/educators/lessons/grade-3-4/Percussion_Instruments_And_Pitch

Percussion Instruments and Pitch

What makes percussion instruments sound higher or lower? Learn about the largest family of musical instruments

Overview

Key Staff

  • classroom teacher
  • assistance of music teacher could be helpful

Key Skills

Developing Arts Literacies: Analyzing and Evaluating - Critique, Applying Vocabulary

Summary

This lesson introduces students to the instruments of the percussion family. Students learn the types and parts of percussion instruments and then create a percussion instrument. They will make predictions and explore how pitch changes based on the size of the air column.

Learning Objectives

  • Design investigations that determine what factors affect the pitch of percussion instruments
  • Explore the factors that determine pitch fluctuation of percussion instruments
  • Create and record a meaningful hypothesis as well as accurate data sets reflecting knowledge gained through their investigation

Teaching Approach

Arts Integration

Teaching Methods

  • Large or Small Group Instruction
  • Cooperative Learning
  • Hands-On Learning
  • Guided Listening

Assessment Type

Informal Assessment

Preparation

Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

General understanding of acoustics

General understanding of percussion instruments

  • Percussion instruments
  • Percussion instruments interactive chart with many brief listening examples

Prior Student Knowledge

  • A basic understanding of sound as waves and as energy.
  • Some familiarity with orchestral instruments.
  • Prior experience with science experiments.

Physical Space

Classroom

Staging

  • Cue up listening passage(s).
  • If no sink is available, bring in containers of water.

Instruction

Engage

1. Review the members of the percussion instrument family. Distribute the 'Instrument Families of the Orchestra' handout that can be found within the Resource Carousel and review the information in the “Percussion” column.

2. Play instrument listening clips for the percussion family from 'Perfect Pitch'.

Build Knowledge

1. Have students explore the following sites to learn more about percussion instruments:

  • ArtsAlive.ca Music: Instrument Lab: Percussion: here, students can learn more about string instruments and play clips
  • ArtsAlive.ca Music: Percussion Interviews: students can read interviews with musicians and view demonstration videos
  • DSO Kids: Families of the Orchestra: students can hear a variety of instruments played in isolation, performing familiar tunes, and playing with the full orchestra
  • Playmusic Percussion: students can learn about the instruments, play clips, and play a matching game (requires Shockwave)
  • Perfect Pitch: students can learn about the instruments and try out different combinations of instruments and music styles.

2. Refer back to the 'Instrument Families of the Orchestra' handout that can be found within the Resource Carousel. As a class, share any information discovered in the course of the research, and review the relevant information in the "Percussion" column of the handout.

Apply

1. Review the 'Scientific Process Guidelines for Percussion' and the 'Vocabulary' handouts. The two handouts may be found within the Resource Carousel. Add the following terms to the discussion:

  • Air column: space within the percussion instrument that determines the pitch.
  • Percussion: sounds produced by striking the instrument with a mallet or stick, or striking one instrument against another.

2. Review the process of forming a hypothesis and making a prediction. Explain that you’ll be making glass xylophones and will need to figure out how to create different pitches.

3. Have students individually create a hypothesis relating the length of the air column to the pitch the instrument will create when played. Have students create a prediction based on this hypothesis, using the following format: “If our hypothesis is true, then the pitch created should be higher /lower when the air column is larger/smaller.”

4. Divide students into cooperative groups of four. Assign one student to each of the following duties:

  • Recorder: note taker
  • Group leader: decision maker, dispute settler, teacher liaison
  • Equipment adjuster: makes adjustments to test equipment
  • Tester: performs the tests (mouthpieces should be sanitized before and after use)

5. Test the hypotheses within the groups. Groups should discuss the hypotheses and predictions students have developed individually and choose one of each to use as they proceed with the experiment. Students will work in small groups completing the experiment, following the Procedural Guidelines for Creating Percussion Instruments handout. Have students fill in the data section of the Scientific Process Guidelines for Percussion handout based on their experiments.

6. Monitor student participation and accuracy in achieving results. When necessary, remind students of their roles within the cooperative group. Have students record their experimental data onto their own Scientific Process Guidelines for Percussion handouts. Each student must complete the analysis section and the conclusion section independently.

Reflect

1. Discuss the following questions:

  • What is the relationship between pitch and the size of the air column? A larger air column creates a lower pitch, since the sound has more room to travel through and is therefore slower.
  • What affects pitch for percussion instruments without air columns? Size is still important for pitch, since a larger surface still gives the sound a longer distance to travel. Point out the increasing size of lower notes on a xylophone.
  • What is the name of the branch of science that we have studied?Acoustics.

Assess

Assess your student's work using the 'Assessment Rubric' located within the Resource Carousel.

Extending the Learning

The Procedural Guidelines for Creating Percussion Instruments includes instructions for making more percussion instruments. Allow students to make their choice of instruments, and play them together.

Standards

The Common Core State Standards Initiative seeks to bring diverse state curricula into alignment through a set of common learning goals and assessments. In 2010, Standards were released for English language arts and mathematics. Common standards have not yet been released for science, social studies, and other subject areas, including the arts. In addition, some states have yet to, or have chosen not to, adopt the Common Core standards.

During this transitional period, ArtsEdge will present all relevant state and nationals standards as they apply to our lessons.

National Standards for Arts Education

For the full text of the content and achievement standards in Arts Education, visit our Standards section.

ArtsEdge Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.

Common Core/State Standards

Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.

National Standards For Arts Education
Music

Grade K-4 Music Standard 6: Listening to, analyzing, and describing music

Grade K-4 Music Standard 8: Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts

National Standards in Other Subjects
Language Arts

Language Arts Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes

Language Arts Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media

Science

Science Standard 9: Understands the sources and properties of energy

Science Standard 11: Understands the nature of scientific knowledge

Science Standard 12: Understands the nature of scientific inquiry

Credits

Writers

Leslie A. Thomas
Original Writer

Rebecca Haden
Adaptation

© 1996-2014 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts  

ArtsEdge is an education program of

The Kennedy Center

with the support of

Department of Education



The contents of this Web site were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. However, those contents do not
necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal government.
Unless otherwise stated, ArtsEdge materials may be copied, modified and otherwise utilized for non-commercial educational purposes
provided that ArtsEdge and any authors listed in the materials are credited and provided that you permit others to use them in the same manner.

Change Background:

Connect with us!    EMAIL US | YouTube | Facebook | iTunes | MORE!

© 1996-2014 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts  
    Privacy Policy
| Terms and Conditions

Close

You are now leaving the ArtsEdge website. Thank you for visiting!

If you are not automatically transferred, please click the link below:
http://absoluteshakespeare.com

ArtsEdge and The Kennedy Center are in no way responsible for the content of the destination site, its ongoing availability, links to other site or the legality or accuracy of information on the site or its resources.

Cancel

Close