What is a NOCTURNE?


Age Range: Elementary, Middle School

Learning Objective: Students will learn some defining features of the nocturne and listen to musical examples.

ENGAGE students

SAY. “Today we will listen to some music inspired by nighttime. There is a very special kind of musical piece inspired by nighttime called a "nocturne." Practice saying that word: nocturne.

“Many different composers have written nocturnes. Some nocturnes are written for orchestra, voice, or several different instruments, but most often, they are for solo piano. Today we will listen to a few and notice common features.”

DEFINE. “Every nocturne is unique, just like every musical composition. But they often have three defining characteristics:

  • A legato (or smooth) melody. Sometimes the melody in a nocturne is called "cantabile" (cahn-TAH-bee-lay). Cantabile means "singing" in Italian. Even though the melody in a nocturne is played on piano, it often sounds like singing.

  • Arpeggiated chords in the lower register. This means the notes underneath the melody smoothly roll up and down.

  • A calm, peaceful feeling.”

EXPLORE sounds

LISTEN. Have students use the listening chart to see if they hear the three main characteristics of a nocturne. Some nocturnes might only have one or two of these characteristics. Videos for each piece are below the chart.

Music grid
Katie Condon/MPR

EXTEND learning

Choose one or more of the following pieces to extend learning.

LISTEN. Here are some more examples of nocturnes!

Related Lesson Plans

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