What is HARMONY?


Age Range: Elementary, Middle School

Learning Objective: Students will demonstrate understanding of the basic concept of harmony in a musical context. Students will improvise to create simple harmonies using visual prompts.

Free Download: Printable Lesson Plan: Harmony

ENGAGE students

WONDER. “If a melody is a single line of or pitches that can move from high to low (or vice versa), what would it sound like if two melodies were layered on top of each other, or played at the same time?”

EXPLAIN. Remind students that music is made up of many parts. Rhythm and steady beat are the parts of music that make us want to move. Melody is the part that we can sing. Melodies can go high and low.

EXPLORE sounds

DEMONSTRATE. “Melodies are easily represented by lines. Look at the line below and imagine what the melody would sound like. It would start low, then get higher, and lower again, moving like gentle waves. Melodies can have so many different shapes.”

A squiggly black line

PRACTICE MELODY. Guide students to vocalize in response to the shape in the box above. First model the melody for students and then ask them to join in on repetitions. Ask a student volunteer to trace along the line to determine the tempo, so that all viewers understand the correlation between the visual and the sound. Reinforce this activity by using the image as a prompt for improvisation on classroom instruments such as a bell set or a keyboard.

EXPLAIN LAYERS. “We can use voices and instruments to add layers to a melody.  Look at the image below. We see the same melody, but there is a layer with dots underneath.”

A squiggly black line with blue dots underneath

EXPLORE LAYERS. This time, ask a student or the class to sing that same melody (the black, wiggly line). While students are singing, demonstrate alternating between two pitches (one high, one lower) for the dots. Teacher or student volunteers can trace along with images to ensure the group is moving from left to right at the same tempo

Try using various instruments/voices to “perform.” Use a slide whistle for the line, and two differently pitched boomwhackers for the dots, as shown in the image below.

The same image as previously, with instruments shown on left

LABEL. Point out the vertical alignment of the two “lines” (noting dots aren’t the same as a line, but they move from left to right underneath the line.) “In those spots, shown by beige stripes, we hear two different pitches at once. That’s harmony!”

A squiggly black line with blue dots underneath and orange stripes.

RECAP. “In music, there are many different kinds of harmony. Harmony of all kinds has to do with how different pitches work together at the same time.”

EXTEND learning

Choose one or both of the related Music Fundamental lessons to explore.

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