Music appreciation classes are a great opportunity to instill a love of music in your students. Topics covered in music appreciation include historical and cultural background to music. Students learn how to listen to music and analyze it.
A challenge for music teachers is making music appreciation classes interesting for students. No one wants to be bored by an old-fashioned sermon on music history. In this article we present three great ideas to bring your music appreciation classes to life. These music appreciation activities are sure to captivate students.
1. Recognizing Opera Music
This activity fits into music appreciation lesson plans as a clever introduction to opera music. Prepare by collecting examples of opera music. These should include operas of the baroque and classical periods. You should also add present-day rock operas.
Begin the lesson by asking students what they think defines opera music. They will probably come up with responses such as “high-pitched warbling” and "screechy singing". Make a note of responses on the board. Then play a series of examples and ask students to write down whether they think the music comes from an opera. Don’t tell the students beforehand, but make every example from an opera.
Go through the answers with the students. Discuss and refine their definition of opera music so it fits all kinds of operas. The defining feature of opera music will be that it has a storyline.
This activity will dispel the myth that all opera sounds high and screechy. It is a great way to introduce opera before analyzing a single opera in detail.
- To further explore voice timbres in popular music, use the lesson plan “Recognizing different voice timbres”.
- Check out the 150+ songs at Solfeg.io and find examples of different voice timbres. Listen to a song of choice and ask your students to describe the vocal qualities. Compare these songs to the opera excerpts they heard before!
2. Introduce World Music
Students may have never heard music outside their own cultural backgrounds. In your music appreciation lesson plans, you can include other genres of music. Prepare by assembling around three examples of music from around the world. Examples could include Indian classical music, Javanese gamelan music, and West African percussion.
Set the students a listening task.
- They must identify how many instruments or voices they can hear in the recording.
- Then they should describe the sounds, for example, can they hear a stringed instrument? Is it plucked or bowed?
- Are there female or male voices?
- How the instruments or voices are being played or sung?
- Are they playing the same melody together?
- Is there an obvious structure such as call-and-response?
Display these questions as a list on the board.
Make sure the classroom is quiet and play the musical examples one by one. The students must write down their responses while listening. After you have played all the examples, ask the students what they wrote. Discuss together until you arrive at the correct answers.
Students will learn to listen carefully and analyze music by ear. They will listen to music they have never heard before and be able to say something about it from what they can hear.
- Play an easy song with your students in class - you can divide your class to play different percussion parts, ukulele, piano and other instruments. Latin, Jazz, Pop and other genres are available here;
- Listen to a popular song by muting all instruments except one (percussions, piano, etc.). Can the students still recognize the song? Check out the muting function at Solfeg.io;
Use this lesson plan to learn about different instruments at once.
3. Song Analysis
This activity focuses on one song in detail. It teaches students skills for analyzing music. They will be able to apply these skills to other songs, including their favorite pop songs. For this activity you will need to open Solfeg.io. This is an easy-to-use online app that works in your browser.
Before the class, select a song in Solfeg.io that is a good fit for your students. You could choose something seasonal, or a song by one of your students’ favorite artists. Write some headings on the board for the different areas for analysis. This could include lyrics, structure, instrumentation, melody, and so on. The areas you choose will depend on the level of your students.
Ask the students to focus on the headings as they listen to the music. You could divide the students into small groups and give each group one heading to focus on. After they have listened to the song, give them a few minutes to brainstorm in their groups.
Discuss their responses in class:
- What patterns did they find in the lyrics?
- What melodic motifs or recurring themes did they spot?
- What instruments did they hear?
Use Solfeg.io to play back one instrument or voice at a time. Lead the students in a more detailed analysis of the song. The students will be amazed how much they can learn about a pop song. They will be able to listen to their own favorite music with fresh ears!
These three ideas for your music appreciation class are a great way to make lessons fun and inspirational. Teaching students to listen to music and appreciate it is a wonderful way to pass on your passion for music. With these activities you also provide students with valuable analytical skills.
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