Exploring Reggae and Syncopation

This unit begins by exploring the origins of Reggae music from Mento, Ska and Rock Steady and looks at the famous Reggae musician, Bob Marley, and his influence on a worldwide audience.

The unit uses two Reggae songs as case studies to explore the musical features of the genre: “Yellow Bird”: a Caribbean song, and “Three Little Birds”.

Pupils learn about the different textural elements that make up a Reggae song: bass line riffs, melodic hooks, offbeat chords, syncopated rhythms and the vocal melody line.

Pupils harmonic language is extended and developed constructing chords I, II, IV and V in F Major (“Yellow Bird”) and chords I, IV and V in A Major (“Three Little Birds), performing these in the traditional offbeat Reggae style.

The unit ends with the option of an extended Reggae arrangement of “Yellow Bird” and a brief exploration into the themes of Reggae lyrics with pupils creating their own short set of lyrics using Jamaican speech-style on a specific subject e.g. Black Lives Matter, School etc. or by taking a well-known melody or song (of their choice) and researching the lyrics, chords etc. and creating a Reggae arrangement of it using the different textural layers explored during the unit.

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Offbeat - Scheme of Work and Lesson Pathways

Offbeat - Scheme of Work and Lesson Pathways

Includes Scheme of Work Overview, Unit Learning Objectives, Learning Outcomes and Lesson Pathways.

Offbeat - 5 Minutes Silent Reading

For teachers who prefer to begin their lessons with quiet, focused openers.  All contain “Questions to Think About” which can also be used as Cover or Homework tasks.

1. How Reggae Developed

2. What is Reggae?

3. All About Bob Marley

4. History of Reggae

5. Reggae and Rock Steady 1

6. Reggae and Rock Steady 2


Offbeat - Plenary Review Activities

A series of lesson reviews where pupils review their learning and understanding.

Offbeat - DOITNOW (Starters) and Plenary Activities

Offbeat - “DOITNOW” Presentation


Cutting down on printables, file storage and media files, the “new look” Musical Contexts “DOITNOW” Offbeat lesson openers Presentation contains  a wealth (only two samples shown here), of effective “DOITNOW’s” when delivering the Offbeat unit in just one place - all audio and video files are embedded and there’s accompanying Teacher’s Notes in the “slide comments” section. 

Offbeat - General Reggae Resources

Offbeat - Case Study Reggae Song Resources

Offbeat - Cover and Homework Activities

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Key Words, Concepts and Musical Knowledge

Reggae, Mento, Ska, Rock Steady, Rastafarianism, Lyrics, Offbeat, Strong Beats, Weak Beats, Syncopation, Riffs, Simple Harmonies: Primary Triads (Tonic, Dominant and Subdominant Chords), Textural Layers, Chords, Call and Response.

Music Theory


Primary Triads (I, IV & V)

Links to GCSE Music

Popular Music

Vocal Music

Conventions of Pop





Learning about the Origins of Reggae

Includes answers.

Reggae Audio 1 - Big Bamboo (The Jolly Boys) Mento Example

Reggae Audio 2 - El Pussy Cat (Ronald Alphonso) Ska Example

Reggae Audio 3 - You Can Get it if you Really Want It (Desmond Dekker) Rock Steady Example

Exploring the Form and Structure of a Reggae Song

Includes answers.

Reggae Audio 4 - No Woman, No Cry (Bob Marley)

Exploring Reggae Lyrics

Reggae Audio 5 - Trenchtown Rock (Bob Marley)

Listening to Reggae Songs

Includes answers.

Reggae Audio 6 - One Love (Bob Marley)

Reggae Audio 7 - You Can Get it if you Really Want It (Desmond Dekker)

Reggae Audio 8 - No Woman, No Cry (Ken Boothe)

Reggae Audio 9 - Wild World (Maxi Priest)






Yellow Bird Songsheet

Yellow Bird Audio - Song Example           

Yellow Bird MIDI 1 - Yellow Bird Song Melody

Exploring the Chords in Yellow Bird

Yellow Bird MIDI 2 - Yellow Bird (Melody, Bass Line and On Beat Chords)

Yellow Bird Score - Bass Line and On/Offbeat Chords and Full Score

Yellow Bird MIDI 3 - Yellow Bird (Melody, Bass Line and Offbeat Chords)

Evaluating Yellow Bird Reggae Arrangements

(Peer Assessment)






Three Little Birds Songsheet

Three Little Birds Audio - Song Example           

Exploring the Bass Line Riffs in Three Little Birds

Includes simplified performing sheet and answers. 

Three Little Birds Audio - Listening for Chord Changes

Three Little Birds MIDI1 - Introduction Bass Line Riff Pattern

Three Little Birds MIDI2 - Chorus Bass Line Riff Pattern

Three Little Birds MIDI3 - Verse Bass Line Riff Pattern

Exploring the Hook and Offbeat Chords in Three Little Birds

Three Little Birds Hook Audio

Three Little Birds Hook MIDI

Three Little Birds Lead Sheet

Three Little Birds Complete Performance MIDI


Evaluating Three Little Bird Reggae Arrangements

(Peer Assessment)



Bob Marley Fill in the Missing Words


Can be done without using ICT.

Reggae Key Words Word Search


Can be done without using ICT.


Creating a Musical Arrangement

Concept Map covering Personal, Physical, Technology and Musical Resources for consideration when creating a Musical Arrangement.