As a music teacher, you know that having your students understand what the timbre in music is, is both an important performance and listening skill. Often when teaching, we focus on melody, dynamics, and rhythm with our students. However, knowing what is the timbre of an instrument, and how that unique sound is created, is an equally important element of music that deserves our attention. Timbre is the quality of a sound that distinguishes it from other sounds. In other words, it’s what makes a sound unique.
If you would like to know more about this Element of Music, be sure to read the full blog post that explains What is the Timbre in Music, click here.
Identify the Instrument Listening Activity
For this fun what is timbre in music lesson activity, put your students in small groups, and give them a piece of paper or a mini whiteboard. Next put on a piece of music and ask them to write down each instrument that they think they can hear. You might need to play the music a couple of times for each group to be able to list all the instruments in the music.
Once each group has written down their answers, discuss their answers to see which group could identify the instruments correctly.
HINT – use music that has been recorded live on YouTube. Find music that suits whatever topic your are studying, and be sure that you can see the actual instruments being used in the music. If you choose to use video recordings, you can then “reveal” the music as it is being played and your students can check if they answered correctly.
To extend this activity, ask students to classify each of the instruments and name the action used to create the timbre in the music that is being performed.
Another way that you might like to do this activity in the classroom is to use the Instrument Cards. As you play the music, ask students to find the instruments that they can hear in the set. Discuss and reveal as previously explained. If your students like hands on learning, this is the way to go!
For the Instruments of the Orchestra Match it Puzzle Cards click here
Or for the World Instruments Match it Puzzle Cards click here
What is the Timbre in Music Experiment with Sound Making Lesson
For this lesson activity, have an assortment of musical instruments available for you to use with the class. You can use whatever you have, but the more of a variety of instruments the better.
As a class discuss the instruments that are out, and as you show each instrument ask your students the questions below
- What is the name of the instrument?
- How is a sound produced on the instrument?
- What can the instrument be classified as, and why?
- What words can you use to describe what is the timbre in the music that the instrument makes?
After the discussion, break your class into small groups and ask each group to collect a few different instruments. Next ask the groups to experiment with making different sounds on the instruments. Encourage your students to be creative and think of different ways that they can make a sound. Can they tap it, blow on it, strum hit, pick it, shake it?
Next ask your students to use the instruments in an unconventional way to create a soundscape that explores and shows what the timbre in the music instruments can produce. They might want to even include some environmental sounds in their soundscape – let their creativity loose!
Have Students Make their own Instruments.
This is one of my own all-time favorite music assignments to give me students! Have your students create their own musical instruments using everyday materials around the house. For example, they could create drums out of coffee cans or shakers out of plastic bottles filled with rice or beans. Once they’ve created their instruments, have them compose and perform on their instrument for at least 30 seconds – this is much harder than it sounds!
If you would like to try this assignment with your students, be sure to grab this Make Your Own Instrument Project from my store. This music assignment is all ready to go, you just need to choose the pages you want to print, and then give to your students. It includes a task description, marking rubrics, student hand out pages, student self-evaluation and more. Use the link here to purchase it from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
Compare and Contrast What is the Timbre in the Music of Two Recordings
Play two recordings of the same piece of music for your students. The music you choose can be based on any music that you are studying in class. This activity does work best if you use a recording from two very different music ensembles. For example, try using one recording by a live orchestra, and the other a synthesized version created with computer-generated sounds. Ask your students to listen and compare and contrast the two recordings, paying special attention to what is the timbre in the music of each one. What qualities make the live orchestra recording sound more “real” than the synthetic version?
To make this easier for yourself, try the Timbre in Music Listening Worksheets in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. These worksheets include all music terminology, differentiated listening worksheets, comparison listening worksheets and more. Each Timbre in Music listening worksheet can be used over and over again, with whatever music you choose to study! They really are a lifelong teaching tool. Grab a set for yourself using the link here.
Timbre in Music Composition Lesson
One of the best ways for students to learn about what is the timbre in music is to experience it firsthand. Give each student an instrument, whether it’s a glockenspiel, triangle, or kazoo, and let them explore the sounds it makes. Encourage them to experiment with different techniques, such as bowing or plucking the strings, to see how it affects the sound.
Once your students have had some fun making different sounds, try putting them into small groups, and give each group the same set of instruments. Next perform a simple melody as a class with the instruments. Once students are familiar and confident playing the melody, ask each group to compose and arrangement of the melody using as many different musical timbres as possible on the instruments.
After each group has time to explore the timbres that they can use, have each group show the class their final compositions and arrangements. You could even see which group is the most creative and award a winner for the most unique timbres that era performed in the music!
Knowing what is the timbre in music is an important element of music that is often overlooked in favor of other activities and instruction in the music classroom. However, there are many easy ways to incorporate timbre activities into your music lessons in order to help your students better understand this conceptually difficult element of music theory! Try incorporating some (or all) of these timbre in music activities into your next lesson.