Lesson Plan 1: What is music?

This is a lesson plan, part one of a three, focused around the History of Music, designed for small groups of children, or for parents to teach at home with their children.

Lesson Scope

  • Suggested duration: 15-20 minutes
  • Ages: 5-12

Materials Required

Lesson – What is music made of?

Ask the children what is music made of?  What are the elements of music?  Ask the children to share their ideas.

There are seven elements of music: Pitch, Rhythm, Timbre, Texture, Dynamics, Tempo, and Structure

Download: elements-of-music-flashcards

Pitch: High sounds and Low sounds.

Demonstrate pitch by humming a high note and humming a low.  Ask the children to sing or hum high notes and low notes. 

Rhythm: A pattern of short beats and long beats.

Demonstrate rhythm by clapping short beats.  Ask the children to repeat the rhythm by clapping the same beat. After practicing short beats, practice clapping long beats and alternating short beats with long beats.  Each time ask the students to repeat the rhythm.

Timbre: The type of instrument sounds.  Different types of instruments make different types of sounds.

Play some example sounds from this YouTube video: “Musical Instruments Sounds for Kids”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjJcGlQraek.

After each instrument, ask the children what words they would use to describe the sounds they here. 

You may want to ask if some sounds are similar and some sounds are different.  You can play all the sounds or just a few examples as time allows.

NOTE: Activity #2 will discuss musical instruments in more depth.

Texture: The layer of sounds.

You can demonstrate texture by asking your child to hum a constant note and then you, or another child, to clap their hands in a rhythm.  Point out that each sound is different, but combining multiple sounds creates texture. 

Dynamics: The loudness or softness of a sound.

Demonstrate dynamics by singing or humming loud notes and soft notes.  Ask the children to also practice singing or humming loudly and softly. 

Tempo: The speed of the sound, how fast or slow a sound is.

Demonstrate tempo by singing the first line of a nursery song at two different tempos.  Sing the first line slow and then sing the first line fast.  The children can repeat these lines at the same tempos.

Structure: The music plan.

Show the children the sheet music (below).

Describe how the lines and the notes are symbols that tell the musicians what to play.  There are also symbols and shapes that describe all the elements of the music.  The plan allows the musicians to play the same song repeatedly.

Download: history-of-music-lesson-1-sheet-music

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