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Plan: Elements of Music: Exploring the composer's tools

Subject: Music, language Arts, Technology, Visual Arts, Dance

Grade level: 4-8

Estimated Time of Completion: four to five fifty minute class periods

I. Summary

Students will learn about various tools and elements of music that a composer uses to create music. Students will use the online activity Composer’s Brain as a vehicle to gain fluency in the tools used by composers. The lesson will culminate with the students writing and performing a rap to go along with the music in the arrangement section of the online activity.

II. Objectives

  • Students will improve their perceptive skills through Sound Lounge activities, and subsequent discussion.

  • Students will listen to, analyze, and describe music.

  • Students will evaluate music and music performance.

  • Students will understand relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts.

  • Students will create a rap using the Composer’s Brain Sound Lounge as a musical accompaniment for their lyrics.

  • III. Materials Needed

  • Recording device - (could be any of the following: tape deck, writable CD player, digital disk recorder, keyboard sequencer).

  • Computers with Internet access will be helpful in further study for website search.

  • IV. Procedure

    1. Introduce the lesson by leading a discussion focusing on the elements of music and the creative process in the Composer’s Brain Sound Lounge. Questions for each section of this Sound Lounge could include:

  • Instructor should pass musical scores out to students as a discussion piece. What do students understand in a score, and what is confusing?

  • Why do we need a conductors score? How is it possible for a conductor to look at all parts at once?

  • Why do people compose?

  • What other career paths involve so called composition?


    - Writers of literature
    - Software engineers
    - Landscape architects
    - Chefs
    - City planners

  • Do composers need to write their music down?

  • What other ways are composers able to document their creations?

  • What are the advantages/disadvantages to writing out a composition vs. other identified methods?

  • 2. The Staff

  • Is this scale major or minor?

  • What is the root of the scale?

  • What instrument is played when touching the notes of the scale?

  • Can you play the melody using the correct rhythms by clicking on each note in tempo?

  • 3. Melody

  • What mode is used to make this melody?

  • 4. Rhythm

  • Which is your favorite of the three rhythmic examples?

  • 5. Tempo

  • Think about an occasion that this music might be appropriate for. What would the occasion be for tempo 1? Tempo 2? Tempo 3?

  • 6. Arrangements

  • Students will start by listening to each melody, harmony, bass, and percussion part individually, followed by each combination of two selections. Then they will move to groups of three sounds. Students will finally pick their favorite arrangement of all four parts combined.

  • Students will make an arrangement by choosing the radio buttons to create a sound track to be used for a video of highlights from the 2000 Summer Olympics; the circus; a Caribbean cruise.

  • Which of the arrangements would Mozart have created?

  • 7. Students will write a rap to go along with their favorite arrangement from the Composer’s Brain Sound Lounge. They will choose a topic that tells a story about something that happened to them in the last week. The lyric should be a paragraph including four complete sentences. Students should work to use rhyme in their lyrics.

    8. Students will record their rap during the creative process on through the final modifications. The playback of the recordings will act as a means of assessment and guidance in the editing process.

    9. Students will perform their rap for classmates using the Composer’s Brain Sound Lounge.

    V. Classroom Assessment

  • Students should have completed all assignments and actively participated in all discussions.

  • Students should be able to perform their rap with syllabic placement in line with the musical pulse of the accompaniment.

  • Following the performance of the student composition, audience members will validate the authentic assessment process through verbal feedback to the performers.

  • Students will evaluate through discussion their own and each other’s success at creating a rap with lyrics that match the rhythmic structure of the music setting.

  • VI. Extensions and Adaptations

  • Arrange music to accompany your favorite dance move. Create a dance that is choreographed to the accompaniment that you created.

  • Students could listen to a number of differing arrangements of a common melody, and identify what elements of music have changed in order to vary the original work. Students could identify the arrangements that they like best and discuss what it is about the arrangement that makes it appealing to them.

  • Students could be given a number of scores to vocal ensembles, concert bands, and symphony orchestras with the names of the works hidden from student view. The students could listen to recordings of these works in no specific order, and as a game, try to guess which recording belongs to a given score. A healthy discussion could then ensue relating to orchestration, score reading, music literacy etc.

  • VII. Relevant National Standards


  • Content Standard #1: Demonstrates competence in singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music

  • Content Standard #3: Demonstrates competence in improvising melodies, variations, and accompaniments

  • Content Standard #6: Demonstrates competence in listening to, analyzing, and describing music

  • Content Standard #7: Demonstrates competence in evaluating music and music performances

  • Content Standard #8: Demonstrates competence in understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts

  • Language Arts

  • Demonstrates competence in speaking and listening as tools for learning

  • Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of the reading process


  • Technology

  • Knows the characteristics and uses of computer software programs including the Internet

  • Information about the author

    Brett Smith’s sixteen years of teaching classroom, vocal, and instrumental music, have been broad and varied including each grade level of K-12 students as well as College instruction. Teaching assignments have included suburban and rural settings, with his present duties focusing on elementary classroom music in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. Brett received his B.A. from Gustavus Adolphus College and his M.A. in Music Education from the University of Minnesota.

    In October of ’99, Brett was named the Minnesota Teacher of the Year, and went on to become one of the four finalists for the 2000 National Teacher of the Year. He is the President-elect of the Minnesota Music Educators Association, and on the American Composers Forum Advisory Committee for the development of the New Band Horizons Project, (pursuing collaborations with great composers to write music for second year band). He is a past Board Representative of the Minnesota Band Directors Association, past Board vice-president of the Mahtomedi Area Education Foundation, and the Treasurer and Negotiator for his local Education Association. While at Mahtomedi, he has developed, implemented and marketed the Master Musician Program: nine sequential interdisciplinary units incorporating music theory, music history, and the study of other cultures into the performance classroom. He performs on drum-set with the Century College Jazz

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