups come together, they will already have a few beats to chose from for their final project. 
I did give the students one more time to go back to the computer lab after they had written some rhymes in their groups. 
I didn’t photocopy the instructions for this assignment either. Since the students would be working in the computer lab, I uploaded the instructions to my website and had them all open the file right away. It was a nice way to save paper and still have the instructions readily available.


Writing lyrics and forming rap groups.

See you next week for another hip-hop edition of Teaching Tip Tuesday!

2 responses to “Making Rap Beats with Students”

  1. That certainly is true. James Brown is very influential in hip-hop music and culture.