1st Grade Lessons
Our lessons are based on recommended Core Knowledge Curriculum by grade. However, these lessons are suitable for a wide range of ages, so we encourage exploration across grades. A few lessons, such as "What Is Sound / Music" overlap between grades, and may have similar content, but are useful to reinforce and expand learning.
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Music Genres - Coming Soon
World - Coming Soon
Lesson 1 - What Is Sound?
"What is sound?" Objects that vibrate make sound. Sound always comes from something that is vibrating. Vibration is a kind of fast back-and-forth motion. When the vibration stops, the sound stops. Objects can be made to vibrate by plucking, hitting, blowing and much more. When an object vibrates, it moves the air next to it. Air is made up of tiny molecules so small we can’t see them without microscopes. Sound moves by these molecules bumping into each other, which carries the sound to our ears.
Sound moves in waves like when you throw a rock into a pond and the waves ripple out from the rock in all directions. Waves come in all different sizes and shapes. This affects how loud and what kind of sound we hear. The more energy put into a sound, the more vibrations are created. More vibrations will make the sound louder and go farther.
Sound and Vibration Slides (PDF)
Sound and Vibration Slides (PowerPoint original)
The following video is a further discussion on the nature of sound.
1) Guitar oscillations captured with phone. Oscillations are back and forth movements, such as those caused by the vibration of a guitar string.
2) Sound waves in water glass. Rubbing a wet finger on the edge of a drinking glass can vibrate the glass causing a sound. If the glass is filled with water, the pitch may change as well as vibrating the water. Real glass that isn't too thick and has a stem is preferable. Food coloring doesn't change the sound, but helps you see the movement of the water.
2) Drinking glass music. The musician lightly taps the side of a glass with a spoon to make musical sound. The pitch (how low or high the note is) depends on how much water is in the glass.
4) "Dry Bones"- Schoolhouse Rock - animated educational musical short films - 1979
5) "America the Beautiful" - Poem lyrics by Katharine Lee Bates (1893) and music by Samuel Ward (1882) - first published together in 1910.
6) "Carmen" - French composer Georges Bizet - 1875. One of the most popular and frequently performed classical operas.
Play the animal sounds below. Animals commonly communicate via sounds. Sound travels differently in the air vs. the water. Echolocation is used by animals like sonar, to bounce sound waves off of objects to see how far away they are. Bats are practically blind and use echolocation to "see" by hearing. Note the similarities in the "clicking" sounds used by bats and dolphins.
Play the video above and have students attempt to guess the sounds.
Recommended site for free sounds: freesound.org
End of Lesson Dance Party Songs
"In the Mood" - Glenn Miller and His Orchestra - 1939
"What Does the Fox Say?" - Ylvis - 2013
Lesson 2 - How Music Tells Stories
What is music, and why have stories been told through music since its beginning? That's both an easy and hard question. Music is a group of sounds made in a way people hear as a pattern. The sounds fit together in a special way, like when we put letters together to make words. People have likely made at least basic music since they first walked the Earth. Beat is something we feel very early on, and even babies respond to music.
Intro to Music (PowerPoint original)
Why do people make music? People make music to have fun, communicate, worship, express their feelings, share in a way that goes beyond words, and so much more. People have told stories through music since very early humans. It is a fun and memorable way to pass down traditions, history, education or just a silly story. The simple answer is that it's a natural connection to put words and music together to create a musical tale.
Abiyoyo is a story by folk singer Pete Seeger about a boy and his father, who have been exiled from their village for causing trouble. One day the town is in danger from a threatening giant named Abiyoyo and the boy and his father bravely go out to protect the village. The above video tells the story with a combination of narration and music.
The following songs tell different types of stories in a variety of ways.
1) "Purple People Eater" - Sheb Wooley - 1958. Hit #1 on Billboard music charts! Lyrics version.
2) "Oh, John the Rabbit" - call and response folksong, performed here by Elizabeth Mitchell.
3) "Sorcerer's Apprentice" - Fantasia is a 1940 American animated film produced by Walt Disney. In the short story "Sorcerer's Apprentice" from Fantasia, a sorcerer leaves his apprentice to do chores. Tired of fetching water by pail, the apprentice enchants a broom to do the work for him, using magic in which he is not fully trained. Watch what happens next!
4) "Brilla Brilla Estrellita" - A song can be made in any language. Here's the classic "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" in Spanish.
5) "The Magic Flute" Opera by Mozart - 1791 - This piece "Der Vogelfanger" is German for "The Birdcatcher." Not only can stories be sung in any language, they can be told in many different musical styles. This style (or genre) is called opera.
Peter and the Wolf is a "symphonic fairy tale for children" written by Sergei Prokofiev in 1936. The narrator tells a children's story, while the orchestra illustrates it with music. Each character is associated with an instrument from the orchestra. In this video, David Bowie, a famous British pop star, narrates this classic tale. You may wish to play just the first few minutes when the characters are introduced by their instruments or spread the 15-minute playback over a couple days.
End of Lesson Dance Party Songs
"Johnny B. Goode" - Chuck Berry - 1958
"We Go Together" - From the musical Grease - 1971
Lesson 3 - Beat and Rhythm
So what's the difference between beat and rhythm? The foundation of most of music is the beat. The beat is the steady pulse that you feel in a tune, like a clock’s tick. It’s the beat that you naturally clap along to, or tap your foot to. Your heart beats in a steady way similar to the beat in a song. Not all music or sounds have a steady beat, but much of it does.
Rhythm is trickier. It’s what happens when you combine different notes of different lengths (duration) and different strengths. If you sing a song, your words follow a rhythm. You don't sing each word the same way on a beat or you'd sound like a robot! The rhythm is a pattern in which a song's notes flow. This can be short or long, soft or strong, while the beat is even and steady.
This is all difficult to describe and easier just to hear. The following video gives an example of rhythm and how it compares to beat.
The following songs have distinctive rhythms. Instead of clapping steadily to the beat, try to clap to the rhythms. One technique is to clap on each word of a syllable. For example, Hick-or-y, Dick-or-y, Dock would be seven claps. The rhythm includes emphasis on the first syllable each time. HICK-or-y, DICK-or-y, DOCK. These stronger syllables should have a louder clap. That's a rhythm! The pattern is BOM-ba-ba, BOM-ba-ba, BOM. If we were drummers, we might hit the drum harder for each "BOM". This is an example for louder/softer.
1) "Sweet Beets" - Rhythms can be made with longer/shorter duration, like in "Sweet Beets". Here the word "beet" gets one hit (clap, snap, stomp, etc.) while the word "cherry" gets two hits, but each hit is twice as fast.
2) "Yankee Doodle" - Yankee Doodle is a well-known American song, the early versions of which date to before the Seven Years' War and the American Revolution. It is often sung patriotically in the United States today and is the state anthem of Connecticut.
3) "Oh, Susanna" - played traditionally with banjo
4) "Oh, Susanna" - played on a violin while clogging
5) "There's a Hole in the Bucket" - Songs most often have 4 beats per measure. So we would count those like this: "1..2..3..4..1..2..3..4.." In this song it is 3 beats per measure so we count like this: "1..2..3..1..2..3.."
6) "STOMP" - suspended by ropes, an urban performance with metal objects - STOMP is a percussion group, originating in Brighton, United Kingdom that uses the body and ordinary objects to create a physical theater performance using rhythms, acrobatics and pantomime.
Have the students create their own beats (safely) using their bodies, desks, pencils and other common objects around them. See if they can get into a beat as a class together. Also, try starting rhythms and see if they can mimic them.
Rhythm sticks are a great way to learn and practice beats together. The video shows a New Zealand version called E papä wairi (Maori Stick Game). If you have sticks (or even just pencils) try following along or come up with your own rhythms.
End of Lesson Dance Party Songs
"We Will Rock You" - Queen - 1977
"We Got the Beat" - The Go-Go's - 1982
Lesson 4 - Instruments and Their Families
There are a great deal of musical instruments from around the world, ancient and modern. We say an instrument is part of a family when it is similar in some way. For example, an orchestra has four main families: strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion. Percussion instruments produce sounds by scraping, plucking, striking, or shaking. Thus, all drums and bells are percussion.
The strings are the largest family of instruments in an orchestra and they come in four sizes: the violin, which is the smallest, viola, cello, and the biggest, the double bass. They produce sound from vibrating strings. The strings are played most often by drawing a bow across them. The handle of the bow is made of wood and the strings of the bow are often horsehair from horses' tails! The musicians can also use their fingers to pluck the strings.
A brass instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound by vibration of air in a tubular resonator--using tube shapes to amplify sound vibrations. The term brass instrument is slightly misleading, as not all brass instruments are created from brass. In fact the term is defined by the way the sound is made; where the player's lips vibrate against a mouthpiece, creating the noise which is then controlled by either valves or a slide. The list of brass instruments includes horns, trumpets, bugles, cornet, flugelhorn, the trombone, tuba, and more.
Woodwind instruments are a family of musical instruments that produce sound by splitting the air blown into them on a sharp edge, such as a reed. Common examples include flute, clarinet, oboe, saxophone, and bassoon. There are two main types: flutes and reed instruments.
The following video is a look at the instrument families in a typical orchestra.
1) "Instrument Examples" - Types of instruments we use to make music.
2) "The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night" - This group uses special instruments from to create music from the 1600-1750's (Baroque music period). They call these "period instruments". It gives us a special chance to hear what a concert might sound like for listeners hundreds of years ago.
3) "Down By the Riverside" - This song transports us to places all around the world with singers and musicians playing a variety of instruments.
4) "Blow the Man Down (instruments)" - A version with violin, flute and guitar.
5) "Blow the Man Down (vocals)" - The human voice can be considered a special kind of instrument we all "own".
6) "String Instruments" - Examples of string instruments.
In the previous lesson, we learned about beat and rhythm. We can use just about anything to make a beat. Instruments that you can hit, shake or rub to make sounds are called percussion instruments. For example, all drums and bells are percussion. Percussion instruments include bongos, snares, pancake drums, buffalo drums, and more. Other members of the percussion family include cymbals, maracas, rain sticks, woodblocks, castanets, triangles, bells, and shakers. This video takes a closer look at percussion.
End of Lesson Dance Party Songs
"Better When I'm Dancin'" - Meghan Trainor - 2015
"Cheerleader" - OMI - 2012 - sung here by Kidz Bop
Lesson 5 - Orchestras, Dynamics and Tempo
In the previous lesson, we were introduced to the instrument families of the orchestra. The following videos will give more examples of each in action. Then we'll listen to orchestral pieces to see how it all comes together.
In music, dynamics means how soft or loud the volume of the sound is at different parts. If we yell or whisper a song the entire time, that's not as interesting. During the song, it's more pleasing to hear the music grow louder and softer, even if it's just a few notes. The orchestra is one of the best examples of dynamics as it can be whisper soft one moment, and earth shattering the next!
Tempo is a musical word for how fast or slow a song is. The speed of the song changes the feel of the music. We can hear the tempo by following the beat, which is the steady pulse that you feel in the tune. Usually slow beats are calmer and faster beats are more exciting. Just like the beat of your heart is slower when you're sleeping. Some songs keep the same tempo, while others change tempo while playing, like starting slow and speeding up.
1) "Meet the Orchestra - Brass Instruments" - Orchestra of Wales
2) "Meet the Orchestra - Woodwind Instruments" - Orchestra of Wales
3) "The Nutcracker (Chinese and Russian Dances)" - "The Nutcracker" is a common winter production often associated with Christmas. It was composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1892. Have any of the students seen or participated in it?
4) "In the Hall of the Mountain King" - This is a famous piece by Edvard Grieg from 1875 that keeps getting faster and faster (increasing tempo). Kids may recognize it from the movie Trolls, which borrowed this piece to make their song "Hair Up!"
5) "Hedwig's Theme (from Harry Potter)" - John Williams - 2001
6) "The Barber of Seville" - Gioachino Rossini - 1816 - Classic cartoons like Bugs Bunny used orchestras to accompany the animation. In some cases, a famous piece of music like this one was used as the story, and the animation was drawn to follow the music. Live orchestral performances still celebrate this connection to TV and movies today.
Music has a huge impact on the scenes we watch in movies and shows. It can create suspense, drive the action and bring us to tears, among other things. Movies with big budgets hire composers and orchestras to write and perform music. The music is carefully edited to match a movie scene as well as balance with sound effects and voices. With the improvement of digital equipment, some movie music is now created by synthesizers instead of live musicians.
This video is a humorous look at what the iconic Throne Room scene from Star Wars would feel like without the music composed by John Williams--awkward. What other shows have you really noticed the music while watching? Do you have a favorite theme song or movie-music moment?
End of Lesson Dance Party Songs
"Shout" - The Isley Brothers - 1959 (Example of call and response) - Just Dance Kids version
"Old Town Road" - Lil Nas X - 2018 - Version sung by Kidz Bop
Lesson 6 - Moving to Music
When we hear music, for many of us our bodies just want to move. Our toes might tap to the beat, our heads nod, our bodies sway--it's like we're born to move to music! This is great, as exercise is vital to our bodies and mind. The beat is the thing we're most likely to move our bodies to. It sets the pattern that helps us make special repeated moves while dancing.
We don't need music to dance, but it sure helps! Dancing can be alone or in groups. It is the coordinated movement of our bodies usually set to music or beat. This means we have a plan and direction for our movements and match them to the sound.
The following video is a look at styles of dance over the years:
1) "Skip to My Lou" - A musical game of swapping partners as in square dancing. It begins with any number of couples skipping hand in hand around in a ring. A lone child in the center of the moving circle of couples sings, "Lost my partner, what'll I do?" Then sings, “I'll get another one just like you.” When they grasp the hand of their chosen one, the new single individual moves to the center of the ring.
2) "The Freeze" - Show off your dancing moves in between freezing.
3) "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain"
4) "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" - Von Tilzer / Norworth - 1908 - Often sung at the opening of baseball season and during games.
5) "The Twist" - Chubby Checker - 1960 - Twist along with this classic.
6) "La Cucaracha" - Spanish for "The Cockroach," "La Cucaracha" is a traditional Spanish folk song. It is unknown when the song came about. It is very popular in Mexico, and was performed especially widely during the Mexican Revolution. Many alternative stanzas exist. The basic song describes a cockroach who cannot walk.
Cab Calloway was an American jazz singer, dancer, bandleader and actor. He was associated with the Cotton Club in Harlem, New York City, where he was a regular performer and popular vocalist of the swing era. His niche of mixing jazz and vaudeville won him acclaim during a career that spanned over 65 years. Calloway was a master of energetic scat singing and led one of the United States' most popular big bands from the early 1930s to the late 1940s.
This video is from the movie "Stormy Weather" (1943) featuring Cab Calloway and his orchestra performing "Jumpin Jive". After awhile they let the Nicholas Brothers jump in and lend their feet to the action. The Nicholas Brothers were considered by many to be the greatest tap dancers of their day. Tap dance is a type of dance where metal taps are added to the heel and toe of shoes and the dancer makes sounds by striking the floor as a form of percussion, coupled with interpretative body movements.
End of Lesson Dance Party Songs
"Willie and the Hand Jive" - Johnny Otis - 1958 - The hand jive is a dance particularly associated with rhythm and blues music of the 1950s. It involves a complicated pattern of hand moves and claps at various parts of the body, following and/or imitating the percussion instruments. It resembles a highly elaborate version of pat-a-cake. Hand moves include 1) thigh slapping, 2) hand clapping, 3) crossing the wrists, 4) fist pounding, and hitch hike moves. Follow along or make up your own moves.
"Electric Boogie (Electric Slide)" - Marcia Griffiths and Bunny Wailer - 1982
Lesson 7 - Great Composers: Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791) was a prolific and influential composer of the classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers.
Mozart learned voraciously from others, and developed a brilliance and maturity of style that encompassed the light and graceful along with the dark and passionate. His influence on subsequent Western art music is profound. Beethoven wrote his own early compositions in the shadow of Mozart, and Joseph Haydn wrote that "posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years."
During Mozart's life, he was like a rock star. Royalty fought to have him perform, people swooned at his music and he was admired and envied. People didn't have recordings to listen to or large concerts open to the public. You usually had to be privileged to even hear it. Talk about how this has changed today, and how music is so available to most of us in many forms. Compare Mozart to a rock star today and the attention that they receive.
1) "Symphony No. 40 in G Minor" - Mozart - 1788
2) "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" - Mozart - 1787 - The German title means "a little serenade", though it is often rendered more literally as "a little night music
3) "Twelve Variations on "Ah vous dirai-je, Maman"- The title is French for "Oh! Shall I tell you, Mama". This is a piano piece composed by Mozart in 1781. The French melody first appeared in 1761, and has been used for many children's songs, such as "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star", "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep", and the "Alphabet Song". In this video, South Korean Sohyun Ko plays the Mozart piece on violin. She recorded this when she was only 8 years old!
4) "Symphony No. 5 in C minor (Beethoven's Fifth)" - Ludwig van Beethoven - Written between 1804 and 1808, it is one of the best-known compositions in classical music and one of the most frequently played symphonies, and it is widely considered one of the cornerstones of western music. You can learn more about Beethoven in the 2nd-grade lesson dedicated to him.
5) "The Imperial March from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" - John Williams - 1980 - This powerful theme is sometimes referred to simply as "Darth Vader's Theme." In the movies (except for the original Star Wars), the march is often played when Darth Vader appears.
John Williams (born 1932) is an American composer, conductor, and pianist. Regarded by many as the greatest film composer of all time, he has composed some of the most popular, recognizable, and critically acclaimed film scores in cinematic history in a career spanning over six decades. Williams has won 25 Grammy Awards, seven British Academy Film Awards, five Academy Awards, and four Golden Globe Awards.
Williams has composed for many critically acclaimed and popular movies, including the Star Wars Skywalker saga, Schindler's List, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the Indiana Jones, the first two Home Alone films, the first two Jaws films, the first two Jurassic Park films, Hook, and the first three Harry Potter films. You can learn more in the 2nd-grade lesson about him.
End of Lesson Dance Party Songs
"Beautiful Day" - U2 - 2000
"Mony Mony" - Tommy James and the Shondells - 1968
Lesson 8 - Musical Genres: Opera and Jazz
Opera is a drama set to music. An opera is like a play in which everything is sung instead of spoken. They are usually performed in opera houses, which are often quite large. Opera singers have to have powerful voices as well as a good technique so the entire audience can hear. The singers who sing and act out the story are on the stage, and the orchestra is in front of the stage but lower down, in the orchestra pit, so that the audience can see the stage. Opera originated in Italy at the end of the 16th century, and many operas are sung in Italian.
The following video explains more about opera.
Jazz is a type of music which was invented in the United States. Jazz music combines African-American music with European music. Jazz first became popular in the 1910s. Some common jazz instruments include the saxophone, trumpet, piano, double bass, and drums. It is difficult to give an exact definition for "jazz". Singer Nina Simone said, "Jazz is not just music, it is a way of life, it is a way of being, a way of thinking". One important part of jazz is improvisation (improv), which means the person playing is making music up as they go along. If a jazz band is playing a song, the song may have several solos where one player will improvise while the rest of the band, except for the rhythm section (such as the piano, bass, or drums), does not play. Most jazz is very rhythmic, and may have a "swing".
1) "The Magic Flute (Papageno) - The Magic Flute is an opera in two acts with music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and a German libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder. A libretto (Italian for "booklet") is the text used in an extended musical work like an opera.
2) "Cinderella (Cendrillon)" - French composer Jules Massenet - 1899 - Cendrillon (Cinderella) is a French opera based on the classic fairy tale.
3) "Hansel and Gretel (Brother, Come Dance with Me)" - German composer Engelbert Humperdinck -1892 - This clip is in German with English subtitles. "Brüderchen, Komm Tanz mit Mir" in English is "Brother, Come Dance with Me".
4) "What a Wonderful World" - Louis Armstrong - 1967
5) "When the Saints Go Marching In" - Louis Armstrong - 1938
6) "Feeling Good" - Nina Simone - 1965 - Notice the rich dynamics and tempo changes. This could be considered smooth jazz or in the category of show tunes since this song is from the musical "The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd".
Louis Armstrong (1901 – 1971) nicknamed Satchmo or Pops was an American trumpeter, composer, vocalist, and actor who was among the most influential figures in jazz. He was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. His career spanned five decades, from the 1920s to the 1960s, and different eras in the history of jazz. In 2017, he was inducted into the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.
With his instantly recognizable rich, gravelly voice, Armstrong was also an influential singer and skillful improviser, bending the lyrics and melody of a song. He was also skilled at scat singing. Armstrong is renowned for his charismatic stage presence and voice as well as his trumpet playing. By the end of Armstrong's career in the 1960s, his influence had spread to popular music in general. Armstrong was one of the first popular African-American entertainers to "cross over" to wide popularity with white (and international) audiences. Check out this video for a brief biography.
End of Lesson Dance Party Songs
"I Can See Clearly Now" - recorded by Johnny Nash in 1972 - This version is the 1993 recording by Jimmy Cliff for the movie "Cool Runnings". It is an example of a genre of music called reggae that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. Reggae is recognizable from the counterpoint between the bass and drum downbeat and the offbeat rhythm section.
"One Love" - Bob Marley - 1977 - Bob Marley was a Jamaican singer, songwriter, and musician. One of the pioneers of reggae, he is considered a global symbol of Jamaican music, culture and identity.
Lesson 9 - Musical Notes and Pitch
On top of the foundation of beat and rhythm, music typically includes a series of notes played together or separately. Each note has a pitch, which is how low or high the note is. A scale of notes includes: A, B, C, D, E, F, G and returns to A. Each set of A to G is known as an octave. Even though we repeat the letters, each octave keeps getting higher and higher (or lower and lower) in pitch. Similar to writing words in a book, musicians use a special kind of musical language when composing.
The following video is an introduction to musical notes.
In music, the pitch of a note means how high or low a note is. If you sing a note or play one on most instruments, it has a pitch. You can't sing a melody or play a tune without pitch. In music, we assign letters of the alphabet to notes of different pitch. If you remember all the way back to your first lesson, you'll recall that sound is made by vibration. The faster the vibration the higher pitch or note. The slower the vibration the lower the pitch. Not all musical instruments give notes of a particular pitch. Many percussion instruments like drums are instruments used for rhythms. They do not play tunes because they have no definite pitch. The video above explains more about pitch.
1) "Do-Re-Mi" - Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music - 1965
2) "Hey Ho, Nobody Home" - 16th century song and a musical round. (See Bonus section for more on musical rounds.) Notice how the musical notes are written in a special way to indicate if they are A, B, C, D, E, F or G and how long to sing them. They go from left to right like reading a book in English.
3) "The Bear Went Over the Mountain (For He's a Jolly Good Fellow)" - A bit like "Happy Birthday", some people sing "For He/She's a Jolly Good Fellow" to sing their appreciation to someone. The same melody is used for "The Bear Went Over the Mountain."
4) "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" - American folk singer Pete Seeger performance in Melbourne, Australia - 1963
5) "Billy Boy"
6) "Frere Jacques (4 languages)" - This is a round sung in 4 languages. The harmony is not perfect, but it is a lovely example of people and languages coming together. Also, it shows how difficult it is to both get timing just right as well as pitch. Two different pitches sung at the same time require certain harmonic rules to sound "correct" to our ears. However, some of this is opinion as what really is "correct" when it comes to music and its enjoyment!
"Hey Ho, Nobody Home" and "Frere Jacques" are examples of musical rounds. Some songs are made in a way where you can sing each part of the song at the same time as the other and still sound nice. This is because the notes are made to go together in harmony. Most songs cannot naturally be sung this way as they need to be written just right to match. Also, a musical-round song can still be enjoyed when just singing it normally.
Perhaps the best know example of a round is "Row, Row, Row Your Boat". Another example is "Make New Friends". Both are provided here for you to try. It can be tricky, so good luck!
End of Lesson Dance Party Songs
"A-B-C, Easy as 1-2-3" - Jackson 5 - 1970 - sung here by ABCMouse Kids
"YMCA" - The Village People - 1978 - Just Dance dance-along version
Lesson 10 - Melody and Harmony
We've learned that sound is made from vibrations. We've learned that beat is a steady pulse and the rhythm is a the pattern in which a song's notes flow. We discovered that music has dynamics, or loud and soft parts. We found out about tempo, which is the speed of the song. We learned about pitch, or how high or low a note is. Finally, let's talk about melody.
A melody is the tune or the "main" notes of a song. It is likely what we hear first in a song, and what we normally sing along to when a song is played. A melody is a series of notes played together with different duration (short and long notes) and pitch (low and high notes). Lyrics are simply the words to a song. If you wrote a poem and then made a song out of your poem, the words would be the lyrics of the song. You can still have a melody without lyrics or singing. For example. we can hum along to a Star Wars' orchestral melody. (Try it with "The Imperial March".)
The following video talks more about melody.
Harmony is the combination of musical notes played or sung at the same time to produce a pleasing effect. A chord is a combination of usually three or more musical tones sounded together. This is easy to do on an instrument like a piano as each pitch is assigned to a different key. It's harder to sing in harmony as our voices need to hit just the right note to mix with the pitch of the other singers.
Think of each pitch as waves in a lake. When the waves move together, they're in harmony. If the waves crash into each other, you get a lot of splashing which musically sounds "unpleasant". Drums typically do not provide melody or harmony as they do not have a definite pitch. Of course, they do give us vital beat and rhythm to our music.
A song can be more fun when we know the melody and lyrics (words of a song) and can sing along. If we only know the melody and not the lyrics, we can still hum along or replace the lyrics with sounds like "la, la, la". Try that with one of the songs below.
1) "On Top of Old Smoky"
2) "On Top of Spaghetti" - This song is a parody of "On Top of Old Smoky." A musical parody is a humorous version of a familiar song. It normally uses the same melody, but different comical lyrics.
3) "Frere Jacques" - This is a French song. "Are You Sleeping" is this song roughly translated to English. Here it is sung by a barbershop quartet. A quartet is four singers, just like you need four quarters to make a whole (or a dollar). This is a great example of harmony as well. In this video, the same person makes four merged recordings to harmonize with himself.
4) "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" - This is sung "a cappella" (see Bonus section for more).
5) "Oh Dear What Can the Matter Be?"
6) "Star-Spangled Banner" - Take 6 - Also sung "a cappella."
History of the U.S. National Anthem: Francis Scott Key (lyrics) - 1814 - John Stafford Smith (music) - 1773 - The lyrics come from amateur poet Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships of the Royal Navy in Baltimore Harbor during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the large U.S. flag, with 15 stars and 15 stripes, known as the Star-Spangled Banner, flying triumphantly above the fort during the U.S. victory.
Singing without musical accompaniment is known as "a cappella". In addition to singing, the voice can produce percussion, often known as beat boxing. Pentatonix is a well known example of an a cappella group. Each member of the group has a special vocal range. When blending low and high notes, as well as beats, the combined sound fills the range a person can experience, which is more satisfying. The pitch of each of the singers needs to be just right or our ears may notice that something is "off." Singing in harmony is a challenge, but when done properly yields beautiful results.
Play the video above to hear the a cappella group Pentatonix sing the evolution of music.
End of Lesson Dance Party Songs
"Daft Punk Medley" - Pentatonix singing "a cappella" - 2013 - Songs by Daft Punk arranged into a medley by Pentatonix. A medley is a group of more than one previous songs mashed together into a new single song.
"Twist and Shout" - Written by Phil Medley and Bert Berns in 1961, first popularized by the Isley Brothers. This clip is from the movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and Ferris is lip syncing to a recording by The Beatles.