What are they? They are the building bricks of music. A composer uses these components to build a piece of music in the same way as a builder uses bricks to build a house.
This section of the website contains a free introductory video, definitions, teaching ideas, and a downloadable Crossword Worksheet to use as part of your lesson plan. These are excellent resources for Primary, Elementary, Secondary and High School Music.
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Definitions of The Elements of Music:
Rhythm – different lengths of notes put together.
Pitch – the highness or lowness of a sound. Different instruments can play different pitches. A piccolo can play very high, whereas a double bass can play very low.
Harmony – Two or more pitches sounded together to create chords.
Texture – How the sounds are layered. You may have two melodies against each other. You may have one melody accompanied by chords. Sometimes you have many layers of sound creating a thick texture, sometimes you may only have one layer of sound, creating a thin texture.
Timbre – the particular tone quality of an instrument or combination of instruments.
Articulation – the way notes are played. They can be short and sharp or long and smooth.
Tempo – how fast or slow the pulse of the music is.
Structure – how the music is put together. It may be through-composed with no returning sections, or you may get a section that keeps returning.
Silence – an extremely important element, which allows for a breath, a rest, or a dramatic pause.
Suggested activities for lessons on the Elements of Music:
Download and print the attractive Crossword Worksheet or try some of these:
Get a shaker or a drum and improvise some rhythms. Compose a piece of music with two different repeating rhythms, ‘A’ and ‘B’, and perform it ABA plus an ending.
Go to a piano or keyboard and work out where the high notes, middle notes and low notes are. Decide on a theme, (eg, the sea, animals, monsters and fairies) and compose a piece using different pitches to depict it.
Experiment with singing or playing a piece of your choice really loudly and really quietly, and getting louder and softer gradually and suddenly. Perform your work to the class.
Divide the class into two, and sing ‘Three Blind Mice’. Notice that you are creating harmonies. Divide the class into three and you will be creating complete chords.
Sing ‘London’s Burning’ as a round and keep adding more people/groups to create more layers. In pairs, one of you sing a drone or plays a beat on a drum while the other one sings a melody and notice the thin texture you are creating.
Experiment by first playing the same note on as many different instruments as possible (class members could bring along instruments). Discuss the different tone qualities. Then experiment with adding different instruments together.
In groups, experiment with different articulations on different instruments and then try to imitate fireworks using a combination of different articulations.
In groups, compose a rhythmic piece of music using voice and body percussion to conjure up the journey of a train. The rhythms should stay the same but the pulse should change depending on where you are in the journey.
Structure and Silence
In groups, decide on an element of music and compose a piece using body percussion and voice. There must be a beginning, middle and end, and there must be a moment of silence in your piece. Perform your piece to the class asking them to guess which element you have chosen.