If you’re reading this, you’ve perhaps just encountered Soundbops for the first time. So, what is this colourful keyboard, and what has it got to do with education? This short piece will equip you with everything you need to know about Soundbops: what it is, how it works, and how it fits in with the current thinking in early years learning.
Firstly, Soundbops is a musical instrument, not a toy. Where a lot of traditional instruments are inaccessible to young children - due their size, and the physical demands of playing - Soundbops is designed to overcome this limitation. The console is compact, it is lightweight but durable, and the buttons make it easy for smaller hands to operate.
Soundbops works to simplify complex musical concepts, like chords and harmony, by using a system of stackable, colour-coded ‘Bops’ (notes), which allows children to physically build these concepts for themselves. This tactile interaction with, what is usually a more theoretical lesson, helps children develop an involved and practical understanding from a young age.
How do I use Soundbops in the classroom?
In addition to the physical instrument, buying Soundbops also means you have access to the growing collection of educational resources and play-based lesson plans in our Online Learning Portal. Our activities are divided into distinct topics: Rhythm, Taste, Create, and Theory. Each topic contains multiple thematic lesson plans, video accompaniments, and printable resources that educators can either use straight from the site, or adapt to suit their students.
Additionally, we also have a series of physical flashcards and songbooks which lay out a unique path for understanding musical notation that works in tandem with our colour-coded note system. With these materials, children can quickly learn to play familiar songs (including hits by The Beatles, Madness, and Elton John and more) and will eventually graduate to a traditional instrument completely literate in sheet music.
We provide educators with everything they need to introduce children to music, whether that’s the ability to perform songs, developing an understanding of sound, learning about music across cultures and throughout history, or simply instilling an awareness of the health benefits that music can have. In light of the ongoing budget cuts the arts have faced in education in recent years, Soundbops presents a solution where children are still given the opportunity to explore music, and teachers can support this without needing a specialist knowledge.
The Bigger Picture
This reflexive and open-ended lesson structure is part of a broader shift in education toward a play-based pedagogy, and giving children the autonomy to learn and discover things for themselves by doing what they do best: playing. As music is fundamentally about playing with sound, Soundbops is completely compatible with these new learning objectives and success criteria, and has already been a huge success in classrooms across the UK.
Research supports that music has a multifaceted positive effect on the brain, improving its capacity for memory, motor skills, numeracy, and our abstract reasoning (check out our other blog series for details). While this is fascinating in itself, as long as music is segregated from the rest of the curriculum, these benefits will be reserved for the select few who pursue musical training. Our approach seeks to integrate music with a range of subjects, allowing all children this experience and equipping them with skills and frameworks that will only help them in their development.
Whether these experiences start children on a lifelong journey toward developing a craft, or if their exploration stops when they leave the classroom, Soundbops is here to shake up how we learn, teach, and think about music.