Key Concepts

  • Contrast
  • Harmony (Accompaniment, Chords)
  • Repetition
  • Tension
  • Surprise
  • Syncopation

  • Breath Support
  • Composition
  • Dissonance
  • Emotional Response
  • Improvisation
  • Melody
  • Meter
  • Pitch
  • Resonance
  • Rhythm (Rests)
  • Tempo
  • Vocal placement

Primary Principles

  • What is on the page (lesson plan) sounds different depending on the skill of the artist (pedagogy of the teacher) and the prior knowledge/preparation of the listener (students)
  • Dynamics and interpretation can turn even the simplest of pieces into a powerful experience for the listener
  • The architecture/structure of a piece, the content of a piece, the sound of a piece, and the physical, emotional, and psychological effects of a piece on an audience are NOT the same thing
  • Improvisation is only possible when the musician has deeply internalized both the explicit and implicit facets of the discipline and is able to recombine them in interesting and unexpected ways that are flexible and responsive to the context, the audience, and the moves made by the other performers
  • A certain degree of technical skill (accuracy) is required in order for efforts at musical expression to succeed
  • Music is extremely complex. It contains multiple levels and every level consists of multiple layers (structurally--treble & bass, parts, measures and stanzas, chords)

Questions to Ponder

1) How does music respond to historical events that occur in a culture?
2) How does music catalyze, support, or respond to social change in a culture?
3) How does a globalized, multimedia, "mashup" world create shifts in what musicians who wish to create compelling experiences for their audiences choose to focus on or include in their work and performances?
4) How is music used/perceived as a form of cultural imperialism/invasion? How is music used as a form of isolationism/for self-protection within a culture?
5) What differences are there in formulaic representations v. music that makes unique creative contributions v. music that supports or catalyzes innovation v. musicians who engage in improvisation?
6) How are musicians interfacing with other genres to create new forms of expression?

Examples: Harmony

Musician Explains One Concept (Harmony) in Five Different Levels of Difficulty (Ft. Jacob Colier & Herbie Hancock - Wired)

General Examples

Piano Stairs
  • Rhythm Demonstration - Learn different drum beats using common food names
  • Roller Blade Bottle Tune Guy - Useful for thinking not only about how sound changes the meaning of a moving image, but also about the relationship of movement to music and harmony . . . also a nice metaphor for thinking about movement through a lesson and how a teacher's instructional decisions re: the processes and structures with which students engage change the experience(s) it is possible for them to have and the learning they can do
  • The Snowman - 26 min. video based on the 1982 wordless book--animated and set to music
  • Symmetry & Transformations In the Musical Plane - Paper and musical examples
  • The Vegetable Orchestra - First part of the 5:56 video is a little slow, but nicely done. Eventually, they create instruments out of veggies and play them. Very creative. Could be good to combine with the veggie emotions book in Spanish. Students could also describe what is happening frame by frame. This would be a fun one to throw into Bubbleply.
  • What Does Music Look Like?

Copyright & Fair Use

Interactive Activities

  • Glitchscape - Draw rectangular shapes, the interface translates them into moving sounds
  • - Select chords, tempo, instrument, and effects. It generates loops you can play, save, or share. Downloadable as MP3s if you have a subscription. K-12 teachers and students can obtain free access
  • Kisstunes - Play notes on a piano-like interface, record your work, save, and share
  • LivePlasma - Search for an actor, artist, director, movie, or particular kind of music and it will generate a concept map of related ones for you
  • Musicall - Click to hear sounds and see their associated color frequencies. Hold the shift key and scroll over the keys without clicking to play lots at once. Change the type of instrument or chat with other players to create collaborative compositions
  • Music-Map - Type in your favorite musician and this site will generate a concept map-like web that shows how their music relates to that of other musicians
  • Music Text Composition Generator - Type in your favorite text, set the beats per minute, and it generates sheet music and an audio file based on the text you submit
  • Musicovery - Search based on an artist, genre, mood, or song and it generates a concept map of music that you can click on to sample various songs that are related
  • Noteflight - Online music writing application that allows you to share your creations
  • Super Duper Music Looper This demo will help you understand the idea of tracks and layering
  • Tone Matrix - Experiment with chords, rhythm, and pitch using this interactive, visual matrix
  • Toy Piano - Requires Flash plug-in
  • Wolfram Tones - Allows you to select genres, compose, and tweak the settings


Reading & Resources


  • Black History Tour Group - We Won't Give Up - Useful for discussing perseverance.
  • Franco de Vita - Mis 30 mejores canciones. A phenomenal album with a wide variety of songs that address social issues such as Los hijos de la oscuridad--a song about abandoned street children.
  • Jarabe de Palo - The song, Depende is wonderful for discussing how perspective influences understanding and action. Lyrics available at: - chericem1 external image chericem1-sm.jpg
  • James & David Kalal - San miguel. The song Memories of the Alhambra makes a nice addition to a unit related to Granada.
  • John Mayer - Room for squares. The song No such thing makes a nice addition to inservice meetings in which students' perspectives and the purposes of schooling are the topics of conversation.
  • John Mayer - Waiting on the World to Change - From Continuum. Great for thinking about the role that students could potentially play as change agents.
  • Mecano - Descanso dominical. The songs Laika, Eugenio Salvador Dali, and Heroes de la Antartida are useful tools for discussing famous people and historical events.
  • O'Neal, Jamie. (2000). Frantic. Shiver. Universal City, CA: Mercury Records.
  • This song is excellent for stimulating a discussion of the need for building leadership capacity, delegation, distributed leadership, and down time. Lyrics available at: The song, 59th Street Bridge Song by Simon & Garfunkel makes a nice counterpoint to this one. Lyrics available at: - chericem1 external image chericem1-sm.jpg
  • Putamayo - ¡Latino! ¡Latino! A great CD for units related to Afro-Cuban themes.
  • Alejandro Sanz - Mas. A variety of songs on this album are useful for exploring issues such as regret, heartache, friendship, etc., as well as for highlighting various grammatical structures such as the imperfect subjunctive.
  • Simon & Garfunkel - Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. The song, 7 O'Clock News/Silent Night provides a phenomenal example of point/counterpoint and how media can be combined to produce social commentary. There are a number of other songs on this album that would also be useful for staff development, including The 59th Street Bridge Song (about the need for down time, reflection, etc. - makes a good counterpoint to Jamie O'Neal's Frantic) and The Dangling Conversation about the need for communication.
  • Sanders, Mark D., & Sillers, Tia. (2000). I hope you dance. Nashville, TN: Rutledge Hill Press. ISBN 1-55853-844-5.
    This book uses a combination of text and images to illustrate the meaning and message of the song by Lee Ann Womack. (The book comes with a CD inside.) Lyrics available at: [user:chericem1]]
  • Schwartz, Stephen - Wicked: A new musical. There are numerous songs on this album that can be used to stimulate thinking about leadership and change, including Defying Gravity - Lyrics available at:, No Good Deed - Lyrics available at:, and For Good. Lyrics available at:
  • The Wise Guys - Live. The whole album leads to interesting conversation regarding musical styles, the effect of rhythm and meter on a song, translation, etc.
  • Lee Ann Womack - I hope you dance. The song is particularly good for addressing the need for risktaking in leadership.
  • Yo Yo Ma - Soul of the tango. This entire album works well as background "work" music.

Supplemental Resources & Materials

A Brief History of Singing This contains links to the following topics related to the history of singing: Antiquity to 1590, Opera Develops 1590-1680, Opera Becomes Standardized 1680-1760, Expressivity 1760-1850, Continuous Music 1850-1920, Modernism 1920-Onwards, Bibliography. Arranging Music for Concerts This activity asks students to analyze the energy of various pieces of music in an attempt to explain why radio stations program their music as they do (and to show students how to arrange music for a concert). Beginning CD Swap This lesson plan asks students to compare and contrast classical music with popular music. Creating a Composition Using Tone Bells and Phone Numbers This post provides a complete lesson plan for an interactive group activity that teaches students to create melody and to add rhythm to it. Creating a Major Scale This post provides a complete lesson plan for teaching the major scale to students using an experiment that requires a guitar and a worksheet. Creating a Percussion Composition This post provides a complete lesson plan for an interactive activity that teaches students to identify various rhythms and to record them using musical notation. K-12 Resources for Music Educators This page contains an

extensive list of on-line resources for music educators, including web sites for band teachers, orchestra teachers, vocal/choral teachers, and classroom music teachers as well as valuable sites for all music educators and links to commercial resources.

MENC: Information for Teachers and Administrators
This page contains links to a variety of resources for music educators, including links to the National Standards, a link to a page on television listings of interest to music teachers, and links to professional journals and organizations.

Music Education Composition Network
This collection of lessons (which includes whole class composition activities, small group composition activities, and individual composition activities) is intended to serve as an example of how music composition can be used to help bring learners to a better understanding through interaction with the elements of music. Sample lesson titles include: Peter and the Wolf, Rhythm Rondo, Echo Clapping Taken to the Next Level, Writing a Mini Opera, Melody Puzzle, Interpreting Nontraditional Notation, Using Rhythms Creatively, Minimalist Techniques, Scales—The Building Blocks of Melody, Found Sound, From Ostinato to Sequenced Melody, Interval Studies, Theme and Variation, Phone Number Motives, and Soundscape.

Music in American Culture--A Page from Mozart’s Minuet Game
A sample slide from an on-line PowerPoint presentation which shows the dice game Mozart invented which would allow anyone to compose music.

Music in American Culture
This sample slide from an on-line PowerPoint presentation shows how someone created fractals using a numerical adaptation of Mozart’s dice game.

National School Network Exchange—Music Online: The New Memphis Blues & Mahler in Blue Light
This site contains links to an on-line music appreciation curriculum, RealAudio sound files, and background on blues.

Physical Exercises for Singers
This site contains information on physical exercises for singers.

Playing C Major & G7 Chords in the Right Hand This post provides complete lesson plans (including worksheets) for a paired activity which teaches students to play B below middle C, to play the C Major and G7 chords with the right hand, and to play
Mary Ann// as a duet.

Music in Schools on the Upbeat—Researchers Find Active Music Making Expands the Brain
This page contains an excerpt from an article entitled “Researchers Find Active Music Making Expands the Brain” which might make a nice reading intervention activity if more of the article were used. The full article can be found in Nature, New York times (

Rhythm in Visual Arts & Music
This page contains links to tons of activities which combine the use of music and rhythm with art.

Sound Composition
This activity (which comes complete with instructions and worksheets) teaches students about the importance of rhythm, texture, and dynamics and demonstrates how they make a piece of music more interesting. Students create and perform their own original compositions for the class as a culmination to this activity.

Unscrambling Can You Feel The Love Tonight
This post provides complete lesson plans for an interactive, hands-on activity which allows students to practice reading musical notation.

Vocal Links: Vocal Health
This page contains links to a variety of sites related to vocal music, including links to topics such as: FAQs Regarding Voice Problems, Guidelines for Singers: Dos and Don’ts, Keeping it Moist, Medicine in the Vocal Arts, Survival Tips for Choral Singers, Tips on Vocal Health, Tension and Relaxation, and Warming up the Voice.

Vocalist Monthly Archives
This site contains links to back issues of the VOCALIST-DIGEST newsletter.

Worksheet on Song Interpretation
The worksheet posted at this site is designed to help prepare a performer mentally for interpreting songs and arias in performance.

Writing a Rap Song
This post provides complete lesson plans for teaching students to arrange poetry into a rhythm piece.


  • Audacity Free audio creation and editing software
  • ccMixter - Music mashup site . . . all works on it licensed under Creative Commons
  • Google Video, YouTube, iFilm Notice the role of music with video
  • iLife Apple's comprehensive, easy to use suite for multimedia creation and editing
  • iTunes The most well-known source for audio and video: music, music videos, ebooks, podcasts, and enhanced podcasts
  • Jango - Streaming music - works in France
  • LastFm, Live Plasma, Musicovery, Pandora and Music-Map Think of your favorite genres and artists and use these websites to find related music and artists
  • MTV Billboard Charts Discover music from various genres
  • - Gives you control over which songs you want on your playlist and allows you to manually switch between songs. Pop-out player also makes it possible for students to listen while working on other things.