What is a SCHERZO?


Age Range: Middle School, High School

Learning Objective: Students will learn about the characteristics of a scherzo while listening to some playful examples!

Note to Teachers: As opposed to a sequential lesson plan, this lesson is a pick-and-choose model. Select repertoire and activities from the lists below based on your time and needs.



EXPLAIN. “A scherzo (SKAIR-tzo) is a short piece of music, often a part of a larger work (like a symphony.) The word ‘scherzo’ means ‘to jest’ or ‘to joke’ in Italian. So a musical scherzo sometimes has a playful quality. Scherzos tend to share some characteristics, including the following:

  • “Playful sounding, with a fast tempo.

  • “Follows an ABA form. Remember that means we hear one thing, then something different, then the first thing again. In a scherzo, that ABA pattern is sometimes repeated, meaning the pattern becomes ABABA.

  • “In 3/4 time signature, meaning that beats are organized in groups of three.

  • “Part of a larger work, like a symphony.”

“Every composer who writes a scherzo does it a little differently. Some scherzos include all the characteristics listed above, and some do not include any.”

LISTEN. Invite students to use a grid like the one below to notice the characteristics of each scherzo that you listen to together.

Katie Condon

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