Elements of Music
In this lesson, students will analyze the basic elements of music: melody, rhythm (beat), form, jazz harmony, and expressive qualities. Students will listen to “When the Saints Go Marching In” to identify elements of music and poetry to then write an original poem.
- Identify and describe the elements of music.
- Analyze elements of music from the song, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
- Identify and describe elements of poetry.
- Compare elements of music and elements of poetry.
- Write a poem or song lyrics using elements of music and elements of poetry.
National Core Arts Standards
Composition and Theory Anchor Standard 1 Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
Common Core State Standards
L.9-10.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
L.11-12.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
W.9-10.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
W.11-12.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Students should have familiarity with basic music concepts and poetry. Teachers should review the lesson resources, media, and websites prior to launching the lesson. Review the Designing a Successful Learning Environment Lesson Adaptions resource to better serve students with disabilities. Students with disabilities may benefit from Adaptive Movements in this lesson.
- Interactive board, manuscript paper, pencils
- PRESENTATION: Elements of Music
- VIDEOS: When the Saints Go Marching In | Four Beat and Two Beat
- LYRICS: When the Saints go Marching In
- Score: “When the Saints Go Marching In”
- Sheet Music by Instrument: “When the Saints Go Marching In”,
- AABA Chorus
- Play the song “When the Saints Go Marching In” on slide 3 of the presentation, Elements of Music. Tell students that Louis Armstrong famously turned the spiritual into a New Orleans Jazz tune, making it New Orleans’ official anthem. Ask students to listen and share what they notice about the song. Leave the discussion open for students to discuss elements of the song that caught their ear.
- Display slide 4 of the presentation, Elements of Music. Introduce the terms: melody, rhythm (beat), form, Jazz harmony, and expressive qualities.
- Distribute the Score: “When the Saints Go Marching In” or Sheet Music by Instrument: “When the Saints Go Marching In. Play the song “When the Saints Go Marching In” several times and discuss melody. Have students annotate the text, noting details as they listen and read along.
Melody is a succession of sounds (pitches) and silences moving through time.
- Define and discuss the term rhythm with students. Display slide 5 of the presentation, Elements of Music, to play the video, Four Beat and Two Beat. Ask, How are the sounds organized?
Rhythm refers to all durations of sounds and silences that occur in music, as well as to the organization of these sounds and silences in time.
- Give students the “When the Saints Go Marching In” AABA Chorus handout. Play the song again and review the term form.
Form is the overall structural organization of a musical composition. One of jazz’ most popular forms is AABA. There’s an A section which is repeated then a contrasting B section, and back to the A section.
- Review the definition of Jazz harmony with students. Demonstrate building a chord, harmonizing with the main melody, and making a riff over the melody. Use slides 6 and 7 from the presentation, Elements of Music, to review the structure and purpose of a chord and riff.
Jazz Harmony is the simultaneous sounding of two or more pitches supporting the melody. Jazz harmony is how chords are used in jazz music. Jazz chords are often arranged vertically in major or minor thirds. Harmony/Chords are intervals (Distance from one note to another), i.e. 1-3-5-7. Horn players would play one of the four notes and harmonize with the Melody or play a Counter Melody (A separate melody from the Main Melody). In Jazz terminology, it’s called a Riff. The piano and guitar/banjo are the three instruments that provide harmony for a jazz ensemble. A rhythmic phrase played repeatedly behind a solo.
- Define the expressive qualities used in jazz. Demonstrate dynamics, tempo, and pitch by playing a musical instrument.
Expressive Qualities are qualities (dynamics, tempo, articulating timbre) that combine with other musical elements. Three expressive qualities used in jazz are Dynamics (loud/soft), Tempo (fast/slow), Pitch (high/low); the musician can start out in a minor key and modulate to a major key.
- Engage students in a comparison discussion about each element: melody, rhythm (beat), form, Jazz harmony, and expressive qualities. Ask, What are the similarities and differences between elements? What elements do you recognize in songs you know?
- Display or share the t-chart, Comparing Elements, on slide 8 of the presentation, Elements of Music. Have students take a few minutes to analyze the chart. Ask, What is the relationship between the elements? What comparisons can you conclude?
- Discuss the Elements of Poetry terms: rhythm, rhyme scheme, tone, and figurative language. Tell students there are many more elements of poetry but these are the ones they are going to focus on for this lesson. Review the definitions of each element with students.
- Tell students they are going to analyze music and poetry elements from the songs “When the Saints Go Marching In,” a story of redemption and salvation. Distribute the Lyrics: “When the Saints Go Marching In” and play the Video: “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Have students collaborate with a peer to identify elements from the song. Ask: What elements of music and poetry can you identify? How can music or poetry be an expressive dimension of culture?
- Introduce the poetry writing assignment to students. Tell students they are going to write original poems or original lyrics to a song about New Orleans culture or their own culture using a blend of music and poetry elements.
- Provide students with individual feedback. Allow time for peer editing, revisions, and final draft completion.
- Have students present their original poems/lyrics to the class. Allow time for students to respond to student work by identifying elements of music or poetry.
- Ask students to respond to the following writing prompt: What are the elements of music? Describe each element in detail. How do the elements of music and poetry relate to one another?
Used with permission. Portions of this work are based on the National Core Arts Standards Copyright © 2015 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards/All Rights Reserved – Rights Administered by SEADAE.
© Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.
Louis Ford, Curriculum Developer and Music Artist Liaison
JoDee Scissors, Content Producer
Meredith Sharpe, Adaptations Writer