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The Orchestra Sings

Melodies Play Together

Aim: How does the melody change when played in harmony or with accompaniment?
Summary: We explore the difference between melodies in unison and melodies played in harmony.
Standards: National 1, 4, 7, 8; NYC 1, 2, 3, 5
Vocabulary: harmony, unison

Exploring Unison and Harmony

Unison

  • Have the class sing a pattern of notes together.
  • Example: Do, Re, Mi, Re, Do.
    • When we all sing the same notes together at the same time, it is called singing in unison.

Harmony

  • Divide the class into two groups or work with two students at a time.
  • Begin by assigning each group a pitch from the major scale. Have the groups practice singing their pitches with a simple rhythmic pattern.
  • Example: Group 1 sings Do, Do, Do (unison). Group 2 sings Mi, Mi, Mi (unison).
  • You may use solfège, note names, or scale degrees.
  • Next, have each group sing its assigned pitch pattern simultaneously (harmony).
  • Have the groups trade pitches so that they each get a turn singing the root of the interval.
    • When two or more people sing multiple pitches together at the same time, it is called singing in harmony.
  • Experiment with different combinations from the major scale. See the table below for examples.

Group 1 Sings:

Do
Do
Do
Do
Mi
Do

Group 2 Sings:

Re
Mi
Fa
Sol
Sol
High Do

Harmonic Interval:

Major second
Major third
Fourth
Fifth
Minor third
Octave

    • Which combinations are your favorite? Why?
    • Which combinations are your least favorite? Why?
Go Deeper

Try extending some of the harmonic patterns we learned in this activity by moving the phrases up or down the scale.

Exploring Unison and Harmony in “Oye”

  • “Oye” includes an optional two-part harmony. Once your students are familiar with the melody, you can explore having some of your students sing the lower part.
  • Listen to the track “Oye” (complete).
    • Raise your hand when you think you hear the singers singing in harmony. Lower your hand when you hear them singing in unison.
  • Refer to the interactive sheet music for “Oye.”  (You may wish to have the students use their print-outs of the “Oye” Sheet Music (PDF) to highlight the melodic line in one color and the harmonic line in a different color to make it easier to follow).
    • Note when the melody is sung in unison (one note at a time) and when there is harmony (two notes at a time).
    • We have already explored some harmonic intervals. This song uses thirds, fourths, and fifths to create the harmony.
  • Play the track “Oye” (harmony). Follow along with the interactive sheet music for “Oye.”
    • Notice how each line is moving (by steps or staying on the same note).
    • When does the harmonic line move in the same direction as the melodic line? When does it do something different than the melodic line?
  • As a group, practice singing the harmonic line along with the track “Oye” (harmony).
  • Once the group is confident singing the harmonic line, split the class into two groups and sing the melody and harmony together with the track “Oye” (sing-along).

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