As a music teacher, one of your goals is to teach your students about harmony in music. Harmony is an important element of music, and it’s often one of the first things that students learn about when they start taking lessons. But how can you make learning harmony in music fun and engaging for your students? Here are five lesson ideas that will help your students understand this important element of music. If you would like to know more about the Elements of Music – Harmony, click here to read the blog post.
Harmony in Music Game – Name that Chord
One of the first things a music student needs to know about harmony in music is how to identify what is the sound of a major or minor chord. To make learning this important listening skill, try playing a game of “Name That Chord.” You can play this as a class or in small groups. Firstly, make sure you explain the difference between the sound of a major and minor chord. Then, play a chord and have students guess what the chord is. You can choose to play on any instrument you are comfortable with but try playing so that the students can’t see your hands! You could have students use mini whiteboards to write their answers, or even use a hand signal for each chord – maybe thumbs up for major and thumbs down for minor. You could even turn this into a knockout competition to see who your Name that Chord winner is!
Harmony in Music Game – Harmonic Circle
This activity is a great way to introduce the concept of what is harmony in music to your students. Before you play this game, make sure that you teach how to build a chord using voices or an instrument that your students enjoy playing. This could be done by grouping students into 4 groups. Then have each group sing/play a note from a chord using the notes from either a major or minor chord. Practice this several times, swapping the groups each time that start with the tonic note.
To play the game using their voices, have them stand in a circle and then choose one student to start by singing a note. The next student then must sing a note that is either an octave above or below the first note. The next student then builds on the previous two notes, and so on around the circle. Once everyone has had a turn, see if your students can identify the overall sound that was created was major or minor. A simple variation on this could be to tell the students the starting note, then they add to the chord by playing a note on their instrument.
Listen to Music and Identify the Harmony in the Music
One way to help students understand harmony in music is to have them listen to music and try to identify the instruments performing the harmonic parts or roles. This can be done with any type of music, but pop music is often a good place to start because the harmonic elements are usually more obvious. Start by having students listen for what instrument is playing the melody, then move on to identifying the other pitched instruments and their role in the music.
Adding Harmonic Accompaniment to a Familiar Melody
This activity is great for helping students understand how simple chord progressions work. For the first time you do this, try teaching them how to play a simple melody on any instruments you have available, but tuned percussion works best for this lesson.
Once they know how to play the melody, put your students into small groups of between 3 and 5. Next have your students choose someone to play the melody, while the other members of the group add in their harmonic accompaniments. This activity will help your students build several skills that are important as a musician – ensemble skills, performance skills, problem-solving skills, collaboration, and also harmonic skills! Once each group has created their harmonic parts, have each group perform for the rest of the class.
Composing using Two Chords
To further extend your students understanding of what harmony in music is, try having them compose a piece of music using only two chords. They can use any combination of notes that they want, as long as it sounds good with the melody. Once they’re finished, have them perform their parts for the class. You can also have them swap parts with other students and see how different harmonic possibilities sound.
Harmony in music is an important concept for music students to learn, but it doesn’t have to be boring! These five fun activities will engage your students while helping them understand how harmony works and how to create it in their own music making. Give one (or all!) of these activities a try in your next music lesson!
Until next time
Julia from Jooya