Age Range: Elementary
Learning Objective: Students will demonstrate understanding of tone color/timbre through a variety of sound exploration activities.
Free Download: Printable Lesson Plan: Timbre
WATCH. Begin by watching the Class Notes Video: 'Color in Music - Germaine Tailleferre.’
REVIEW. “Remember that word from the video: timbre (TAM-ber)? It means the unique or special sound that a thing makes. Imagine the sound of a flute. Now imagine the sound of a trumpet. They sound different, right? The unique, special sound each instrument makes is called its timbre. In fact, everything that makes sound has a timbre. Every person's voice has its own unique timbre.”
Choose one or more of the following activities to extend learning.
PLAY. For younger children, play and sing "Box of Sound" (this helps develop sound discrimination skills).
First, make a box of sound - any small, opaque box with a flap or lid on top will work. Fill four or more baggies of various items to be placed inside the box of sound. Some ideas:
Uncooked pasta, rice, beans, or popcorn kernels
Small plastic balls or superballs
Single jingle bells
Cotton balls or cotton swabs
Next, have the box prepped by emptying the contents of the first baggie into the box. Other baggies should be hidden from view but easily accessible. Explain: "This is my Box of Sound. I put different things inside, and when I shake it, it makes different sounds. You get to guess what's inside. Let's try it out."
Now, use the following chant to play Box of Sound: "Box of sound, Box of sound, Shake it around. What have we found?" Identifying sound sources is a great way to begin to be able to discriminate between different timbres.
LISTEN. Select one piece of music played by several different instruments.
Below, you will find several recordings of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major—I. Prelude, each performed on a different instrument. If students do not have a lot of experience identifying various timbres of instruments, tell them what the instrument is before listening. If they have some experience identifying various instrument timbres, make it a guessing game.
LEARN. For older students, explore the science of timbre. Two factors heavily influence the timbre of an instrument: 1) the source of the vibration and 2) the shape of the instrument. Here is a short, easy-to-understand YouTube video that gives a lot of information in a short amount of time.
Find additional ideas in the Color in Music - Germaine Tailleferre curriculum.
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