Fourth Grade - Music - Overview

The Core Knowledge Scope and Sequence for music in Fourth Grade is ambitious and demanding in terms of the students' familiarity with reading music notation and with their mastery of what could be called basic skills of music theory. Since we cannot assume that this year's fourth graders have followed the Core Knowledge music curriculum for Third Grade, at least one of each month's two music lessons will usually be spent presenting and reviewing these materials. The other music lesson for each month will be devoted to listening/appreciation of pieces of music and will include questions designed to utilize the skills the students are learning.

It is hoped that many other opportunities will arise for the children to listen to music during the school year--whether at the beginnings and endings of the school day, during times of transition, or as supplements to other activities. The History/Geography curriculum spends several months on Europe in the Middle Ages, which provides another good opportunity for the children to listen to a special kind of music that pervaded that culture.

Two assumptions we have tried to avoid are, first, that the lessons will necessarily be taught by a teacher trained specially in music. This means that if there are some of our schools fortunate enough to have trained music teachers, we hope they will not be insulted to find explanation of music skills extremely basic and far more detailed than they need. For those teachers, we hope that by carefully organizing the presentation of these materials, we will give music teachers more time to observe and evaluate their students' progress and individual talents. In addition, in the event that an intended music class cannot be taught by the music teacher, classroom teachers will be able to teach the lesson, and the children will not have to miss music.

The other assumption we avoid is that every one of our schools has a piano or electric keyboard available for teaching. Consequently we will be providing and utilizing a mock keyboard as a teaching tool for many of our lessons, which may not be necessary if teacher and students are lucky enough to have the use of the real thing.

Core's guidelines for the elements of music (rhythm, melody, harmony, form, timbre, etc.) for the total Fourth Grade year are:

A. Recognize a steady beat, accents, & the downbeat; play a steady beat, a simple rhythm pattern, & simultaneous rhythm patterns

B. Discriminate between fast & slow gradually slowing down & getting faster; accelerando & ritardando

C. Discriminate between differences in pitch: high & low

D. Discriminate between loud & soft; gradually increasing & decreasing volume; crescendo & decrescendo

E. Understand legato (smoothly flowing progression of notes) & staccato (crisp, distinct notes)

F. Sing unaccompanied, accompanied, & in unison

G. Recognize harmony; sing simple rounds & canons

H. Recognize verse & refrain; also, introduction & coda

I. Continue work with timbre & phrasing

J. Recognize theme & variations

K. Name the ledger lines & spaces of the treble clef

L. Sing or play simple melodies while reading scores

M. Understanding the following notation:

quarter note & rest

eighth note

half note & rest

whole note & rest

tied notes & dotted notes

sharps & flats

treble clef, staff, bar line, double bar line, measure, repeat signs

Da capo [D.C.] al fine

meter signature: 4/4; 2/4; 3/4

soft p mp pp; loud mf f ff

Fourth Grade - Music - Lesson 1 - C major Scale


Sing notes (pitches) and intervals of C major scale (review from Third Grade).

Locate C major scale on the white notes of the keyboard.

Observe the letter names of the pitches of the C major scale.

Observe that notes (pitches) of C major scale can be notated on a staff.

Notate the C major scale on a music staff.


Pattern of C major scale on keyboard (make one copy for each student)

Pieces of tagboard, 9 x 12" for each student

Scissors and glue

5-line music staff written on chalkboard

Copies of 5-line music staff labeled "C Major Scale," see below

Suggested Books

Danes, Emma. The Usborne First book of Music. London: Usborne, 1994.

See pp. 40-43 for basic information about music notation with concrete illustrations consistent with the approach of our lessons.

Hirsch, E. D., Jr. What Your 4th Grader Needs to Know. New York: Doubleday Dell, 1992.

The section on notation and harmony, pp. 210-218, is a good reference for the classroom teacher with no special music training. We will not be dealing with chords and harmony until a little later in the year, when the material on pp. 213-218 becomes relevant. Meanwhile, the material on pp. 210-212 is useful for this first lesson.

Suggested Recording

Rodgers & Hammerstein, Sound of Music, Columbia cassette #32601, $7.98 (original cast recording).

The familiar song, "Doe- a Deer" is on this cassette recording so that the class can hear it sung in a spirited way before they sing it themselves. If you are comfortable singing the song yourself for the class, the recording is not necessary.

Note to the Teacher

If you have access to a piano, you may not need to use the keyboard patterns provided at the end of this lesson. In that case, you can demonstrate the way the white keys on the keyboard produce the notes or pitches of the C major scale as long as you begin the scale with middle C.

Otherwise, be sure to duplicate the keyboard patterns for the students, be sure their names are written on them, and save them carefully after this lesson. They will be used for other lessons during the year. It is important that the students have a way to visualize the notes on the keyboard as well as being able to sing them and notate them on a music staff.


Start by playing the tape (or other recording) of the Rogers & Hammerstein "Doe - a Deer" for the students a few times. Then ask whether anyone knows what the song is about. If no one says that it is really naming the music syllables to a major scale, sing just the scale pitches with their musical names, in order (Do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do) and have the students do the

same, several times. Congratulate them on singing the correct pitches for the C major scale.

Next, ask: Has anyone ever played the C major scale on a piano or electric keyboard? If someone has, ask them to tell the class how they are able to find the correct pitches for the scale. If no one can tell the class, tell them: You are going to find the pitches on the keyboards so that you will always know where to find them.

Pass out the copies of the keyboards plus the pieces of 9 x 12" tagboard, one to each student. Have the students glue the keyboards to their pieces of tagboard and sign their names on the tagboard so that they can identify them next time they need them. Tell the students they will find that same scale on this keyboard and that any keyboard they ever try--whether it is a piano, a xylophone, an organ, an accordion, an electric keyboard or synthesizer--will have the exact same arrangement of keys.

Say to the class: There is a secret to playing the C major scale on a keyboard. The C major scale uses only the white keys of the keyboard; the only problem is figuring out which key to start on. Have them sing the scale with you again, just to make sure they know what the pitches sound like. Then ask: What other color keys besides the white ones are on every keyboard? (black keys) Tell the students that the black keys are always arranged in a certain pattern between the white notes. That pattern is always two black notes, then three black notes; two black notes, then three notes, and so on, all the way up the piano.

Tell the students that C is always the key immediately to the left of the first of the two black notes and that middle C is the one right in the center of the whole keyboard. Have all of the students find middle C on their keyboards and put their right thumb on it, as you circulate around the room to check that they have found it. (They should each have a right thumb on the first note marked C on the keyboard.) Have them sing the scale with the syllables do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do, placing their fingers in the order thumb, index, 3rd finger, thumb again--reaching under and to the right of the other fingers--then the rest of the fingers in order.

Have everyone in the class do the singing of the syllables and "playing" of the notes several times. Make a vertical list of the syllables on the chalkboard so that the students can see clearly how each is spelled. Then say: Take a look at the letters C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C printed under each key. Those are other names for the pitches of the scale you've been singing. We will talk more about them in another lesson. For now, each one of you is going to write the names of the syllables to the scale on your keyboard in the correct place, starting with do on middle C.

Circulate around the room again, making sure they are placing the syllables on the correct keys of their keyboards and that they realize that middle C is the first C written on the keyboard. When you are sure they have all written the syllables correctly, have them sing and "play" the scale again. Ask: Which direction does the scale go on the keyboard? (from left to right) Ask: Can you start at the other end and sing the pitches or notes in the opposite way? (If they need help with the fingering, show them that when they go in this direction, they start with pinkie down to thumb, then cross third finger over the thumb and "play" the last three keys with 3rd, pointer, and thumb again. Have them practice going in each direction several times, using their fingers and singing the syllables at the same time.

Say to the students: In music, we talk about scales and melodies going higher and lower, going up and down. Who can sing the scale going from lower to higher? (Have individuals sing it for you with the syllables.)Which direction is that on the keyboard? (left to right?) What about higher to lower? (Have them sing it for you with the syllables.) Which direction is that on the keyboard? (right to left, going down)

Finally, tell the students you are going to put the same scale in its musical notation on a staff to look at. Tell them that this is the way all composers write their music. Put the following on the board:

Then have the students sing the scale with its pitches again, this time having them watch the notation on the chalkboard as they do. Point out that there are both lines and spaces on this staff, and that this C major scale moves up its ladder one step at a time, including both lines and spaces. Ask in which direction the scale goes on the staff? (left to right) Ask: How do you think it would look if we went in the opposite direction? (Let a volunteer come up and make the notes going in the opposite direction.)

Have everyone sing the scale in both directions as you point to each note with a pointer. Quickly pass out the music paper pattern provided below, marked C major scale and with middle C & D (Do & re) written in notes and syllables to get them started. Tell them to notate the C major scale on their music staffs, first going up, then going down. Have everyone sing the scale again in each direction using the do, re, mi syllables as you circulate around the room to check that each person has notated the scale correctly. Ask: Can you see how clear it seems that the notes are going up and going higher on the staff as we sing it, then going back down again, getting lower as we sing in the opposite direction?

Tell the students they will be working with their keyboards again, so they must be sure they have put their names on them. Congratulate them on actually reading music as well as singing it, and tell them this year they will be learning a lot more about reading music, singing it, and playing it on a keyboard.

Fourth Grade - Music - Lesson 2 - Vocal Ranges


Discriminate between high and low ranges of female voices.

Discriminate between high and low ranges of male voices.

Compare different vocal ranges.

Experiment with vocal ranges of students, using C major scale.

Review syllables of C major scale while singing.


CD or cassette recordings of Handel's Messiah, see suggestion below

Pattern of keyboard from Lesson 1

Pictures of violin and bass fiddle, trumpet and tuba, see Suggested Books below

Classroom size world map

Suggested Books about Instruments of the Orchestra

Barber, Nicola and Mary Mure. The World of Music. Parsippany, NJ: Silver Burdett, 1995.

Doney, Meryl. Musical Instruments. NY: Franklin Watts, 1995.

Hausherr, Rosmarie. What Instrument is This? NY: Scholastic, 1992.

Jeunesse, Gallimard and Claude Delafosse. Musical Instruments. NY: Scholastic, 1994.

Taylor, Barbara. Sound and Music. NY: Franklin Watts, 1991.

These books are all inexpensive, available in paperback, and useful in the classroom primarily for the pictures that illustrate various instruments and families of instruments.

Suggested Recording

Handel, George Frederic. The Messiah. Naxos CD 8.550667-668

Wonderful examples of the vocal ranges. Every public library has recordings of The Messiah for loan; this one is probably the least expensive good recording for purchase. We recommended a few pieces from The Messiah for First Grade World Religion.

Supplementary Recording

Hallelujah Handel! CD 84263. Part of Classical Kids Collection

Recommended in previous grades, this would be enjoyable for bringing the composer Handel to life for the students. As in all the other Classical Kids recordings, there is a story line that goes from beginning to end, and children have large parts in it. It is not so helpful in distinguishing/comparing vocal ranges, however, since all of the choral parts are sung by a girls' chorus and soprano solos are often sung by young boy sopranos. This is strictly for enjoyment.


Begin by reviewing the C major scale. Have the students sing the scale from one end to the other with the syllables do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do and back. Ask: What words do we use to describe the way scales and melodies go? (high and low, up and down) Who can sing up the scale for us with the correct syllables? (Allow several people to sing it.) How about going down the scale? (Congratulate the singers.)

Next place a music staff on the chalkboard and ask what it is (music staff). Have students come and place the C major scale going up and someone going down. Ask them to show the high point and the low point. Tell them it is one octave. How many octaves on a piano? Mostkeyboard instruments play several octaves.

Say to the class: Some instruments in a family have a much higher range than others. Show bass fiddle. Ask what it is (bass viol or bass fiddle). Ask what family it belongs to (strings). Ask: Do you think this instrument has a very high or very low range? (low) Show them a picture of a violin and ask whether its range is higher or lower than that of the bass fiddle. Go through the same procedure with a tuba and a trumpet.

Tell the students that people also have different voice ranges. While boys' and girls' voices are not so different, one from the other, full grown men and women tend to have very different ranges. Play some examples & write on chalkboard

women's soprano = highest

Mezzo soprano = medium

Alto = low

men's Tenor = high

Baritone = medium

Bass = low

Tell the students that it is much harder to be able to distinguish the medium ranges of men's and women's voices, but you are sure they will be able to tell which is high and which is low. Say: I am going to play some pieces for you that are part of a great, long piece of music written for voices and orchestra called The Messiah. It was written by a composer named George Frideric Handel, who lived from 1685-1759. (You may want to place his name on the time line.) He was born in Germany (have someone locate on the map) and worked for much of life in London. In what country is London? (England--have someone locate London, England on the map)

Next, say to the students: As I play each piece, listen very carefully and tell me whether the voice range is tenor or bass if it is a man and soprano or alto if it is a woman. I will put a check next to the voice part on the board when you decide. Play the pieces from The Messiah, Part I for the students in the following order:

1. #2, 3 min., "Comfort ye my people" -- TENOR

2. #10, 2 min., "For behold, darkness shall cover the earth" -- BASS

3. #14. 1 min., "There were shepherds abiding in the fields" -- SOPRANO

4. #21. (Part II) 11 min., "He was despised and rejected" -- ALTO

You may need to play each piece more than once, or play a small part of each of two pieces so the class can make a comparison between the two ranges.

When they are able to identify the four ranges, tell them: I am going to play one more piece for you. You will hear the four different voice parts, or ranges that you have just identified, singing in a chorus. They will each enter separately and continue to alternate: first the sopranos followed by the tenors, then the altos followed by the basses. You will hear them imitating each other's music and continuing to alternate until finally, near the end, they all sing in harmony at the same time. (Play #12 in Part I, 4 min., "For unto us a child is born.") Ask them to comment on the different ranges and how they feel about them. How they would describe the differences--any other words besides higher and lower?

After all this is finished, tell the students that they can experiment with their own voices to discover what their vocal range is. Leave the names of the vocal ranges on the chalkboard, so that the students can read them if they need to. Ask: What does the term vocal range mean? (how high and how low a person sings) What are the ranges for women's voices, starting with the highest? (soprano, mezzo-soprano, and alto) What are the ranges for men's voices starting with the lowest? (bass, baritone, and tenor)

Remind the students that they will not find such big differences among their voices as they will when they get to be teenagers, but there will be some differences. Give each student his or her keyboard if there is no piano or electric keyboard in the room. Have each person start at middle C (use a keyboard, tuning fork, or pitchpipe for the note) and sing up, then down, using the syllables they have learned and simply continuing as high and as low as they are able to sing comfortably. As each person sings, the rest of the students can follow on their keyboards to see how high and low on the keyboard the notes are.

Students might enjoy marking in pencil on their keyboards what their highest and lowest notes are. Some students will go off the paper keyboards, and, for them, suggest that they count how many more keys or pitches they can reach in either direction and mark (as in "3 notes higher" or "4 notes lower") that in pencil at the ends of their keyboards. If you have a piano or actual keyboard, you can show each student the limits of his or her vocal range. Have them help you figure out which are the higher voices in the class and which the lower voices, which they can also note in pencil on their keyboards. Tell them that later in the year, when they begin to sing music with two or more parts, it will be good to know which group each person belongs in, whether the group that sings the higher or the lower range. Say: We will also measure each person's range again during the year, because your vocal range will grow and change continually, as you grow and change.