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Quartet Chief

Aim: How does a musical ensemble work together?
Summary: Students form quartets to explore roles in an ensemble.
Standards: US 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8; NYC 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Grade: 4th
Concept: Singing, Form and Design
Artistic Process: performing, creating, responding
Materials: note cards numbered one through four
Time Required: 15 minutes


  1. Introduce “Quartet Chief” game:
    • We will be playing a game called “Quartet Chief” in quartets, or groups of four.
    • In each group, the members will draw a card and receive number one, two, three, or four.
    • Members, in that order, will take turns being the chief. When you are the chief, without speaking, you will make up some musical ideas. You can clap, snap, move your head, shake your body, repeat a sound, or something else. The other members of your quartet will need to pay attention to what you are communicating to them and cooperate by doing exactly as you do. You may change your activity whenever you like.
    • When I say “next chief,” member two takes over as the leader. After a couple of minutes, member three and member four will each have a chance to play leader. Be creative and try some musical ideas that the other members in your quartet haven’t tried.
  2. Play “Quartet Chief”: Students break into groups of four, draw cards to get their number, and play the game in separate areas of the room. Circulate and assist groups as needed, calling out the chief change every one to two minutes.
  3. Share and reflect:
    • A musical group or team is called an ensemble.
    • What did you notice about working in a group of four?
    • How did it feel to be the leader? How did it feel to be a follower?
    • How did your ensemble work together?
    • What other kinds of musical groups or teams can you think of?

Going Deeper

  1. Assign more complex roles for each quartet member, such as duets, soloist and accompaniment, etc.
  2. Teach four different musical parts—a melody, a rhythmic accompaniment, an ostinato, etc. Assign each member in the quartet one of these parts and have the group figure out how to put it all together and perform.
  3. Discuss other types of ensembles in different genres and cultures.
  4. Explore the role of a conductor.


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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