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Identifying Accents in Music

Aim: How can we use accents to create musical expression?
Summary: Students use language and movement to explore accents in music.
Standards: US 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8; NYC 1, 2, 3
Grade: 4th
Concept: Articulation
Artistic Process: performing, creating
Materials: Teacher Worksheet
Time Required: 15 minutes


  1. Review the definition of an accent in music and in speech.
  2. Using one name as an example, have students determine the number of syllables. Then practice saying that name by accenting different syllables.
  3. Go around the room and have each student speak his or her name in rhythm with at least one syllable accented.
  4. Play a major scale with a variety of rhythms and accents. As students listen, have them throw their fists in the air every time they hear the accent.
    Download Teacher Worksheet (PDF)
  5. Create new movements and practice identifying accents while listening to a variety of musical excerpts.

Going Deeper

  1. Sing a known song, such as “Simple Gifts,” and practice performing it with and without accents.
  2. Divide the class into two groups and assign each group a different version of “Simple Gifts.” Perform the two versions at the same time.
    • Why do you think composers use accents?
    • How does an accent change the feeling of the music?
  3. Have students take turns conducting the class in singing a known song, while adding directions for articulation of accents, legato, and staccato.


Grade 4 Activity Exemplar: Expressive Qualities

This video is an exemplar of an activity from Carnegie Hall’s Music Educators Toolbox entitled “Identifying Accents in Music.” Students use language and movement to explore accents in music.


Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

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