Ri Butov/Pixabay

Age Range: Elementary

Learning Objective: Students will learn the musical term “crescendo,” listen to musical examples, and practice making crescendos in their own musical performance.

Free Download: Printable Lesson Plan: Crescendo

ENGAGE students

DISCUSS. “Remember that dynamics is the word we used to describe the volume level in music? There is a special word for when musicians need to get louder, or gradually increase their volume – that's called a crescendo (creh-SHEN-do.) Try saying that word a few times.” (Pause to let students practice.) Musicians know to get gradually louder when they see this symbol.”

Show students a picture of a crescendo.

ASK. “Do you notice it looks like something that is getting bigger? When you hear or play a crescendo, the sound gets bigger. Let’s see what a crescendo symbol looks like when it's together with music notes.”

Crescendo example

“Do you notice another symbol pointing the other direction, right after the crescendo? That's a diminuendo, or a decrescendo, which means to get gradually softer or quieter – the opposite of a crescendo.”

EXPLORE sounds

PLAY. Make crescendos in different ways:

  • Sing a familiar classroom song. Start quietly and get gradually louder. Create and use a crescendo cue card or use conducting patterns to help pace the increase in volume.  

  • Drum on your lap! Ask students to work independently and see how long they can stretch their crescendos. Invite select students to perform their "lap drum crescendo" for the class. 

  • Extend these ideas to classroom instruments or found object percussion. 

LISTEN. “Sometimes crescendos happen quickly, and the sound grows suddenly. Listen to this crescendo – it happens pretty fast! Try to match the increase in volume with movement." (30 sec.)

Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 I. Introduction - Richard Strauss
Op. 30 I. Introduction - Richard Strauss

WATCH. “Here's another piece with crescendos. You will hear diminuendos, or decrescendos, too. The slower tempo makes the changes sound more gradual. Performers must use a lot of control to make the increase in volume happen over time. While listening, see if you can open your arms up when you hear a crescendo, and close them together when you hear a diminuendo.” (2 min.)

EXTEND learning

PRACTICE. “Next time you listen to music, notice any crescendos or diminuendos. Use your new music vocabulary word to describe what you hear to someone else!”

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