Finding music topics to research that your music appreciation class will love can be a challenge at times. Fortunately, there are plenty of exciting and interesting music topics to research and explore when it comes to music appreciation. This blog post is jam-packed with fun music topics and ideas that make great projects and assessments for your music class.
Most music topics to research fall under the following broader categories –
- Musician of Composer Biography
- Music History
- Music Theory
- Music Genres
- Music of a Culture
- Stylistic Features of a Genre
- Elements of Music Analysis
- History of Musical Instruments
- Types of Music Ensembles
- Instruments of a Culture
- Musical Techniques for Performance
- Musical Techniques for Composing
- Music Festivals
- Music and Technology
- Music for the Stage
Read on to find out more details for each of these categories for music topics to research, but if you are looking for some more ways to spice up your own music curriculum, then why not grab yourself a FREE copy of the 5 Ways to Makeover Your Music Curriculum. Click here to find out more.
Musician or Composer Biography
One of the easiest and most used music topics to research in the music classroom is the biography of a famous composer throughout history. This type of music research topic can be done on any number of composers throughout history – from Beethoven to Mozart to Bach. Some of the most influential composers in history have left an indelible mark on music as we know it today. Your music students can explore the works of several famous composers from different eras and consider what made them unique and revolutionary for their time period.
If you are looking to use this type of music topic to research with your classes, there are several Bundles available in my TPT store. Use the link here to check them out – all the hard work has been done for you. All you need to do is choose a composer, which pages you want to complete, and you are ready to go! This type of music topics to research make great music research assignments.
Although Music Theory is not required knowledge for all musicians out there, exploring musical theory will give your music students a deeper insight into why certain chords sound better than others or what makes a melody memorable! This music research topic could incorporate any type of music theory and some broad music theory research topics include:
- The History of Music Notation
- Different Ways that Rhythm is Notated and Counted around the World
- The Development of Music Scales
- Music Scales from Around the World
- Chord Progressions
- Musical Form of a particular style – Sonata, Symphony, Jazz, Pop, Program Music, etc…
Another commonly used music topic to research is Music History, and typically the History of European Music. Exploring different time periods of music is a great way to introduce students to the vast range of sounds and styles within the world of music. For this type of music assignment try giving each student a different musical era to research its history, development, notable artists, and influence on other time periods. This is also an effective way to get students comfortable with using various sources for research.
The different musical eras that you could use as a music topic to research are:
- Early Music to 1400
- Middle Ages
- 20th Century – 1900-2000
- Modern 2000-present
Using Music Genres as a music topic to research can be incredibly broad for students, especially if your study is on contemporary music! For this type of music research topic or assignment try taking a closer look at subgenres within those broader categories such as punk rock or rap/hip hop. You can have your music students research where these subgenres originated from as well as any artists who helped popularize them within their respective scenes.
There are a couple of great websites that can help with this research. Be sure to check them out and try them with your classes. A word of warning – be prepared to go down the rabbit hole and lose a few hours of your time exploring these sites – they’re very interesting!!!!
- This site is a long list of different musical genres
- This site has links to music samples and playlists
- This is another long list of genres, it is a bit easier to navigate, but you do need to create an account
- This is another list site, but has lots of sub-genres and world music
- This one is my personal favorite! It has music samples all linked and mapped. You just click on a style and a music sample plays. This one would be best for comparing different styles of music
- This site has music mapped into a family tree – you can see where a style has it’s origins and influences
- This music map site has parts to click to get reading passages on each music genre. It would be great to use for researching.
Music of a Culture
Introducing students to different musical cultures from around the globe is one way to show them how versatile and varied music from different regions can sound. Researching individual instruments from each culture allows students to understand how instrumentation contributes to the genre-specific sounds as well as how it has evolved over time due to technological advancements or cultural influences from around the world.
A suggested list of music topics to research for different cultures is below:
- East Asia and Korea
- Eastern Europe
- Native American
- South America
- South Asia
- Southeast Asia
- Southwest and Central Asia
- Western Europe and Scandinavia
Stylistic Features of a Genre
Writing about music can be an interesting and creative task. With numerous music genres to draw from (see the list of websites above), there are a wealth of music topics to research and music topics for research papers that can provide a substantial focus for your music students. When exploring and researching the stylistic features of music genres, it’s beneficial to go beyond surface level observations. Your students should not only research the history and evolution of their chosen style, but also look at the artists and stylistic features that define the music genre. From the influence of other genres, instruments used, and the performers who have popularized certain sounds, researching the stylistic features of a genre provides an exciting opportunity for exploration.
Elements of Music Analysis
Music analysis using the Elements of Music is an extremely important skill for music students to cultivate and perfect. This type of music research assignment that focuses on music analysis can give your music students a chance to research music topics and apply their knowledge of music theory and composition in order to write about music.
For this type of music research assignment, your music students can choose any piece of music, musician, composer or music style that they want to study. Once they have chosen their area of focus, they can use the Elements of Music to guide their analysis of the music selected for study. By focusing on how each of the Elements of Music are used, your music students will help to improve their listening skills, performance and composition skills as well as their critical thinking and writing skills.
History of Musical Instruments
Learning about the history of musical instruments can be a fascinating way to explore different cultures and eras. One effective way for music students to learn more about music is to complete an assignment on the history of a musical instrument. This type of music assignment requires students to research music instruments in depth and develop an extended piece of writing on their findings. Through such music topics for research papers, it is possible to gain a better understanding of the methods of sound production by each instrument as well as the many ways that music has shaped society throughout the years. Choosing a unique music instrument such as Japanese drums or stringed instruments from around the world, makes writing about music fun and interesting. When you assign each student a different music research topic, this gives each student the opportunity to explore something specific and meaningful within the larger world of culture and music.
To make it easier for you try these two different Instrument Study resources from my TPT store
Types of Music Ensembles
Music can often be a great topic to research and write about, especially music ensembles from around the world. Everything from traditional Chinese music to Bhangra music from India can be explored. Whether it’s the different instruments utilized in an Argentinean folk music ensemble, or the incredible rhythms found within Turkish music, anyone interested in writing about music will have a wealth of music research topics to explore. Even things that you may never have thought of like Candombe music from Uruguay or Soukous music from Congo can be investigated further and provide excellent context for a music research paper. By researching music ensembles from around the world, your music students can gain exceptional insights into cultural backgrounds as well as appreciate the variety of musical ensembles that exist across the world today.
- Other types of Music Ensembles to Research include:
- Small Ensembles – duets, trios, quartets, quintets
- Rock Ensembles – different genres from the power trio to a rock big band
- Jazz Music Ensembles – Jazz quartets, quintets to big bands
- Vocal Ensembles – duets, trios, barbershop quartet, a capella groups and choirs
- Classical Ensembles – string quartet, chamber orchestra to symphony orchestra
- World Music Ensembles – Taiko drumming, Gamelan, Chinese Orchestra to different Folk Groups
Musical Instruments of a Culture
Music and instruments from cultures around the world are an intriguing and fascinating field of study. From ancient music that has been passed down through generations to music created in today’s modern era, there is no shortage of music topics for research and writing about music. Your music students can explore the instruments used for various music styles and genres ranging from traditional Indian classical music to reggae music in Jamaica. Studying the use of these instruments, how they are made, and the methods of sound production can provide an understanding of how different cultures view music and its importance within their society. It is also an opportunity to discover a range of sounds, techniques, and instrumentation collected from other countries and regions. Delving into music topics like these opens a unique way to appreciate artists from around the world by examining their use of traditional instruments to express their ideas, stories, cultures, beliefs, emotions, and experiences.
Musical Techniques for Performance
Different musical instruments require different performance techniques and practice methods to develop a music student’s proficiency on their instrument. Researching music topics about their own instrument is therefore key to developing a well-rounded music knowledge and building a variety of musical performance skills that your music students can draw on to use in their own performances. When researching the performance techniques on an instrument, it is important to consider the various musical elements that factor into music-making for that instrument such as the different ways to make a sound unique. Additionally, looking at different music cultures that have similar instruments can provide perspective on the essential elements of music-making for any instrument. By researching these music topics and exploring music from diverse cultures, music genres and styles, young musicians can broaden their knowledge and refine their performance techniques.
Musical Techniques for Composing
For those interested in exploring music composition techniques for songwriting, there are a plethora of music topics to research. Experimentation with chord progressions, sound selection and structure can all lead to finding creative ways of writing music. From analyzing music theory and learning more about the basics of music notation to creating unique rhythms and melodies, there might be boundless music topics for research papers that require study and practice.
Your students could choose to study the compositional techniques used within a certain style or genre, or even study more closely about a composer. There are plenty of songs to observe in order to further understand how music works, no matter what area of study the student has chosen. Writing about music involves learning these elements as well as charting any personal progress over time to move closer to using these compositional techniques in their own songwriting.
A music topic to research that is a little bit unusual would be to research music festivals. Music festivals have a long and varied history. From ancient music festivals that celebrated a variety of religious and cultural events, such as the Dionysius Festival in Athens, music festivals are still vital to many cultures around the world. Music festivals have grown exponentially since then and even today they continue to fascinate people globally.
Today, music festivals can range from traditional, classical music performances in concert halls all the way to modern music performances with huge stages and pyrotechnics at large outdoor concerts drawing tens of thousands of fans. Those looking to research this topic of music have a wealth of options. From legendary music composers or artists, music industry trends and the economic benefits, to exploring how music is used as a tool for activism, research on music festivals can be incredibly rewarding for any music student to study.
Music and Technology
The history of music technology has been a fascinating area of music research throughout the years. By exploring music topics related to music technology, your music students can learn more about the music we love and how it came to be. Writing about music technology can take several approaches; from a technical breakdown of specific instruments to an exploration of its roots in social movements, there are music topics for research on music technology spanning almost any interest. Investigating music technology and its influence on music as an artform and the history can open new perspectives into how music is created, performed, and enjoyed today.
Some music technology research topics include:
- History of Recording
- History of the Microphone
- History of Electronic Instruments
- History of Amplification
- Or even try a music research topic explaining “How does a …. Work”?
Music for the Stage
Writing about and researching music can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to music for the stage. Depending on the specific topic your student chooses to research, music for theatre plays or musicals could range from orchestral and classical music pieces, to jazz and rock ensembles. In some cases, music for the stage could even be used as accompaniment for spoken words, stories or even dance. Regardless of what type of music is chosen to study, researching music topics about music for the stage allows your music students to further explore genres and understand how music is used in a theatrical context. By studying different types of music from various time periods and regions, your student’s music research paper will become more well-rounded and engaging.
Some Music for the Stage topics include:
- Rock Opera
- Musical Theatre
- Contemporary Dance
These 15 music research topics provide plenty of ideas for creating engaging lessons, research projects, and assignments that focus on both fundamental aspects of musical theory while still allowing room for creativity within each topic itself! Letting your students explore these music topics independently gives them access to invaluable information regarding various aspects related to making and enjoying great music regardless of its musical origin. So why not try one of these 15 fun music research topics with your music classes this year. By using some of these fun music research topics with your classes, you might find teaching music this way will help to ensure your class stays engaged while expanding their understanding of music appreciation!
Until next time
Julia from Jooya