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Exploring Expressive Qualities in Music

Aim: How can we identify the expressive qualities of music?
Summary: Students explore expressive qualities in music through listening, singing, and moving.
Standards: US 2, 6; NYC 1, 2, 3
Modality: performing, responding
Materials: audio excerpts, Student Worksheet
Time Required: 15 minutes

Instructions

  1. Discuss expressive qualities in music with students: dynamics (forte and piano), tempo (presto and largo), and articulation (legato and staccato).
    • Where can our voices be forte (e.g., playground, sporting event)? In which places should our voice be piano (e.g., library, classroom)?
    • What animals move presto (e.g., rabbit, cheetah)? What are some animals that move largo (e.g., tortoise, snail)?
    • What are things that make a legato sound (e.g., the wind, a siren)? What are some things that make staccato sounds? (e.g., ticking clock, stapler)?
  2. Have students create movements to demonstrate each quality. (e.g., stomp on the floor for forte, tip toe for piano)
  3. Guide students in making their expressive movements while listening for dynamics (forte and piano), tempo (presto and largo), and articulation (legato and staccato) in short excerpts from exemplary works.



    Suggested listening for tempo


    Suggested listening for articulation
  4. Have students listen to the excerpts again and identify the expressive qualities as represented in pictures on the Student Worksheet.
    Download Student Worksheet

Going Deeper

  1. Sing a known song, such as “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” several times, each time singing with a different expressive quality or combination of qualities (e.g., staccato and presto, piano and legato).
    Download Student Worksheet
  2. Make variations with different moods and feelings.
    • If we wanted “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” to sound tired, what expressive qualities would we need?
    • What if the itsy bitsy spider were really happy? How would we sing the song now?

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