How to Teach Vocabulary in Music Class

Music vocabulary should be required of all music classes.

Music is a robust language with vocabulary words that apply to everyday life. Teaching vocabulary in music class is a great way to integrate other academic courses into the music room. With teacher's requirements becoming more and more interdisciplinary it has become more important than ever for music teachers to be able to relate music to core subject areas. By teaching vocabulary, the music teacher is able to combine academic and musical activities into one lesson plan.

Music Note Names

Create a vocabulary word for each note on the musical staff system as an example for students. These words do not have to be music-related, but it is even better if they are. For instance, the first line in treble clef is E, so come up with a word that starts with E.

Ask the class to define each word that you have created by using musical intervals to depict the desired word. You could ask the students to identify and define the word that is a musical third above E. Students will then have to calculate the note that is three pitches above E and define the word.

Instruct students to come up with their own words. Encourage them to use dictionaries and search for words that they do not already know. Make this into a project and have them hang their final works on the wall.

Musical Analysis

Play a musical composition for the students and ask the students to take note of the emotions, feelings and images that come to mind while listening to the work. Write five vocabulary words on the board that accurately describe the music. Give the students a few minutes to look up the words in the dictionary. Have them write the definitions down in their own words on a piece of paper.

After the time is up ask students to select the words that they feel accurately express the music. Once they have described the music ask them to define the terms and think of two new words to describe the music based on the notes they took while listening. Allow them a few minutes to come up with words and then call on students to answer.

Musical Terms

Provide the students with five tempo indications. These could be Grave, Adagio, Lento, Andante, and Allegro, or any other tempos of your choice. Play a composition that matches one of the tempos you have selected. Ask the students to pick the tempo that best fits the composition you played and then define the term for the tempo.


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