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Composing Electronic Music Using ButtonBass

Guest blogger: Brian J. Puerling, MS, NBCT

posted by Brian Puerling

Electronic music is not often considered a vehicle for young children to explore music or mathematics for that matter. At Catherine Cook School, where I am the Director of Education Technology, I oversee our AV Studio which is equipped with a sound proof recording room and separate editing room. In the editing room we have various controllers and launchpads for our older students to explore mixing electronic music. We are heavily invested in providing any opportunities we can for our students at all ages to explore creativity in all subject areas. These devices of course are incredibly too sophisticated for younger children, but we have identified entry points to mixing music for our youngest learners. A few include:

DJ Mix Kids, an application that invites children to remix instrumental versions of nursery rhymes:

Keezy, an application that allows children to mix recorded music or start from scratch and record and mix their beats and lyrics:

ButtonBass provides users with the ability to turn on cubes which have a certain sound assigned to them. When combined, having multiple cubes on simultaneously, interesting and fun music is composed. In order to turn off the cubes, depending on the device being used, simply tap the particular cube or click it with the computer mouse.

Here is a quick video demonstration using the web version:

ButtonBass is available:

Web:, Free

App: Android, Free

Note: This resource is solely instrumental music and sound.

The web version provides access to cubes in a variety of genres including:

  • Electro
  • Trap
  • Electronica
  • Reggaeton
  • Dubstep
  • Hip Hop
  • House

Consider the following as a list of possible challenges to use with ButtonBass:

  • Create a pattern of cubes turned on/off
  • Turn on as many rows of 3 cubes as you can
  • Turn on as many corners as you can
  • How many cubes can be turned on without any two cubes next to each other both being on?
  • Turn on all cubes on one entire side of the cube?
  • Turn on any cube that has five of its sides up against another cube.
  • Turn on a 4-square

What challenges can you come up with?

This particular exercise gets children thinking about spatial sense, patterns, and geometry in a music composition experience. When I have used this resources in the past, I often create “dj pairs” so that children can work together to tackle the challenges and appreciate their successes as well as the music they are co-creating.

If children find that a particular combination of cubes turned on is worth revisiting at another time, users can turn on the keys, “SHOW KEYS”. This will indicate with keys on the keyboard to push to turn on that particular cube. Taking note of these keys turned on will make it easy to recreate the particular sound again.

Brian J. Puerling, MS, NBCT

Brian J. Puerling, MS, NBCT is the director of education technology at the Catherine Cook School in Chicago, where he works with teachers to connect students to new technologies that offer innovative ways to explore, play and learn. An early fellow career fellow and former guest blogger for the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media, he is the recipient of the National PBS Innovative Educator Award and the National PBS Teachers’ Choice Award. A former preschool teacher for the Chicago Public Schools, Puerling has also worked as an early childhood teacher coach, a curriculum reviewer and a professional development facilitator for the Chicago Public Schools and the Rush University Medical Center Science and Math Excellence Network. As a consultant for PBS, he is currently developing an online, self-paced course for preschool teachers entitled, "Exploring the Partnership Between Meaningful Media Creation and Environment to Support Science Learning." He also serves as an educational consultant for Nickelodeon and is a former member of the Nickelodeon Curriculum and Content Advisory Board. As a former member of the Sesame Workshop Teacher Council, he shared his knowledge of trends in early childhood education and technology to help guide the planning for future Sesame Street television shows. Puerling is also the author of the Teaching in the Digital Age series, which includes Teaching in the Digital Age: Smart Tools for Age 3 to Grade 3 (Redleaf Press, 2012), Teaching in the Digital Age for Preschool and Kindergarten: Enhancing Curriculum with Technology (Redleaf Press, November 2017) and the upcoming book, Teaching in the Digital Age to Support Social-Emotional Development in Young Children (Redleaf Press, November 2018). He is currently working on the fourth book in the series, which outlines practical strategies for integrating technology into early learning. He holds a master of science degree in early childhood education from the Erikson Institute and a bachelor of science degree in early childhood and elementary education from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse and a Certificate of Advanced Education Leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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