Touchdown Songs

Music and Football


The Basics

Good for: 12-18 year olds. You don't even have to be a football fan!

Estimated Time: Give yourself some time! If you want to listen all at once, these will take about 30 minutes to complete. But you might want to just take them in one by one.

Key Technology: You can choose to stream these audio clips on a computer using the player above, or you can download them (use the Down-Arrow in the lower right side of the player) and load them onto your computer or an MP3 player to listen to anytime.

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Music and football; what could the connection possibly be?  But think about it, there's music at halftime, we sing fight songs up in the stands, and when isn't there music when we watch football highlights on TV?  Music and football are intertwined, as we'll hear in this series, narrated by Tom Hedden who composed songs for 19 years at NFL Films.

There are three parts:

  1. Fight Songs: There's nothing to make you feel team or school spirit like a fight song. But where did they start, and what makes a great song?
  2. Half-time Sounds: In this segment we’ll talk about the music that comes between the action.  Even though it's nothing more than a chance for football teams to go an rest, Halftime has become an American institution-- where fans cheer, dance and get up and shout.  It's also brought us multiple styles of marching band music that are uniquely American. 
  3. NFL Film Music: For almost 50 years, NFL Films has defined the way we see and think about football.  One reason these  have had such an impact is their unique music; music that can make you feel the action. Learn what it takes to write music that, when you hear it you think "Football." 

Each story is accessible in the media player above. For things to think about while you listen, jump to the next tab.

Think About

Listening Strategy: As you listen, stay focused on your purpose for listening. Find out how musicians create music that is suitable for sports programs, games and films.

Before you get started, think of what makes a great halftime show during a football game. Keep this in mind as you explore the interactive.

As you listen, think about how different types of music elicit different responses from you.  

As you listen, stop the audio track now and then to sum up what you have learned.


  • What brought about the change to a more “Hollywood sound” in the music that accompanied football films in the 1960s?
  • What are the instruments mostly used when composing music for football films?
  • How did fight songs originate?

Critical Thinking

  • How was the use of music in football films able to let viewers overcome team loyalty?
  • How did America’s increasing global power in the early twentieth century influence the writing of college fight songs?
  • Why do you think marching bands are so popular with American audiences?

Reflection: Quiz Yourself!

  • What are the different emotions you might feel or experience when listening to music that accompanies sports?
  • What was so special about Albert Austin Harding?
  • When did the NFL begin?
  • Which NFL team was the first to stage a halftime show?
  • What sets apart Big 10 Style from other types of marching band styles?


Learn More

Dig Deeper!

For The Educator

Ask students to create short playlists of songs that would accompany the following scenes in a film about football:

  • Winning a championship
  • Losing the first game of the season
  • The star quarterback being injured
  • Throwing a “Hail Mary” pass
  • Waiting to see if a field goal is good
  • Frustration of a wide receiver missing the ball

Ask students to choose (or create, if they play an instrument) music that would illustrate a film reel of their athletic career. If students are not athletes, have them research and create a timeline of an athlete they admire and then choose the music to accompany it.


This interactive will likely have a wide ranging appeal to students since so many are typically involved in sports. Students will focus on the different emotions conjured up by different types of music, especially that which is used as part of films or as a rallying cry for fans.

Instructional Strategies

  • This interactive lends itself to large-group or individual listening as well as to both individual and group research.
  • Have students research, learn and perform fight songs for the colleges or universities they most hope to attend.
  • Have students write a fight song which reflects the culture and values of their middle or high school.
  • Play various fight songs for students and then play more traditional marches. Have students compare and contrast that which is inherently similar and different.
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