Soundbreaking

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Explore lesson plans and video to accompany the PBS series, Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music.

TeachRock has partnered with PBS, Higher Ground and Show of Force to create these lesson plans for the eight-part Soundbreaking series. These lessons are tailored for students in social studies, language arts, geography, science, and general music classes. Each lesson includes clips from the Soundbreaking series, archival photography, period advertising and journalism, and activities for students to experience the music-making firsthand.

The TeachRock project is an online educational resource from the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation. See teachrock.org, where these materials and more are available free-of-charge to students and teachers everywhere.

  • Sampling: The Foundation of Hip Hop | Lesson Plan | Soundbreaking

    Hank Shocklee Studio

    Students learn about the creative concepts and technological practices on which Hip Hop music was constructed, investigating what it means to “sample” from another style, and who has used sampling and how. Students will follow patterns of Caribbean immigration and the musical practices that came to New York City as a result. This lesson also  explores how sampling might demonstrate a powerful creative expression of influence or even a social or political statement and encourages students to think about the conceptual hurdle Hip Hop asks listeners to make -- presenting new music made from old sounds.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • The Fine Line Between Creation and Theft: An Exploration of "Originality" in Digitally Manipulated Music | Lesson Plan | Soundbreaking

    The back panel of an E-Mu SP-1200 digital sampler.

    Discuss what makes a work of art “original,” and how the use of “sampling” technology in Hip Hop challenges the perceptions of “originality” with this lesson. Here students will use examples from visual art and rap music to enter into a “structured academic controversy” that explores the concept of originality.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Chuck D on Imagining a Rap Record | Soundbreaking

    Chuck D explains how he never imagined the making of a rap record because to him, "rap was a big event. It was a Hip Hop party."
    Grades: 9-12
  • Public Enemy and Sampling as a Cultural Concept | Soundbreaking

    Producers, historians, and members of Public Enemy discuss the group’s pioneering recordings from the 1980s and Hank Schoklee of the renowned production team The Bomb Squad discusses his sampling techniques.
    Grades: 9-12
  • Public Enemy 'Fight the Power' | Soundbreaking

    A short excerpt from Public Enemy's official video for the iconic song, "Fight the Power."
    Grades: 9-12
  • Rapper's Delight | Soundbreaking

    A look at the first commercially successful rap record, "Rapper's Delight." Produced by producer Sylvia Robinson and performed by Sugarhill Gang, the record uses the “groove” (bass line and basic rhythm structure) from Chic's "Good Times,” while a group rap over the music.
    Grades: 9-12
  • Sampling as a Natural Human Practice | Soundbreaking

    Producers and musicians define sampling, and explain how borrowing pieces of existing music and making it one's own is not only a natural practice, but one that is centuries-old.
    Grades: 9-12
  • The Bronx in the 1970s | Soundbreaking

    Hip Hop's roots in the Bronx can also be traced to Jamaica and other Caribbean islands. In Jamaica, DJs would play reggae “grooves,” or samples, and rap over them. As musicians immigrated from the Caribbean to the Bronx in the 1970s, so did these musical traditions, thus planting the seeds for the emergence of Hip Hop.
    Grades: 9-12
  • The Sampler and its Uses | Soundbreaking

    The E-Mu Systems SP1200 drum machine/sampler stands as an iconic piece of musical equipment. The “SP” was used heavily by many rappers and producers in the 1980s and beyond, including Marly Marl, the Wu-Tang Clan, and the Beastie Boys.
    Grades: 9-12
  • The Wu-Tang Clan, "Can it Be All So Simple" | Soundbreaking

    RZA discusses his sampling of the"hook" from a famous live performance of Gladys Knight's "The Way We Were,” and how it helped create the Wu-Tang Clan song, “Can It Be All So Simple.”
    Grades: 9-12

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