Tonal and Rhythm Exercises, 2021-2022

I’m teaching tonal and rhythm exercises again, post-virtual. From March 2019 to June 2020, when kids were learning over Google Meets, I tried, really tried to teach patterns. But it was tough. Tonally, the kids couldn’t benefit from the vocal modeling of other, more advance students, and certainly, they never heard other kids sing in small groups; and rhythmically, forget it! The time-lag built into Google Meets and Zoom made rhythmic continuity in call-and-response activities a long forgotten dream.

But this year, we’re back, sort of. By that I mean, yes, students are learning patterns again, but I can’t just pick up where I left off. I’m essentially starting over: Kids need to hear many songs in major and minor tonality, and they need to move to songs in duple and triple meters, just to refresh their memories, before patterns instruction can have any meaning for them.

Keep in mind that pattern exercises (I never liked calling them “learning-sequence activities,” and dislike even more the acronym LSAs) make sense only in a whole-part-whole context. During the first “whole,” students perform a song or short piece (or perhaps they listen to a short piece or excerpt). During the middle “part,” students perform tonal or rhythm patterns (sometimes in echo, sometimes in dialogue) that share a tonality or meter with the song — even though the patterns may be different from those found in the song. And during the final “whole,” students return to the song or piece of music with, we hope, a greater depth of understanding. What follows are monthly tonal and rhythm objectives, 1st through 4th grade.

Rhythm Objectives:

Tonal Objectives:

Actually, these objectives are really for next year. This year, because students have lost so much musicianship momentum, and because many new kids have enrolled at my school, I’m starting every grade with the 1st grade objectives. The 1st and 2nd grade students do all the 1st grade exercises, completing each objective. The older kids do the exercises that focus on direct pattern instruction and solfege — the aural/oral and verbal association exercises, in other words — but for the most part, they bypass the inference stuff. It’s more important to me that they use this time to review stuff they learned years ago by rote, and less important that they engage in generalization and creativity (although I try to sneak in inference learning whenever I can).

If you take a look at the tonal and rhythm objectives, you’ll see tonal patterns, rhythm patterns, and small squares. I selected the patterns in each objective based on 1) Gordon’s pattern difficulty studies from the 1970s, and 2) 33 years of general music teaching experience.

What about the small squares? They help me keep track of student achievement over the course of each month. If you want to read more about how I keep track of each student’s achievement, then please read the blogpost called Record Keeping. Basically my techniques for record keeping haven’t changed much in the last few years. You can find the post at this link: https://thewayschildrenlearnmusic.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/record-keeping/

I’m enjoying getting back into the swing of things, pattern-wise. It comes in waves. This year, I’m looking forward to introducing solfege to kids. Some will remember; most will not. But that’s Ok. In so many ways, kids and teachers are starting from scratch.

Tempo Test – 1st Revision

Below are the audio files that make up my revised Tempo Test. In November 2021, I administered this test to 40 3rd grade students as a pretest. During the next several months, they will learn the content embedded in my Tempo Curriculum.

(To find more information about the Tempo Curriculum, please click on the following links:

https://thewayschildrenlearnmusic.wordpress.com/2021/06/26/tempo-curriculum-introduction/

In May 2022, the same 3rd grade students will take the test again. I’m confident they will show great improvement in their scores.

As in the original version of the test, there are 30 items, each with a 2-option response. The chance score is 15 correct out of 30. The theoretical mean is, therefore, 22.5; and the theoretical standard deviation is 2.5. The actual scores from this first go-round are all over the map, as you might expect. They range from 11 to (a surprising) 29. The mean is 19, somewhat higher than expected.

Here is the content of the test with the correct answers highlighted in red:

Some special features of the revised test are worth mentioning.

I rigged the order of the test items so that if students pattern-mark in any conceivable way (left, left, left…. right, right, right….. left, right, left right…. right, left, right , left…etc.), they will receive a chance score of 15 out of 30. I kept the format of the original test, 10 adagio items, 10 andante items, and 10 allegro items. I made sure the 10 items representing each tempo term were distributed so that 5 items (adagio, for example) were on the left and 5 were on the right. I also made sure the same answer (adagio, andante, or allegro) never occurred more than twice in a row. And finally I made sure the correct answers were never positioned on one side (right or left) more than twice in a row.

I deleted many items from the original test, and replaced them with items that provided greater stylistic variety. I also shaved off 5 seconds from previously used music files from the original test. By doing this, I was able to shorten the test by almost 3 minutes. It now clocks in at 13 minutes from start to finish.

1. Mussorgsky – Pictures at an Exhibition_ Promenade I
2. Benny Goodman, “Sing Sing Sing”
3. Josquin: Déploration sur la mort de Johannes Ockeghem
4. Harry Belafonte – Turn the World Around
5. Sweet Honey in the Rock – Amen
6. Stravinsky – Rite of Spring – Dance of the Earth
7. Rossini – Largo al Factotum
8. Haydn – Symphony No. 82 in C major – 2nd mvmt.
9. Bessie Smith – St. Louis Blues
10. Debussy – Nocturnes: I. Nuages. Modere – Un Peu Anime
11. Peter, Paul, and Mary – “Blowin’ In The Wind”
12 The Schuyler Sisters’ from HAMILTON The Musical
13. Lionel Hampton – “Moonglow”
14. Selena Gomez, “Summer’s Not Hot”
15. Copland – Appalachian Spring Suite
16. Handel – Israel in Egypt – He sent a thick darkness over the land
17. Sarasate – Zigeunerweisen
18. Katy Perry, “Not Like the Movies”
19. Bach – Goldberg Variation 13 (Trans: Woodwind Trio)
20. Benny Goodman – “Moonglow” – Take 1
21. Soweto Gospel Choir, “Asimbonanga, Biko”
22. Nat King Cole – “Smile”
23. Bach – Prelude Nr. 11 in F minor
24. Mendelssohn – Op. 102, No. 5, A major
25. Barber – String Quartet No. 1, Op. 11: 2nd Mvt.
26. Beyoncé – Listen
27. Herb Alpert – Zorba the Greek
28. Stravinsky – Rite of Spring – Ritual of the Ancestors
29. Aretha Franklin – Tiny Sparrow
30. Rimsky-Korsakov: Tale Of Tsar Saltan – Flight Of The Bumblebee

Bach – Sinfonia in e minor

Hi Hannah,

Below is my performance of the Bach Sinfonia in e minor. You’ll have to practice it in sections, very slowly.

I tried playing this piece slowly and methodically, giving it the seriousness you’re likely to hear in most recordings. But I just couldn’t do it. My playing is rhapsodic; my tempo is all over the map. Sometimes I pound out the elegant subject. Often, I pull the 16th-note countersubject every which way. Sometimes it’s barely audible.

Why so fast? What can I say? There’s a playfulness about this piece — an improvisational quality that simply isn’t revealed by a slow tempo. That’s my defense!

You, of course, can interpret it anyway you choose. And I know you’ll play it far more convincingly than I play it here.

What’s cool about the countersubject — apart from the fact that it’s really an extended, embroidered variation of the main subject –is that Bach renders it in inversion, and it still accompanies the subject magnificently. The stodgy opening section, with its mostly stepwise motion, sets you up for dull, academic counterpoint. But you’ll see, as you get to know the piece better, that it’s really a study in angular counterpoint. What else is striking about this piece? The unusual modulation to D major, the subtonic. The unusual harmonies and bold modulations make this one of the quirkiest pieces in the set.

Let me know what you think of my performance. We’ll talk about it at your next lesson.

Folk Dances For This School Year

Here is a spread sheet with the folk dances I plan to teach this year.

If you’re familiar with Phyllis Weikart’s fantastic video series Beginning Folk Dances, you’ll notice I follow her sequence pretty closely, at least in a broad sense. Some of her dances — and I’ve chosen 41 dances out the complete series of 134 — are easier than she claims; others (such as Troika) are far more difficult. But her basic sequence holds up quite well: students in 2nd grade begin learning fairly simple locomotor and non-locomotor movements; by 6th grade, they learn the Cherkessiya, Grapevine, Schottische, Yemenite, and some other steps.

I tend to favor the circle and line dances, but I avoid the mixers. If the dance patterns are so complex that I can’t figure them out, I avoid them. Cowardly? I suppose; but then again, if I can’t get it, my 3rd graders won’t get it either.

It takes about 4 or 5 lessons for kids to learn each dance well. My 2nd graders will learn 9 dances; students in all other grades will learn 8.

We’ll see how the sequence of dances holds up. Basically I’m starting from scratch because of Covid. So this year, 2nd graders will get the 2nd grade dances, and 3rd graders will learn the 3rd grade dances; but 4th, 5th and 6th grade students will learn the 4th grade dances only. Those dances will be plenty challenging!

About a year and a half ago, I recorded the following videos of my 4th grade students dancing Amos Moses and Armenian Miserlou. I recording them about a week or two before Covid hit. Soon, I hope, students will be dancing together like this again!

Some thoughts on a classic study…

I’m in Chicago now, typing in my hotel room. It’s a little after 7AM and I’ve been up for almost 2 hours (because my system is still on East Coast time). I’m at a GIML music education conference — a fantastic conference — where dozens of music teachers are walking around, speaking the same language.

For the last hour or so, just for fun, I’ve been reading a classic study by Edwin Gordon: A Factor Analytic Description of Tonal and Rhythm Patterns and Objective Evidence of Pattern Difficulty Level and Growth Rate (Chicago, GIA., 1978).

What a treasure — a densely packed, almost impenetrable treasure! Many years ago, I read the first of the pattern difficulty studies from 1974 (which was largely based on patterns from the Iowa Tests of Music Literacy); and I own a copy of the 2nd study, which I dip into every now and then. But it wasn’t until about a year ago that I read the factor analytic study for the first time.

Three things jump out.

First, I love what Dr. Gordon had to say on page 46:

“In fact, the same pattern heard in different categories within the same classification rarely demonstrates the same difficulty level and growth rate in the different categories, and does the same pattern (to the extent that it may be considered to be the same) heard in different classifications rarely demonstrate the same difficulty level and growth rate in the different classifications.”

What a sentence! But there it is. In a nutshell, how we audiate a pattern depends on the context in which we hear it. Or to put it another way, we audiate syntactically, an idea that changed music education forever. The game-changer of all game-changers! And it’s buried in a run-on sentence, smack in the middle of an obscure paragraph, deep in the heart of an arcane study that few have ever seen — a study that is awash with numbers, tables, charts, isolated patterns, and abbreviations. Simply amazing!

And here is my second take-away:

Subdominant patterns and multiple patterns are, as groups, easier to audiate than tonic and dominant patterns. But for musical reasons, students need tonic and dominant as a foundation.

And finally:

Tie patterns, as a group, seem to be more difficult to audiate than garden-variety elongation patterns. This is where the factor analysis comes in handy. Common sense tells us that there should be no difference between tie patterns (that, of necessity, have an elongation built into them) and other elongation patterns. Ties and elongations should be just one group. But they’re not. Why? My guess: Because tie patterns (which connect two rhythm patterns with an elongation) throw a monkey wrench into our sense of symmetry. This study cries out for a follow-up — a detailed study comparing how we audiate tie patterns vs. elongations patterns. I wonder if anyone ever thought to do this because Gordon’s rhythm theories are rooted so deeply in symmetry and pairing. If we understood tie patterns better, maybe we MLTers could refine Gordon’s rhythm theories.

I just want to jump into a time machine, and stop Ed Gordon in the halls of Temple University around 1980 and say, “You know, you really should follow up on that whole tie/elongation thing.”

Anyway, it’s about 7:45, and I’m going to head downstairs for breakfast. I am learning so much at this conference! I just know the final day of sessions will be fabulous!

Tempo Test – Original Version

In this post, I’ll tell you about the Tempo Test I wrote and administered after students finished the Tempo Unit. Here are the items on the Tempo Test:

1. Mussorgsky – Pictures at an Exhibition: Promenade I

2. Soweto Gospel Choir, “Africa”

3. Lionel Hampton – “Moonglow”

4. Selena Gomez, “Summer’s Not Hot”

5. Copland – Appalachian Spring Suite: Doppio movimento

6. Sweet Honey in the Rock – Amen

7. Benny Goodman, “Sing Sing Sing” (1937)

8. Peter, Paul, and Mary – “Blowin’ In The Wind”

9. Handel – Samson – Awake The Trumpet’s Lofty Sound!

10. Bach – Goldberg Variation 13 (Trans: Woodwind Trio)

11. Stravinsky – Rite of Spring – Ritual of the Ancestors

12. Nat King Cole – “Smile”

13. Mendelssohn – Op. 102, No. 5, A major

14. Bach – Prelude Nr. 11 in F minor

15. Barber – String Quartet No. 1, Op. 11: 2nd Mvt.

16. Handel – Israel in Egypt – He sent a thick darkness over the land

17. Sarasate – Zigeunerweisen

18. Katy Perry, “Not Like the Movies”

19. Josquin: Déploration sur la mort de Johannes Ockeghem

20. Benny Goodman – “Moonglow” – Take 1

21. Stravinsky – Rite of Spring – Dance of the Earth

22. Rossini – Largo al Factotum

23. Haydn – Symphony No. 82 in C major – 2nd mvmt.

24. Bessie Smith – St. Louis Blues

25. Wagner – Tristan und Isolde – Prelude and Liebestod

26. Selena Gomez, “Nobody”

27. Herb Alpert – Zorba the Greek

28. Soweto Gospel Choir, “Asimbonanga, Biko”

29. Debussy – Nocturnes: I. Nuages. Modere – Un Peu Anime

30. Rimsky-Korsakov: Tale Of Tsar Saltan – Flight Of The Bumblebee

Here are the answers:

Here is a link to see the format of the Tempo Test: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1s-KrXkp2uDnTXygoOI-woYg9Uec-B_uyVj11gBj1dyM/edit?usp=sharing

My first challenge in writing this test was to decide how best to distribute the items. You’ll notice there are 30 items — 10 andante, 10 allegro, and 10 adagio. I wanted to create items that had two-option responses; and I wanted students always to compare andante with something else. The test, therefore, had to consist of 10 andante items, and 20 “something else” items. But how do I arrange the items without the test being lopsided? One approach I could have taken was to vary the placement of the word andante — sometimes first, other times second. I chose not to do that. My instinct told me that such a test design would only confuse kids. I finally made the decision, come what may, to position andante always as the first option. What about pattern-marking? Isn’t it possible for a student simply to mark the 2nd option for every item, and receive a spurious score of 20 out of 30? Yes, it’s possible. As the results of the test came in, I made a point to check for that. No such pattern marking occurred.

In May 2021, I administered this test to 3rd and 4th grade students (N = 87). Because it’s a 30-item test, and each item has two options (andante or allegro/adagio), the chance score is 15, the theoretical mean is 22.5, and the theoretical standard deviation is 2.5.

The raw scores range from 15 to 30.  (Three students out of 90 scored below the chance score, but I removed these outliers from the results, leaving N = 87.) The mean is 22.7 (only a smidgen higher than the theoretical mean) and the standard deviation is 3.95, (greater than its theoretical counterpart), which means there’s too much variability around the mean. I had hoped that most students would score between 20 and 25 (a range of 1 standard deviation below and above the mean). But that’s not what happened. Many kids scored above 25 and below 20. What caused these unusual numbers?

Could it be that the 3rd graders found the test too difficult while the 4th graders found it too easy? I checked by looking at the 23 highest scoring students, and the 23 lowest scoring students. (Why 23? I’ll get to that later.) Of the highest 23 scoring students, 12 were 3rd graders and 11 were 4th graders; of the lowest 23 scoring students, 10 were 3rd graders and 13 were 4th graders. What this means, basically, is that scores on this test could not be predicted by students’ age or grade.

It does seem, though, that 2 distinct groups were taking this test. One group found it too easy; the other group found it too difficult.

Could Covid-19 have been a factor? I administered the test at the end of the ’20/’21 school year. Perhaps a sizable number of students had, by that time, simply given up on school, even subconsciously. We’ll never know.

Could fatigue have been a factor? The test clocks in at 16 minutes, which doesn’t seem too long to me. I could shorten the test by shaving off 5 seconds from each item, cutting out 2 and a half minutes from the overall administration time. Actually, it might not be a bad idea to shorten each item, but add a few items. A test with only 30 items may result in a spuriously low reliability estimate; adding items, especially if they’re highly discriminating (I’ll get to that in a minute) may solve that problem.

What’s next for this test? I’ll tweak it, administer it next year to a whole new group of students, and see if I get a bell curve. My plan is to keep (and rearrange) the good items, and chuck out the bad items. Here is a spreadsheet with an item analysis.

In columns B and C, you can see item difficulty levels (Df) and item discrimination values (Ds). Let me explain what these numbers mean, and how I got them.

First, I scored the papers electronically; then I ordered them from lowest to highest; then I separated the lowest 27 percent and the highest 27 percent, a practice recommended by Robert Ebel in his book Measuring Educational Achievement.  Twenty-seven percent of 87 is 23. In other words, I used 23 of the lowest scoring answer sheets and 23 of the highest scoring answer sheets, 46 in all for my item analysis. (Some readers may catch that I use slightly different formulas from those recommended by Gordon and Walters. They don’t follow the 27% rule. I cannot explain rationally why I use a formula different from theirs. The one I use simply feels right to me.)

To explain how I calculated item difficulty levels and item discrimination values, I’ll use Item #1, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition: Promenade, as an example.

First, I tallied all the correct answers from each answer sheet. Then I added the number of correct responses from the lowest 27% to the number of correct responses from the highest 27%. I divided that sum by the total number of answer sheets, in this case, 46.

So then. Here is what the actual numbers looked like: From among the low scoring group of 23, 16 kids got Item #1 correct; from among the high scoring group of 23, all 23 kids got Item #1 correct.  I added 16 and 23, got 39; I then divided 39 by 46, the total number of test papers under investigation.  The result was .85, meaning Item #1 is a fairly easy item.

Calculating item discrimination was a bit trickier. I subtracted the low scorers (16) from the high scorers (23), and then divided that number (7) by half the number of test papers I’m working with (23).  The result is .30, which means Item #1 is not only positively discriminating, but it also shows a clear distinction between the high and low achievers. Kids who understood the content of the overall test tended to get this item right, while students who showed poor understanding of the test content tended to find this item troublesome.

Item discrimination basically works like this: If most of the high scoring kids get an item wrong, while most of the low scoring kids get that same item right, that spells trouble: The test item is not doing one of its main jobs, which is to differentiate between high and low achievers. Fortunately, I didn’t encounter any such items.

The items range in difficulty from .41 to .88. Not bad, but it wouldn’t hurt for the test to contain at least a few very difficult items and maybe 1 or 2 really easy ones.

The item discrimination values were encouragingly high, especially when you consider that this is the first version of the test, and the first time I administered it. Of the 30 items, only 3 had an item discrimination value below .2 — Wagner, Stravinsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov. These items showed Goldilocks results: Wagner was very difficult; Rimsky-Korsakov was easy; and Stravinsky was somewhere in the middle (though leaning toward difficult). Will they stay or will they go? Certainly, I won’t remove “Flight of the Bumblebee” that featured Yo Yo Ma on cello, and Bobby McFerrin scat singing! I’ll probably cut out the Wagner because its .04 discrimination value simply does not reveal which kids learned to aurally identify tempi and which kids did not.

One surprising finding from the item analysis was that adagio items tended to be more difficult than andante or allegro items. And allegro items tended to be easier that andante or adagio items. Kids don’t seen to have trouble discriminating between moderate and fast; but they have a great deal of trouble discriminating between moderate and slow. When I revise the test, I’ll look for more items like #19: Josquin’s Déploration sur la mort de Johannes Ockeghem, which is so slow that it has almost no discernible pulse. I mention the Josquin because it’s just about the perfect item: fairly easy, but also highly discriminating (.35).

I’ll finish this post by pointing out a delightful result: the 6 items with the highest item/test correlation (all above .4) were musical excerpts by Selena Gomez, Handel, Lionel Hampton, Stravinsky, Bach, and Sweet Honey in the Rock. Stylistically, they have nothing in common. (Even the Bach and Handel excerpts are worlds apart.) But they each contribute greatly to reveal students’ abilities to discriminate among tempi. I just find that amazing.

Tempo Curriculum – Repertoire

In this post you’ll find all the audio files I use in my tempo curriculum. I arranged them by composer/performer in alphabetical order, more or less. 

While choosing repertoire, I kept these 3 criteria in mind:

1) Each musical selection must reveal a given tempo unambiguously.

2) The music selections, within each group of three, must vary only in tempo, with other stylistic features remaining the same.

3) The musical selections, taken together, must vary in performers, styles, genres, nationalities, timbres, and time periods.

Andante – Bach – Brandenburg Concerto #1, 4th mvmt

Allegro – Bach – Brandenburg Concerto #1, 3rd mvmt

Adagio – Bach – Brandenburg Concerto #1, 2nd mvmt

Andante – Banjo solo – Amazing Grace (Josh Turknett)

Allegro – Banjo solo, “Arkansas Traveler” (Art Rosenbaum)

Adagio – Banjo solo, “The dream is not ended” (Benji Flaming, performer)

Andante – Beatles, “Michelle”

Allegro – Beatles, “I’ve just seen a face”

Adagio – Beatles – Good Night

Andante – Beethoven – Piano Trio, Op. 70 #2, 2nd mvmt

Allegro – Beethoven – Piano Trio, Op. 1 #3, 4th mvmt

Adagio – Beethoven – Piano Trio, Op. 70 #1, 2nd mvmt

Andante – Bizet – Carmen, Habanera

Allegro – Bizet – Carmen- Quintette- “Nous avons en tête une affaire!”

Adagio – Bizet – Carmen – Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante

Andante – Chad Mitchell Trio, “The Whistling Gypsy”

Allegro – Chad Mitchell Trio, “Whup Jamboree”

Adagio – Chad Mitchell Trio, “Hello Susan Brown”

Andante – Handel – Jephtha Act III “Ye House of Gilead”

Allegro – Handel – Jephtha, Act I, “When His Loud Voice in Thunder Spoke”

Adagio – Handel – Jephtha, Act II “How dark, O Lord, are thy decrees!”

Andante – Haydn “Surprise” Symphony No. 94, 2nd mvmt

Allegro – Haydn – “Surprise” Symphony No. 94 In G Major, 4th mvmt

Adagio – Haydn – “Surprise” Symphony #94, 1st mvmt

Andante – Jannequin – Au Verd Bois Je Men Iiray

Allegro – Jannequin – La guerre la bataille de marignan

Adagio – Jannequin – L’amour la mort et la vie

Andante – Mahalia Jackson – I Will Move on up a little Higher

Allegro – Mahalia Jackson – Great Gettin’ Up Morning

Adagio – Mahalia Jackson – Take my hand

Andante – Miles Davis, “So What”

Allegro – Miles Davis (with Charlie Parker) – Bird Gets the Worm

Adagio – Miles Davis, “Blue in Green”

Andante – Ottmar Liebert, “Surrender 2 Love”

Allegro – Ottmar Liebert, “Havana Club”

Adagio – Ottmar Liebert – “La Memoria / Shadows”

Andante – Schumann – Kinderszenen, Of foreign lands and peoples

Allegro – Schumann – Kinderszenen, Catch me if you can

Adagio – Schumann – Kinderszenen – The Poet Speaks

Andante – Tchaikovsky – Nutcracker Suite, Danse des Mirlitons

Allegro – Tchaikovsky- Nutcracker Suite – Danse Russe (Trepak)

Adagio – Tchaikovsky – Nutcracker Suite, Danse Arabe

Andante – Telemann – Sonate #6 in E major for 2 flutes, 1st mvmt

Allegro – Telemann – Sonata #4 in b minor for 2 flutes, 2nd mvmt

Adagio – Telemann – Sonata #4 in b minor for 2 flutes, 1st mvmt

Tempo Curriculum – Lessons, Objectives, and Procedures

Lesson 1: Walking Speed

Objective: Students will be able to walk in tempo, matching the moderate tempo of various pieces of music.

Procedures:

The teacher plays “I will move on up a little higher” while walking around the room, matching the speed of the music. The teacher plays the excerpt again, and this time students and the teacher walk to the music.

Andante – Mahalia Jackson, “I will move on up a little higher”

The teacher plays the Brandenburg Concerto #1, 4th mvmt by Bach.  The teacher and the students move around the room in tempo to the music.

Andante – Bach – Brandenburg Concerto #1, 4th mvmt

The teacher plays Bizet’s Habanera. As students listen, they walk in tempo without the teacher.

Andante – Bizet – Carmen, Habanera

Lesson 2: Walking Speed

Objective: Students will be able to walk in tempo, matching the moderate tempo of various pieces of music.

Procedures:

The teacher plays a banjo solo “Amazing Grace” while walking around the room, matching the speed of the music. The teacher plays the excerpt again, and this time students and the teacher walk to the music.

Andante – Banjo solo – Amazing Grace (Josh Turknett)

The teacher plays Schumann – Kinderszenen, Of foreign lands and peoples.  The teacher and the students move around the room in tempo to the music.

Andante – Schumann – Kinderszenen, Of foreign lands and peoples

The teacher plays the Beatles song “Michelle.” As students listen, they walk in tempo without the teacher.

Andante – Beatles, “Michelle”

Lesson 3: Walking Speed

Objective: Students will be able to walk in tempo, matching the moderate tempo of various pieces of music.

Procedures:

The teacher plays the Chad Mitchell Trio song, “The Whistling Gypsy” while walking around the room, matching the speed of the music. The teacher plays the excerpt again, and this time students and the teacher walk to the music.

Andante – Chad Mitchell Trio, “The Whistling Gypsy”

The teacher plays “Au Verd Bois Je Men Iiray” by Jannequin.  The teacher and the students move around the room in tempo to the music.

Andante – Jannequin – Au Verd Bois Je Men Iiray

The teacher plays Beethoven’s Piano Trio, Op. 70 #2, 2nd mvmt.  As students listen, they walk in tempo without the teacher.

Andante – Beethoven – Piano Trio, Op. 70 #2, 2nd mvmt

Lesson 4: Walking speed vs. Slower-than-walking speed

Objective: Students will be able to walk in tempo, demonstrating the difference between slow and moderate tempi in various pieces of music.

Procedures:

The teacher and students walk in tempo to “So What.”

Andante – Miles Davis, “So What”

The students sit while the teaching moves in slow motion to “Blue in Green.” The teacher plays the excerpt again. This time, the students move in slow motion without the teacher.

Adagio – Miles Davis, “Blue in Green”

The teacher plays two Tchaikovsky examples without a pause. Student move to each example, first in walking speed, and then in slow motion.

Andante – Tchaikovsky – Nutcracker Suite, Danse des Mirlitons

Adagio – Tchaikovsky – Nutcracker Suite, Danse Arabe

Lesson 5: Walking speed vs. Slower-than-walking speed

Objective: Students will be able to walk in tempo, demonstrating the difference between slow and moderate tempi in various pieces of music.

Procedures:

The teacher and students walk in tempo to the chorus “Ye House of Gilead” from Act III of Handel’s Jephtha.

Andante – Handel – Jephtha, Act III, “Ye House of Gilead”

The students sit while the teaching moves in slow motion to the chorus “How Dark O Lord are Thy Decrees.” The teacher plays the excerpt again. This time, the students move in slow motion without the teacher.

Adagio – Handel – Jephtha, Act II, “How Dark O Lord Are Thy Decrees”

The teacher plays two Haydn examples without a pause. Student move to each example, first in walking speed, and then in slow motion.

Andante – Haydn – “Surprise” Symphony #94, 2nd mvmt

Adagio – Haydn – “Surprise” Symphony #94, 1st mvmt

Lesson 6: Walking speed vs. Faster-than-walking speed

Objective: Students will be able to walk in tempo, demonstrating the difference between fast and moderate tempi in various pieces of music.

Procedures:

The teacher and students walk in tempo to “Of foreign Land and Peoples.”

Andante – Schumann – Kinderszenen, Of foreign lands and peoples

The teacher instructs the students to move in place to the next excerpt. The teacher plays “Catch me if you can.”

Allegro – Schumann – Kinderszenen, Catch me if you can

The teacher plays two Beatles examples without a pause. Student move to each example, first walking speed, and then in fast motion.

Andante – Beatles, “Michelle”

Allegro – Beatles, “I’ve just seen a face”

Lesson 7: Walking speed vs. Faster-than-walking speed

Objective: Students will be able to walk in tempo, demonstrating the difference between fast and moderate tempi in various pieces of music.

Procedures:

The teacher and students walk in tempo to “Surrender 2 Love” performed by Ottmar Leibert.

Andante – Ottmar Liebert, “Surrender 2 Love”

The teacher instructs the students to move in place to the next excerpt. The teacher plays “Havana Club.”

Allegro – Ottmar Liebert, “Havana Club”

The teacher plays two pieces by Telemann without a pause. Student move to each example, first walking speed, and then in fast motion.

Andante – Telemann – Sonata #6 in E major for 2 flutes, 1st mvmt

Allegro – Telemann – Sonata #4 in b minor for 2 flutes, 2nd mvmt

Lesson 8: Tempo

Objective: Students will be able to recognize, compare, and describe fast, slow, and moderate tempi in various pieces of music.

Procedures:

The teacher plays several excerpts of different tempi for students; after each excerpt, students must respond by reading aloud one of the following sentences.  The sentences are shown to students, either in a handout, or on a whiteboard. Students are called on individually to read their answer.  The excerpts may be played more than once.

The tempo of the music is walking speed.

The tempo of the music is faster than walking speed.

The tempo of the music is slower than walking speed.

Andante – Bach – Brandenburg Concerto #1, 4th mvmt

Allegro – Bach – Brandenburg Concerto #1, 3rd mvmt

Adagio – Bach – Brandenburg Concerto #1, 2nd mvmt

Andante – Banjo solo – Amazing Grace (Josh Turknett)

Adagio – Banjo solo, “The dream is not ended” (Benji Flaming, performer)

Allegro – Banjo solo, “Arkansas Traveler” (Art Rosenbaum)

Lesson 9: Tempo

Objective: Students will be able to recognize, compare, and describe fast, slow, and moderate tempi in various pieces of music.

Procedures:

The teacher plays several excerpts of different tempi for students; after each excerpt, students must respond by reading aloud one of the following sentences.  The sentences are shown to students, either in a handout, or on a whiteboard. Students are called on individually to read their answer.  The excerpts may be played more than once.

The tempo of the music is walking speed.

The tempo of the music is faster than walking speed.

The tempo of the music is slower than walking speed.

Andante – Jannequin – Au Verd Bois Je Men Iiray

Adagio – Jannequin – L’amour la mort et la vie

Allegro – Jannequin – La guerre la bataille de marignan

Andante – Beethoven – Piano Trio, Op. 70 #2, 2nd mvmt

Allegro – Beethoven – Piano Trio, Op. 1 #3, 4th mvmt

Adagio – Beethoven – Piano Trio, Op. 70 #1, 2nd mvmt

Lesson 10: Tempo and Andante

Objective: Students will be able to recognize, compare, and describe slow and moderate tempi in various pieces of music using the terms tempo and andante.

Procedures:

The teacher plays several excerpts of different tempi for students; after each excerpt, students must respond by reading aloud one of the following sentences.  The sentences are shown to students, either in a handout, or on a whiteboard. Students are called on individually to read their answer.  The excerpts may be played more than once.

The tempo of the music is andante.

The tempo of the music is faster than andante.

The tempo of the music is slower than andante.

Andante – Chad Mitchell Trio, “The Whistling Gypsy”

Allegro – Chad Mitchell Trio, “Whup Jamboree”

Adagio – Chad Mitchell Trio, “Hello Susan Brown”

Andante – Bizet – Carmen, Habanera

Adagio – Bizet – Carmen – Je dis que rien ne m’épouvant

Allegro – Bizet – Carmen- Quintette- “Nous avons en tête une affaire!”

Lesson 11: Tempo and Andante

Objective: Students will be able to recognize, compare, and describe slow and moderate tempi in various pieces of music using the terms tempo and andante.

Procedures:

The teacher plays several excerpts of different tempi for students; after each excerpt, students must respond by reading aloud one of the following sentences.  The sentences are shown to students, either in a handout, or on a whiteboard. Students are called on individually to read their answer.  The excerpts may be played more than once.

The tempo of the music is andante.

The tempo of the music is faster than andante.

The tempo of the music is slower than andante.

Andante – Mahalia Jackson – I Will Move on up a little Higher

Adagio – Mahalia Jackson – Take my hand

Allegro – Mahalia Jackson – Great Gettin’ Up Morning

Andante – Handel – Jephtha Act III “Ye House of Gilead”

Allegro – Handel – Jephtha, Act I, “When His Loud Voice in Thunder Spoke”

Adagio – Handel – Jephtha, Act II “How dark, O Lord, are thy decrees!”

Lesson 12: Andante vs. Allegro

Objective: Students will be able to recognize, compare, and describe fast and moderate tempi in various pieces of music using the terms andante and allegro.

Procedures:

The teacher plays several excerpts of different tempi for students; after each excerpt, students must respond by reading aloud one of the following sentences.  The sentences are shown to students, either in a handout, or on a whiteboard. Students are called on individually to read their answer.  The excerpts may be played more than once.

The tempo of the music is andante.

The tempo of the music is allegro.

Allegro – Chad Mitchell Trio – Whup Jamboree

Andante – Chad Mitchell Trio – The Whistling Gypsy

Andante – Haydn “Surprise” Symphony No. 94, 2nd mvmt

Allegro – Haydn – “Surprise” Symphony No. 94 In G Major, 4th mvmt

Allegro – Telemann – Sonata #4 in b minor for 2 flutes, 2nd mvmt

Andante – Telemann – Sonata #6 in E major for 2 Flutes, 1st mvmt

Lesson 13: Andante vs. Allegro

Objective: Students will be able to recognize, compare, and describe fast and moderate tempi in various pieces of music using the terms andante and allegro.

Procedures:

The teacher plays several excerpts of different tempi for students; after each excerpt, students must respond by reading aloud one of the following sentences.  The sentences are shown to students, either in a handout, or on a whiteboard. Students are called on individually to read their answer.  The excerpts may be played more than once.

The tempo of the music is andante.

The tempo of the music is allegro.

Andante – Mahalia Jackson – I Will Move on up a little Higher

Allegro – Mahalia Jackson – Great Gettin’ Up Morning

Andante – Miles Davis – So What

Allegro – Miles Davis (with Charlie Parker) – Bird Gets the Worm

Allegro – Tchaikovsky- Nutcracker Suite – Danse Russe (Trepak)

Andante – Tchaikovsky- Nutcracker Suite – Danse Des Mirlitons

Lesson 14: Andante vs. Allegro

Objective: Students will be able to recognize, compare, and describe fast and moderate tempi in various pieces of music using the terms andante and allegro.

Procedures:

The teacher plays several excerpts of different tempi for students; after each excerpt, students must respond by reading aloud one of the following sentences.  The sentences are shown to students, either in a handout, or on a whiteboard. Students are called on individually to read their answer.  The excerpts may be played more than once.

The tempo of the music is andante.

The tempo of the music is allegro.

Allegro – Beethoven – Piano Trio Op. 1 #3, 4th mvmt

Andante – Beethoven – Piano Trio Op. 70 #2, 2nd mvmt

Andante – Jannequin – Au verd bois je m’en iray

Allegro – Janequin – La Guerre – La Bataille de Marignan

Allegro – Beatles – I’ve just seen a face

Andante – Beatles – Michelle

Lesson 15: Andante vs. Adagio

Objective: Students will be able to recognize, compare, and describe slow and moderate tempi in various pieces of music using the terms andante and adagio.

Procedures:

The teacher plays several excerpts of different tempi for students; after each excerpt, students must respond by reading aloud one of the following sentences.  The sentences are shown to students, either in a handout, or on a whiteboard. Students are called on individually to read their answer.  The excerpts may be played more than once.

The tempo of the music is andante.

The tempo of the music is adagio.

Adagio – Banjo Solo – The Dream Is Not Ended (Benji Flaming)

Andante – Banjo solo – Amazing Grace (Josh Turknett))

Andante – Ottmar Liebert – “Surrender 2 Love”

Adagio – Ottmar Liebert – “La Memoria / Shadows”

Adagio – Telemann – Sonata #4 in b minor for 2 flutes, 1st mvmt

Andante – Telemann – Sonata #6 in E major for 2 Flutes, 1st mvmt

Lesson 16: Andante vs. Adagio

Objective: Students will be able to recognize, compare, and describe slow and moderate tempi in various pieces of music using the terms andante and adagio.

Procedures:

The teacher plays several excerpts of different tempi for students; after each excerpt, students must respond by reading aloud one of the following sentences.  The sentences are shown to students, either in a handout, or on a whiteboard. Students are called on individually to read their answer.  The excerpts may be played more than once.

The tempo of the music is andante.

The tempo of the music is adagio.

Adagio – Beatles – Good Night

Andante – Beatles – Michelle

Andante – Mahalia Jackson – I Will Move on up a little Higher

Adagio – Mahalia Jackson – Take my hand

Adagio – Schumann – Kinderszenen – The Poet Speaks

Andante – Schumann – Kinderszenen – Of Foreign Lands and Peoples

Lesson 17: Andante vs. Adagio

Objective: Students will be able to recognize, compare, and describe slow and moderate tempi in various pieces of music using the terms andante and adagio.

Procedures:

The teacher plays several excerpts of different tempi for students; after each excerpt, students must respond by reading aloud one of the following sentences.  The sentences are shown to students, either in a handout, or on a whiteboard. Students are called on individually to read their answer.  The excerpts may be played more than once.

The tempo of the music is andante.

The tempo of the music is adagio.

Adagio – Beethoven – Piano Trio Op. 70 #1, 2nd mvmt

Andante – Beethoven – Piano Trio Op. 70 #2, 2nd mvmt

Andante – Miles Davis – So What

Adagio – Miles Davis – Blue in Green

Adagio – Handel – Jephtha, Act II “How dark, O Lord, are thy decrees!”

Andante – Handel – Jephtha Act III “Ye House of Gilead”

Lesson 18: Andante vs. Allegro vs. Adagio

Objective: Students will be able to recognize, compare, and describe moderate, fast, and slow tempi in various pieces of music using the terms andanteallegro, and adagio.

Procedures:

The teacher plays several excerpts of different tempi for students; after each excerpt, students must respond by reading aloud one of the following sentences.  The sentences are shown to students, either in a handout, or on a whiteboard. Students are called on individually to read their answer.  The excerpts may be played more than once.

The tempo of the music is andante.

The tempo of the music is allegro.

The tempo of the music is adagio.

Adagio – Jannequin – L’amour, la mort et la vie

Allegro – Haydn – “Surprise” Symphony No. 94 In G Major, 4th mvmt

Andante – Bizet – Carmen- Habanera

Adagio – Bach – Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, 2nd mvmt

Allegro – Banjo Solo – Arkansas Traveler (Art Rosenbaum)

Adagio – Tchaikovsky- Nutcracker Suite – Danse Arabe

Lesson 19: Andante vs. Allegro vs. Adagio

Objective: Students will be able to recognize, compare, and describe slow and moderate tempi in various pieces of music using the terms andante, allegro, and adagio.

Procedures:

The teacher plays several excerpts of different tempi for students; after each excerpt, students must respond by reading aloud one of the following sentences.  The sentences are shown to students, either in a handout, or on a whiteboard. Students are called on individually to read their answer.  The excerpts may be played more than once.

The tempo of the music is andante.

The tempo of the music is allegro.

The tempo of the music is adagio.

Allegro – Ottmar Liebert – “Havana Club”

Adagio – Chad Mitchell Trio – Hello, Susan Brown

Andante – Haydn “Surprise” Symphony No. 94, 2nd mvmt

Allegro – Telemann – Sonata #4 in b minor for 2 flutes, 2nd mvmt

Adagio – Bizet – Carmen – Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante

Allegro – Handel – Jephtha, Act I, “When His Loud Voice in Thunder Spoke”

Lesson 20: Andante vs. Allegro vs. Adagio

Objective: Students will be able to recognize, compare, and describe moderate, fast, and slow tempi in various pieces of music using the terms andanteallegro, and adagio.

Procedures:

The teacher plays several excerpts of different tempi for students; after each excerpt, students must respond by reading aloud one of the following sentences.  The sentences are shown to students, either in a handout, or on a whiteboard. Students are called on individually to read their answer.  The excerpts may be played more than once.

The tempo of the music is andante.

The tempo of the music is allegro.

The tempo of the music is adagio.

Allegro – Tchaikovsky- Nutcracker Suite – Danse Russe (Trepak)

Andante – Ottmar Liebert – “Surrender 2 Love”

Adagio – Miles Davis – Blue in Green

Allegro – Bach – Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, 3rd mvmt

Adagio – Schumann – Kinderszenen – The Poet Speaks

Allegro – Bizet – Carmen- Quintette- “Nous avons en tête une affaire!”

Lesson 21: Andante vs. Allegro vs. Adagio

Objective: Students will be able to recognize, compare, and describe moderate, fast, and slow tempi in various pieces of music using the terms andanteallegro, and adagio.

Procedures:

The teacher plays several excerpts of different tempi for students; after each excerpt, students must respond by reading aloud one of the following sentences.  The sentences are shown to students, either in a handout, or on a whiteboard. Students are called on individually to read their answer.  The excerpts may be played more than once.

The tempo of the music is andante.

The tempo of the music is allegro.

The tempo of the music is adagio.

Adagio – Haydn – “Surprise” Symphony No. 94 In G Major, 1st mvmt

Allegro – Schumann: Kinderszenen – Catch Me If You Can

Adagio – Ottmar Liebert – “La Memoria / Shadows”

Andante – Bach – Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, 4th mvmt

Allegro – Miles Davis (with Charlie Parker) – “Bird Gets the Worm”

Adagio – Telemann – Sonata #4 in b minor for 2 flutes, 1st mvmt

Andante – Tchaikovsky – Nutcracker Suite, Danse des Mirlitons

Tempo Curriculum: Introduction

You may be wondering: Why should we teach tempo?  Or rather, why should we teach tempo apart from musicianship?  Isn’t tempo already covered in the rhythm audiation exercises?  Yes, we should teach consistent tempo to students during rehearsals, classroom activities, and rhythm audiation exercises.  But we should also teach tempo as part of musical expression and style.  My students learn about tempo in 3rd grade.  (Second grade is the “dynamic” year; third grade is the “tempo” year.)

The tempo curriculum consists of 21 lessons. Each lesson takes up about 8 to 10 minutes of a single class period. The entire curriculum takes about 5 months for students to complete.

Here is a broad overview of the lessons:

Lessons 1 , 2 , and 3: Walking Speed

Objective: Students will be able to walk in tempo, matching the moderate tempo of various pieces of music.

Lessons 4 and 5: Walking speed vs. Slower-than-walking speed

Objective: Students will be able to walk in tempo, demonstrating the difference between slow and moderate tempi in various pieces of music.

Lessons 6 and 7: Walking speed vs. Faster-than-walking speed

Objective: Students will be able to walk in tempo, demonstrating the difference between fast and moderate tempi in various pieces of music.

Lessons 8 and 9: Tempo

Objective: Students will be able to recognize, compare, and describe fast, slow, and moderate tempi in various pieces of music.

Lessons 10 and 11: Tempo and Andante

Objective: Students will be able to recognize, compare, and describe slow and moderate tempi in various pieces of music using the terms tempo and andante.

Lessons 12, 13, and 14: Andante vs. Allegro

Objective: Students will be able to recognize, compare, and describe moderate and fast tempi in various pieces of music using the terms tempo, andante, and allegro.

Lessons 15, 16, and 17: Andante vs. Adagio

Objective: Students will be able to recognize, compare, and describe slow and moderate tempi in various pieces of music using the terms tempoandante, and adagio.

Lessons 18, 19, 20, and 21: Andante vs. Allegro vs. Adagio

Objective: Students will be able to recognize, compare, and describe moderate, fast, and slow tempi in various pieces of music using the terms tempoandanteallegro, and adagio.

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I’ve grouped the lessons into 8 distinct phases. Let me show you in detail how I teach students at each phase. I’ll take you through lessons 1, 4, 6, 8, 10 12, 15, and 18 — the lessons that begin each new phase of the curriculum.

Lesson 1: Walking Speed

I begin Lesson 1 by playing an excerpt of Mahalia Jackson singing “I will move on up a little higher.”

As students listen to the excerpt, I show them, by walking around the room, that the speed of the music is walking speed.  Then I play the excerpt again, but this time, my students stand up and walk around the room with me.  (Some students will walk with a consistent tempo; some will not.)  As they walk, I point out to them that the music does not make them walk fast, but neither does it make them move in slow motion. 

While they’re on their feet, they hear Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #1, 4th mvmt. And we walk to it together.

This time, I don’t model walking speed for them first; we simply walk around the room at the same time.  (Because this piece is in triple meter, many students will walk in a kind of uneven shuffle, but they won’t run or move in slow motion.)

To end the tempo lesson, I play one more excerpt: Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen.

I instruct the students to walk to the music as they listen, but I offer them no help; they must move to the music on their own.

End of lesson.  Or rather, it’s the end of the tempo portion of the period.  After that, we begin another activity—a song, a tonal exercise, a dance.

This lesson may seem simple for 3rd graders, but it’s really not. Many students will walk noticeably faster than the tempo of the music.  For this reason, I devote 3 lessons to this phase, during which students walk—simply walk—while listening to music. And I often have to remind them to slow down.

I teach lessons 2 and 3 in the same manner.

Lesson 4: Walking speed vs. Slower-than-walking speed

In this lesson, students compare walking speed with slower-than-walking speed. I tell my students, “Last time, we walked to the music.  We could do that because the speed of the music was walking speed.  But sometimes the speed of music is slower than walking speed.  Just to review what we did last time, let’s walk to some music together.”  I ask students to stand up, and when I play an excerpt of “So What” performed by Miles Davis, I ask students to walk to the music with me.

Then I say to students, “Now go back to your seats.  I’m going to play another piece of music and I’m going to move to it.  I want you to tell me if I’m moving the same way we did before, or if I’m moving differently.”  As soon as the students are in their seats, they hear “Blue in Green” performed by Miles Davis.  (Notice that the examples, back to back, vary only in their tempi. Apart from that, they match stylistically.)

As students listen to “Blue in Green,” they notice I’m moving in slow motion.  (This always gets a laugh.  I enjoy overacting by pretending I’m about to fall over, or that I’m floating in space.)  “Now it’s your turn,” I tell them.  “As you listen to the music, move your arms and legs slowly.”

When that excerpt is finished, I say to student, “Now you’re going to hear two more pieces of music.  The first will be walking speed, and the second will be slower-than-walking speed.  As you listen to the music, I’d like all of you to get up and move around the room.  Your job is to show me that you can hear the difference between walking speed and slower-than-walking speed.”

Then I play two excerpts, one after the other, without a pause: The “Danse Des Mirlitons” from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite followed by the “Danse Arabe.”

I teach lesson 5 in the same manner.

Lesson 6: Walking speed vs. Faster-than-walking speed

I begin lesson 6 by telling students, “Today you’re going to hear two pieces of music.  The first will be walking speed, and the second will be faster-than-walking speed.”  At this point, I play “Of Foreign Lands and Peoples” from Schumann’s Kinderszenen. The students and I walk to the music.

When the music is finished, I tell students to return to their seats. Then I say, “Now you’ll hear music that is faster than walking speed. While you listen, I’d like you to move in place. If you try to walk, you won’t be able to keep up with the music.” Then I’ll play “Catch Me If You Can” from Schumann’s Kinderszenen.

This usually gets a big laugh when students realize, just to keep up with the music, they have to break into a run.

When that excerpt is finished, I say to student, “Now you’re going to hear two more pieces of music.  The first will be walking speed, and the second will be faster-than-walking speed. When you hear the first piece of music, I’d like all of you to move around the room. When you hear the second piece, I’d like you to move in place quickly.” Then I play 2 Beatles songs: “Michele” and “I’ve Just Seen A Face.”

I teach lesson 7 in the same manner.

Lesson 8: Tempo

Up till now, students have moved to music, but they have not described their movements. It’s time to introduce vocabulary words. (My approach is very much in keeping with Gordon’s MLT:  do it first; name it second.)

I tell students, “From now on, when we talk about the speed of the music we hear, we’re going to use the word tempo. The word tempo is an Italian word, and it means the speed a piece of music is played or sung.” I show them the word tempo on my whiteboard.

During this lesson, students are not to move their bodies (at least, not very much), and they must stay in their seats.  I then play several excerpts, each with different tempi. The first 3 excerpts are from Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #1:

Andante – Bach – Brandenburg Concerto #1, 4th mvmt

Allegro – Bach – Brandenburg Concerto #1, 3rd mvmt

Adagio – Bach – Brandenburg Concerto #1, 2nd mvmt

The next 3 excerpts feature banjo music:

Andante – Banjo solo – Amazing Grace (Josh Turknett)

Adagio – Banjo solo, “The dream is not ended” (Benji Flaming, performer)

Allegro – Banjo solo, “Arkansas Traveler” (Art Rosenbaum)

After each excerpt, students respond by reading aloud one of the following sentences.  (Each sentence is shown in large letters on my whiteboard.)

The tempo of the music is walking speed.

The tempo of the music is faster than walking speed.

The tempo of the music is slower than walking speed.

Three things about this lesson are important.  First, students hear andante excerpts they’ve heard before. Second, the andante excerpts are played first. And finally, students hear the music in groups (for instance, andante Bach, allegro Bach, and adagio Bach), one after another.

I learned, over time, that if students are to compare changes in tempo accurately, they must hear stylistic sameness. In later lessons, I mix styles to give students a listening challenge; in this early lesson, I vary tempi but keep other stylistic elements constant.

I teach lesson 9 in the same manner.

Lesson 10: Tempo and Andante

In lesson 10, I introduce the word andante. (For many years, I introduced the words tempo and andante together, but I found that some students were confused because they needed to learn one new word at a time. These days, I introduce the word tempo in lesson 8, and I teach the word andante in lesson 10.)  I tell students, “When you hear music that makes you want to walk, you will say that the tempo of the music is andante.”  I then play several excerpts, each with different tempi. The first 3 excerpts are performed by the folk music group The Chad Mitchell Trio:

The next 3 excerpts are from Bizet’s Carmen:

After each excerpt, students respond by reading aloud one of the following sentences.  (Each sentence is shown in large letters on my whiteboard.)

The tempo of the music is andante.

The tempo of the music is faster than andante.

The tempo of the music is slower than andante.

When it comes to complete sentences, I’m a stickler: students cannot simply grunt a one-word answer.  Even if “andante” is correct, students must express their thought in a complete sentence.  Also, students must pronounce the word correctly, with the stress on the second syllable.  With enough repetition, most students get it.

I teach lesson 11 in the same manner.

Lesson 12: Andante vs. Allegro

In lesson 12, I introduce the word allegro.  I define it for students, simply, as “faster than walking speed.”  Would the terms vivacepresto, or prestissimo be more accurate?  In some cases, certainly.  But my goal is not to introduce nuance.  I want students merely to grasp that music can be slow, moderate, or fast; and I want them to use andante as their point of reference. In this lesson, students hear folk songs performed by the Chad Mitchell Trio, and works by Haydn and Telemann.

After each excerpt, they must read one of these two sentences written on the whiteboard.

The tempo of the music is andante.

The tempo of the music is allegro.

Three things about this lesson are worth mentioning. Students continue to hear excerpts within the same stylistic group; they hear familiar and unfamiliar excerpts; but starting with this lesson, students do not always hear the andante example first. Because students have only two options (andante or allegro) to choose from, I vary the order. 

I teach lessons 13 and 14 in the same manner.

Lesson 15: Andante vs. Adagio

Lesson 15 is almost identical to lessons 12-14, but now I introduce the word adagio—a somewhat arbitrary term, considering I could also have used the terms lento or largo.  But again, such nuance is irrelevant.  The most difficult aspect of this phase for students is pronouncing the word adagio correctly. In this lesson, students hear banjo solos, the flamenco guitar music of Ottmar Liebert, and works by Telemann.

After each example, students must choose to read one of the following sentences:

The tempo of the music is andante.

The tempo of the music is adagio.

Students continue to hear excerpts within the same stylistic group; they hear familiar and unfamiliar excerpts; but starting with this lesson, students do not always hear the andante example first. Because students have only two options (andante or adagio) to choose from, I vary the order. 

I teach lessons 16 and 17 in the same manner.

Lesson 18: Andante vs. Allegro vs. Adagio

In lessons 18-21, I rarely play andante examples first.  Also, I’m no longer compelled to play examples within the same stylistic grouping back to back (although that does still happen on occasion). But I do give students a break in one respect:  The excerpts I play are familiar to them. In fact, students have heard them at least twice. In lesson 18, students will hear a banjo solo along with music by Jannequin, Haydn, Bizet, Bach, and Tchaikovsky.

After each example, students must choose one of the following sentences to read:

The tempo of the music is andante.

The tempo of the music is allegro.

The tempo of the music is adagio.

AssessmentAndante vs. Allegro vs. Adagio (unfamiliar music)

And now, finally, the gloves are off. Students must identify the tempi of excerpts they have never heard before.  MLT folks call this generalization-verbal, but I think of it as the trial by fire: can students transfer their knowledge to make sense of new material? Have they truly learned what I think they’ve learned?

After hearing each example, students must identify the correct tempo: andante, allegro, or adagio.

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CONCLUSION

I’ll finish this post by recapping three important points.

First, kids learn best if you isolate, as much as you can, the musical element you want them to focus on.  I tried to do that. In this case, I varied tempi, but kept other elements (timbre, style, etc.) constant. Sometimes I was lucky enough to find excerpts of varied tempi within the same piece!

Second, the selections, taken together, show a wide variety of styles, genres, timbres, time periods, and nationalities. It’s important to me that students have a rich aesthetic experience.

These two points may seem contradictory, but really they’re not. Sometimes what’s best for students is stylistic sameness with one thing varied; other times, what’s best for them is variety across the board. In short, if you zoom in, you’ll see Handel, Handel, and Handel; if you zoom out, you’ll find Handel, Miles Davis, and the Beatles.

And here is my third and final point. In this unit, students never hear one isolated example. Instead, they hear two (sometimes three) examples back to back.  The reason is that kids won’t absorb concepts if you tell them, “The music you’re hearing is fast.  We’re going to call fast music allegro from now on because I say so.  End of story.”  Kids learn by making comparisons—duple compared with triple, major compared with minor, forte compared with piano, allegro compared with andante.

I have posted 3 blogposts where you can study each lesson of the tempo curriculum, hear each musical excerpt, and make use of the final assessment. See you there.

“On Yonder Hill”

Here’s a recording of my wonderful 6th, 7th and 8th graders singing “On Yonder Hill.” The words are based on a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Mary Donnelly and George L. O. Strid wrote the music and added words.

In a normal school year, this piece would be ideal for 4th and 5th graders just learning to sing in parts. In fact, if you’re looking for simple, attractive 2-part pieces and great partner songs for your elementary choir, you can’t do better than the pieces by Donnelly and Strid.

“On Yonder Hill” performed by students in 6th through 8th grade from the Stephen Decatur School in Philadelphia.