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
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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.
The following video is a look at how vibration produces 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.
3) Beethoven's Für Elise on glass harp - Drinking glass music. Using the technique shown in the previous video, the musician can play a song. The pitch (how low or high the note is) depends on the size and shape of the glass and how much water is in it.
4) The Nutcracker "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies" - Tchaikovsky - 1892
5) "The More It Snows" - Winnie the Pooh
6) "Carnival of the Animals, The Elephant"- Camille Saint-Saëns - 1886
7) "Brush Your Teeth" - Raffi
8) "The 7 Continents"
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.
Lesson 2 - How Music Tells Stories and Instruments
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.
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.
Humans have used their voices, hands and basic objects like rocks to make music since the beginning. Over time, they learned how to make instruments to produce a huge variety of musical sounds. The above video is a look at just a few examples of instruments we use to play music.
1) "Old King Cole"
2) "The Bear Went Over the Mountain"
3) "Ladybug, Ladybug"
4) "Carnival of the Animals, Kangaroos"- Sometimes there are no words and the music tells the story. The Carnival of the Animals is a light-hearted musical suite of fourteen movements by the French Romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns written in 1886. Each movement tells the story of a different animal. Listen for the jumping sounds of kangaroos in this one.
5) "Carnival of the Animals, Birds" - Can you hear the bird-like sounds made by the instruments in this movement? Talk about which instruments work best for a given animal.
6) "Little Miss Muffet"
7) "This Little Pig"
8) "Diddle, Diddle, Dumpling"
9) "The King and I, March of the Siamese Children" - The King and I is a musical from 1951 that tells the experiences of Anna, a British schoolteacher hired as part of the King of Siam's drive to modernize his country.
Orchestras contain families of instruments such as percussion, strings, brass and woodwinds. They can create different sounds and make us feel different emotions. They have provided entertainment through history, whether from a live concert, a recording to enjoy at our leisure or the background for movies and TV. They have been the foundation of many other musical styles as well.
The following video is a look at the instrument families in a typical orchestra:
Lesson 3 - Nursery Rhymes with Movement
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:
The following songs involve different types of movement. Sometimes the song gives us instructions on what to do. Other times, we can pretend we're acting out the song.
1) "The Wheels on the Bus"
2) "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush"
3) "Hokey Pokey"
4) "The Farmer in the Dell"
5) "Jack Be Nimble"
6) "It's Raining, It's Pouring Part 1" - In this and the next video, we learn how to sign "It's Raining, It's Pouring". American Sign Language (ASL) is a language we can "speak" with our hands. It is used by many Deaf communities in the United States and elsewhere.
7) "It's Raining, It's Pouring Part 2" - Use what you learned in Part 1 to sign and sing to the song. Funny how "sign" and "sing" have the same letters in different order!
8) "The Freeze"
In the next lessons, we'll be learning 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
Here are two popular line dance songs. "Cupid Shuffle" has similarities to the previous song "Cha Cha Slide". If you go back further, these songs can be compared to the 1994 song "Tootsee Roll". Line dance songs in country are also common. Musical styles and dances constantly borrow from each other going back to the origins of music.
"Cha Cha Slide" - DJ Casper - 1998
"Cupid Shuffle" - Cupid - 2006
Lesson 4 - What Is Beat?
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.
In this video, you can learn more about beat and take a mini-quiz. See if you can tell if the sample has a steady beat or not. Pause after each sample and give a thumbs up if it does, or a thumbs down if not.
Listen for the beat in the following songs. Clap along, tap your feet, nod your head or do whatever you'd like to follow the beat.
1) "Old MacDonald Had a Farm"
3) "Mary Had a Little Lamb" - Use a familiar song like this to try counting measures. For example, we can say "1..2..3..4..1..2..3..4.." to the beat if there are four beats per measure. We can hear how long a measure is, by feeling when the beat of the song repeats.
4) "London Bridge" - Notice that this song has a similar tune to "Mary Had a Little Lamb".
5) "One Two Buckle My Shoe"
6) "Sing a Song of Sixpence"
7) "Rain Rain Go Away"
8) "The Nutcracker, Waltz of the Flowers" - Four repeated beats are common in songs. Some songs have a different number of beats in a measure. A waltz has three beats, so we count like this: "1..2..3..1..2..3.." "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?
In this lesson you learned about beat, which is the steady pulse of the song that you can clap along to. In a later lesson you'll learn about tempo. It is an important topic in music, so let's take a quick look now. Tempo is how fast or slow a song's beat is. In this video, Mr. Greg talks about how tempo is the speed of the song.
Lesson 5 - What Is Rhythm?
We've learned about beat, so how is rhythm any different? First let's review beat: beat is the steady pulse that you feel in the tune, like a clock’s tick or your heartbeat. It’s the beat you hear naturally when you clap along evenly to a song.
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 a drummer, we might hit the drum harder for each "BOM". This is an example for louder/softer. Rhythms are also made with longer/shorter, 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.
1) "Sweet Beets"
2) "Hickory, Dickory Dock"
3) "A Dillar, a Dollar" - 1760 - "dillar" or "diller" means lazy or procrastinating. Scholar means student. This nursery rhyme was a children’s chant used to admonish a student who was regularly late for school.
4) "Hot Cross Buns"
5) "Humpty Dumpty"
6) "Three Little Kittens"
7) "Roses Are Red"
8) "Three Blind Mice"
You can use just about anything to make a rhythm. 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. The Harlem Globetrotters are talented basketball players who entertain with their skills. The two join together in this video to create an amazing rhythmic performance using basketballs.
Lesson 6 - Time to Rhyme
Rhyming words are two or more words that have the same or similar ending sound. Some examples of rhyming words are: goat, boat, moat, float, coat. You can rhyme in poetry, music, speech, books or really anytime, it's not a crime (although you may laugh or groan). When we rhyme, it helps us to remember things better. It can also be pleasing to the ear, or just fun to do. So pick up your shoe, get your crew, don't feel blue, and enjoy a tasty stew.
Practice some rhymes with this video.
1) "Georgie Porgie" - Let's start off with a poem, and listen for the rhymes. We can rhyme when we're talking or singing.
2) "Ring Around the Rosie"
3) "Rockin' in the Forest with Farmer Jason"
4) "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep"
5) "Little Jack Horner"
6) "Star Light, Star Bright"
7) "Jack and Jill"
8) "Simple Simon"
9) "We Are the Dinosaurs" - In the next lesson, we'll learn about dynamics (loud and quiet) and tempo (slow and fast). In addition to rhyming, songs can have both dynamic and tempo changes. It makes songs extra interesting.
Rhyming is as fun as a run in the sun. It's also an important part of writing poetry and music! Let's try to fly high with our new skill. In this video you can play a rhyming game. The song will tell you how. If you can't, don't have a cow.
End of Lesson Dance Party Songs
"At the Hop" - Danny and the Juniors - 1957 - Originally titled "Do the Bop," Dick Clark recommended the writers change the name to "At the Hop" and it was a huge success!
"Splish Splash" - Bobby Darin co-wrote the song after being dared to write a song starting with "Splish Splash, I was taking a bath" - 1958 - Performed here by PBS KidSongs group.
Lesson 7 - Dynamics and Tempo
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 when the whole song seems only quiet or loud, you can still often hear differences in volume if you listen carefully. Perhaps it's a few notes or a single word that is sung louder to make it stand out. As you listen to the songs below, see if you can hear how the dynamics change in each song, and how they make you feel about the music. The following video talk more about musical dynamics.
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. A typical song keeps the speed (tempo) about the same until the end. Some songs change tempo while playing, like starting slow and speeding up. The above video talks more about tempo.
In the following songs, listen for changes in dynamics, or how the volume changes between louder and softer. Sometimes it's just a few notes that are sung or played louder for emphasis.
1) "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt" - The song gets softer and softer, except for shouting the name: "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt!!"
2) "Little Bo Peep"
3) "Carnival of the Animals, The Swan"- The Carnival of the Animals is a light-hearted musical suite of fourteen movements by the French Romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns written in 1886. Each movement tells the story of a different animal. The sounds of the instruments should make one think of the graceful movements of a swan.
4) "Hush Little Baby"
Songs that change in tempo. See if students can recognize when the song changes speed.
5) "In the Hall of the Mountain King" - This is a famous piece by Edvard Grieg from 1875 that keeps getting faster and faster. Kids may recognize it from the movie Trolls, which borrowed this piece to make their song "Hair Up!" This would also be a great time to talk about orchestras.
6) "Hair Up!" from the movie Trolls
7) "I Know a Chicken" - If you have shakers, get them out and shake along to this slow / fast song.
8) "The Nutcracker, Chinese and Russian Dances"
Gioachino Rossini wrote the William Tell Overture in 1829 inspired by the legend of William Tell. The finale is often used in film and television. It is particularly familiar through its use in the American radio and television shows of "The Lone Ranger" as seen in this video of the famous TV show (opening and closing theme).
The Lone Ranger is a fictional character, a masked ex-Texas Ranger who, with his Native American companion Tonto, fights injustice in the American Old West. The character has become an enduring icon of American culture. He first appeared in 1933 in a radio show. Kids can pretend to be on horses and gallop (carefully) around the room to the music. The tempo (speed) is quite fast!
End of Lesson Dance Party Songs
"Shout" - The Isley Brothers - 1959 (Example of call and response.)
"The Loco-Motion" - Little Eva - 1962 - Written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, and notable for being in the top three U.S. songs in three separate decades. 1962 #1 hit for Little Eva, 1974 #1 hit for Grand Funk Railroad, and 1988 #3 hit for Kylie Minogue.
Lesson 8 - Pitch and Musical Rounds
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. They are "A, B, C, D, E, F and G". Once we get past "G" we start back over at "A", but we keep getting higher and higher (or lower and lower). Each set of A to G is called an octave.
The following video explains more about pitch.
1) "Little Boy Blue" - Listen for the low and high notes in this song.
2) "Little Tommy Tucker" - On the really low notes, the boy lip syncs the sound. That means he pretends to sing them at the same time another person actually does.
3) "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary"
4) "Old Mother Hubbard"
5) "See Saw Margery Daw?"
6) "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"
The following songs are musical rounds. Talk about how 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. Perhaps the best know example is "Row, Row, Row Your Boat".
7) "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"
8) "Are You Sleeping"
9) "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.
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. This video shows how vibrations of various objects can cause different pitches.
Lesson 9 - Melody and Lyrics
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, you'd say those words are the lyrics to the song.
The following video talks more about melody.
A song can be more fun when we know the melody and lyrics and can sing along. If we only know the melody and not the words (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) "There Was a Little Girl" - When words are in a song, we call them lyrics. If they are spoken in a normal way, like a book, it's called prose. If words are put together in a special way, like with rhymes, we call that a poem.
2) "April Rain Song" - Poem by Langston Hughes set to music. If you have a poem and sing it, you turned the words of the poem into lyrics.
3) "Early to Bed" - Nursery rhyme with lyrics at the start and then karaoke. Learn the lyrics and then see if you can sing them to the music. Removing the words from a song that usually has them and then singing the words yourself is called karaoke. It started in Japan, and the word is Japanese.
4) "Jack Sprat"
5) "This Old Man"
6) "Hey Diddle Diddle"
7) "The Goldfish"
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.
Play the video above to hear the a cappella group Pentatonix sing the evolution of music.
End of Lesson Dance Party Songs
"Make Some Noise" - Kidz Bop - 2015
"La Bamba" - Ritchie Valens - 1958 - A Mexican folk song, originally from the state of Veracruz. It is best known from this 1958 adaptation by Ritchie Valens which was a top 40 hit in the U.S. and one of early rock and roll's best-known songs.
Lesson 10 - How Music Makes You Feel
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, we talked about melody--the tune that we normally sing along to when a song is played. This is all great learning, but the most important quality to music is how it makes us feel! Listen to the following video. How does the music change to express the character's feelings?
Let Those Feelings Out!
Music helps bring out our feelings and emotions. It is a special gift we can give and receive as people across languages and cultures. It can make us feel happy or sad, silly or excited. It can lift us up when we're having a bad day, or bring us to tears. Emotions are feelings we don't want to bottle up. At the appropriate time and in a respectful way, it's important to let them go and express them. Music helps us do that. Listen to the video here and express yourself!
1) "If You're Happy and You Know It"
2) "You Are My Sunshine"- Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell - 1939
3) "March of the Toys" - from Babes in Toyland, an operetta (light opera) composed by Victor Herbert - 1903
4) "Shoo Fly"- 1860's
5) "Peer Gynt, Morning Mood" - by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg - 1875. This piece is meant to feel like the dawn of a new morning, especially in nature. Listen for the moment early in the piece where the music rises in volume (dynamics) to indicate the sun's first light breaking through at sunrise.
6) "Animals in Action"
7) "Carnival of the Animals, Aquarium" - Camille Saint-Saëns - 1886. Another movement from this famous carnival. Now imagine you're in an aquarium, and you're all fish, sharks or whatever you wish--a fish-wish?
8) "1812 Overture" - Tchaikovsky - 1880 - Best known for its climactic volley of cannon fire, ringing chimes, and a brass fanfare finale. It has also become a common accompaniment to fireworks displays on the U.S. Independence Day.
Let's play a game. Do you know the story of Jack and the Beanstock? Listen to the music in this video. What part of the story do you think would fit best with this music? If you're not sure, ask yourself how does each piece of music make you feel?
What is your favorite kind of music and why? Do you sing or play an instrument? What instrument are you looking forward to learning in the future?
End of Lesson Dance Party Songs
"Can't Stop the Feeling" - Justin Timberlake - 2016 - Movie clip for "Trolls"
"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.