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G C S E M U S I C – E L E M E N T S O F M U S I C T E A C H E R ’ S N O T E S

THE ELEMENTS
OF MUSIC

TEACHERS NOTES
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ACTIVITY 1
This activity encourages pupils to count out the metre to the second movement of Mozart’s Piano
Concerto in C minor, K491 in different ways. By actively “counting out the metre” in different ways,
pupils should have been able to discount a three-beat metre as a possibility – counting three to
this music shouldn’t have felt plausible at all. Both two and four should have been more
comfortable: the music is like a gentle walk, with a clear BINARY METRE (i.e. regular to-and-fro
as in the alternation between left and right foot). Without looking at the score, pupils may have
found it impossible to be sure whether the music is in two- or four- time. So either two or four is a
correct answer.
ACTIVITY 2
The arrangement of the bars shows that there are four crotchet beats per bar.

ACTIVITY 3
Pupils should have identified that the music has clearly defined phrases.

Bar 1, for instance, seems like a clearly defined unit or phrase; so do bars 2, 3 and 4. So, the first
four bars (shown below) consist of four little phrases, which together form a longer unit – pupils
may like to think of this as a ‘sentence’. Unlike verbal language, music has no absolute definition
of what a ‘phrase’ is, so there are various possible ways of describing this music. Some musicians
might think of the whole four bars as one long phrase, with each bar forming a ‘sub phrase’. But
what matters is that pupils can hear that the four bars consist of four separate little units, which
come together to form the whole four-bar-long melody.

Mozart, Piano Concerto in C minor, K491, second movement, bars 1-4


The overall impression of the rhythmic character of this music is that it flows smoothly, and that
there are no sudden contrasts of rhythm. There are notes of different lengths – crotchets, quavers,
some dotted rhythms, but nothing interrupts the rhythmical flow of the music. There are some
contrasts in this music, but they are mostly caused by things other than changes in rhythm. The
orchestra answers the piano at bar 5, with a loud phrase followed by a soft phrase. This is
certainly a contrast to the sound of the piano. But the rhythm is the same as the piano’s opening
bars. Where the rhythm does change is at the next piano entry, at bar 9. Here, the rhythm
becomes simpler, forming a repeating pattern of crotchet and quavers:

ACTIVITY 4
The movement opens with a couple of quite long notes. This may make it difficult for pupils to
establish the pulse and metre straight away. Mozart is being deliberately ambiguous, only
gradually revealing what the metre and pulse of the music are. But, once the music gathers
energy, it becomes clearer that the pulse is quite fast, and is in three-time. In other words the
music has a three-beat (or ternary) metre.

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ACTIVITY 5
The rhythmic character of this music is quite different from that of the slow movement. It does not
flow smoothly, but has many more sudden contrasts of rhythm, some of which are particularly
striking.

The first three bars are smooth (the curved lines or slurs indicate that Mozart wanted the notes
played smoothly – legato). Bar 4 is quite different: two staccato crotchets (little dots or wedges
indicate staccato, i.e. the notes are to be played short and separated rather than continuous),
followed by a rest and then a snappy semiquaver upbeat to the next bar of smooth crotchets (an
upbeat is a note that precedes the main beat). So straight away the music includes strong
rhythmic contrasts: three smooth bars, a bar of incisive rhythms, with an interruption by a rest,
then another smooth bar. The rhythmic contrasts through bars 1–52 are complemented by some
strong dynamic contrasts, for instance the point at bar 13 (0′17″,) when the whole orchestra joins
in (marked f (forte) and ‘Tutti’ (‘all’) in the score). At bar 28 (0′37″), continuous semiquavers in the
violins (upper staff) create greater rhythmic agitation. Finally, at bar 35 (0′46″), the music becomes
suddenly quieter and calmer, with the oboe playing simple crotchets, in contrast to the
semiquavers of the preceding passage.

ACTIVITY 6
As when considering rhythm, in this movement there are clear groupings into phrases. The first
four bars, played by the piano, fall into four separate phrases, each one bar long (at least this is
one way of hearing the music). The first phrase (bar 1) begins with four repeated notes, and then
rises in a leap. The second phrase (bar 2) leaps down, rises through three smooth steps, and
ends with another leap down. The third phrase (bar 3) begins like the first phrase, but at a higher
pitch: three repeated notes, followed by a leap up. But then it ends by falling back down in two
leaps. Finally, the fourth phrase (bar 4) is the simplest of all, and the lowest in pitch: four repeated
notes, and a final rise by a step.

This is a very straightforward, bald statement of where the melody is going. But there is also
purpose and pattern to these shapes – there is a sense of ‘balance’ in these four phrases. But
even just as a shape – the pattern of rise, fall and repetition – the melody produces this sense of
balance. The third phrase is a variant of the first phrase, with its similar beginning, its changed
ending and its higher pitch. The second phrase is very different from the first, and the fourth
phrase is very different from the third. This produces an impression of a coherent succession of
utterances or argument: a statement, followed by a contrasting statement, a modified repeat of the
first statement, and a simple conclusion. The way the overall pitch changes also plays a part in
this impression. The music generally rises from the first phrase to the third phrase, and then falls
to its lowest point for the fourth phrase.

The orchestra repeats the melody of bars 1–4 at bars 5 –8. Then, from bar 9, the piano continues
with a melody of a new shape. This passage begins with two clearly defined phrases of one bar
each (bars 9 and 10). Then bars 11–12 seem less easily separable: the music flows on over the
bar line without any sense of coming to rest. So bars 11–12 form a phrase that is two bars long.
Each of these three phrases in bars 9–12 begins in a similar way, with the same note played three
times. The first phrase has three notes on the same pitch, then one step up, and one leap down.
The pattern is the same in the second phrase, but the whole phrase is higher in pitch by one step.
The third phrase (bar 11) begins just like phrases 1 and 2, starting another step up, and playing a
single note three times. But this time it continues in a different direction: a step down, a leap up,
and continuing on through a second bar with a shape that falls gradually down by step and then up
by step.
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Like the first four bars of the movement, this succession of phrases conveys a sense of
coherence. Here, each phrase moves up from the one before. Phrase 2 is the same shape as
phrase 1, at a higher pitch. Then phrase 3 begins just like the preceding two phrases, another step
up. It leads you to expect that it might be going to do the same thing again.

Mozart, Piano Concerto in C minor, K491, second movement, bars 9-10 with continuation of
sequence (bar 11)

That would have been a predictable thing to do. It would have simply extended the succession of
similar phrases with no variety except for a change of pitch each time (a common procedure called
a sequence). What Mozart does is to intervene in this very simple sequence of phrases just at the
moment where it might have become boring, and takes it in a new direction, leaping up, and
extending the phrase with an elegant curl down and up again.

Mozart, Piano Concerto in C minor, K491, second movement, bars 9-12

ACTIVITY 7
There are three flats in the key signature. This is the key signature of E flat major and of C minor.
Of these, E flat major is the obvious choice, because the movement opens with a chord of E flat
major (the three notes, or triad, E flat–G–B flat). Even if pupils look just at the notes of the melody,
ignoring the chords underneath it, the sense of E flat major is very strong throughout. The first two
phrases virtually ‘spell out’ the chord of E flat major: B flat, rising to E flat, rising to G, and then
finishing down on B flat where it started. The third phrase consists entirely of notes of the chord of
E flat major: G rising to B flat, then down to G and E flat. The last phrase repeats D four times and
then rises to finish on E flat, the tonic (or key note) of the movement as shown below with the
notes of the E flat triad coloured:

Mozart, Piano Concerto in C minor, K491, second movement, bars 1-4 with notes of E flat triad
coloured

ACTIVITY 8
The key is C minor. The key signature has three flats, and the opening note of the piece, C,
followed by E flat in the second bar, strongly suggest C minor. If pupils look on to bar 13, the first
bar of the forte passage has a C minor chord (the triad C–E flat–G). But the melodic line is very
different from the beginning of the slow movement. In that movement, pupils could take any one of
the first four bars and it would be obvious that the music was in E flat major. Here, in the first
movement, the key of C minor may be clear at the beginning, but it is not maintained nearly so

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obviously. If pupils saw bars 6 and 7 in isolation, they would have no clear idea of what key the
music was (see below)

Mozart, Piano Concerto in C minor, K491, first movement, bars 6-7, on two staves

For example, the note G flat, that occurs in bar 7, does not appear in the scale of C minor. The
melody creeps chromatically shifting away from the notes of C minor within a few bars, and then
shifting back again.

The music in this passage is certainly complicated and pupils are not expected to understand at
this stage exactly what is going on. The important point to grasp is that this is very different from
the clarity of key at the opening of the second movement. Here Mozart deliberately obscures the
key of C minor by letting the melody wander, rather than, as in the second movement, sticking
firmly to the key.

ACTIVITY 9
Again, this music is very different from the opening of the second movement. There the music
consisted of gentle rises and falls, grouped into beautifully proportioned and balanced phrases.
Here the effect is much more surprising. The lengths of the phrases seem clear, because they are
divided by rests. First there is a phrase of four bars (bars 1–4), then a phrase of two bars (from the
last note of bar 4 to bar 6), then another two-bar phrase (from the last note of bar 6 to bar 8), then
a one bar phrase (from the last note of bar 8 to bar 9). That in itself is very different from the slow
movement – a series of phrases that become gradually shorter as the music proceeds as shown
below:

Mozart, Piano Concerto in C minor, K491, first movement, bars 1-9, with phrases marked
Pupils have already explored the rhythmic character of this passage, with its alternation between
smooth and staccato, between longer notes and the snappy upbeat semiquavers (the notes with
which the second, third and fourth phrases begin). At first long notes rise, C–E flat–A flat (bars 1–
31 – this convention indicates bar 3, beat 1), and then the music creeps down by semitone steps –
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from A flat to G to F# (bars 31 –41); then the first phrase ends with a sudden leap up from F# to E
flat (bar 4). If pupils compare this opening phrase with the opening phrase of the slow movement,
the contrast could hardly be greater. Rhythmically and melodically, the opening of the slow
movement suggests calm and certainty, firmly anchored in E flat major. Here, in the first
movement, by the end of the first phrase, the music is confronted with an abrupt phrase ending,
and uncertainty about where the melody or rhythm might be going next.

The second phrase begins with a leap from the semiquaver F# up to A flat, another creep down by
step to E natural, and ending on a leap up to D flat. The same shape is repeated in phrase 3.
Then phrase 4 abbreviates the shape, by running together just the beginning and end: a
semiquaver, followed immediately by a sudden leap up on staccato crotchets. The sense of
agitation, already suggested by the rhythm, is enhanced by the melodic shapes. Smooth, creeping
lines followed by staccato leaps, with each phrase ending abruptly, create a feeling of uncertainty.

ACTIVITY 10
The most striking change occurs at bar 13 (0′17″), where the whole orchestra suddenly enters,
marked f (forte) in the score. Up to this point, the opening of the concerto has been quiet in
dynamic – p (piano) in the score – and dark in timbre/sonority. At first, the strings (with the
bassoons) are playing in octaves (i.e. a C in one octave is combined with another C an octave
higher), without any chords. The entry of the full orchestra at bar 13 after this muted opening has
great impact. Here, the timbres/sonorities are predominantly much brighter than at the opening,
and the texture has opened out: the violins are an octave higher, and the upper woodwind (flute,
oboes, and clarinets) are playing quite high chords to brighten the timbre/sonority and texture
further. The punctuation of the music by timpani and trumpets gives great firmness to the texture.

Before the full orchestra enters at bar 13, there is a more subtle change of texture at bar 8 (0′10″).
Here, oboes join in, playing sustained chords, and this introduces a brighter timbre/sonority just
before the rest of the orchestra enters.

There is one more change of texture in this passage. After the forte passage for full orchestra,
there is a much quieter passage, marked p from bar 35 (0′46″). This begins with just three wind
instruments, an oboe and two bassoons, which are then joined by the flute. This passage
introduces polyphony into the texture (the texture is more ‘polyphonic’). The oboe, flute and
bassoons weave their separate lines round each other, each having a melody. (Up to this point in
the Concerto, instruments that did not have the melody were basically combining to play in
octaves or to play chords.)

ACTIVITY 11
The obvious things that are indicated are: the main pitches you hear (C, E flat and so on); the
metre (3/4) and approximate tempo (Allegro); and an idea of the dynamics (a couple of p and f
markings) and articulation (some slurs and staccato marks, indicating whether sounds should be
continuous with, or separated from, those preceding and following). Pupils can also deduce
something about the texture from the notation, although this is not spelled out explicitly. Since this
is a reduction onto two staves, information about timbre/sonority is rather limited (although there
are a few indications of the orchestral instruments used).
ACTIVITY 12
The information given here comprises the lyrics of the song aligned with some chord symbols (D,
D5, G5 and so on; the ‘5’ here indicates that the chord to be played comprises only the root note,
from which it derives its name, and the note a fifth above – so D5 comprises only the pitches D

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and A). The row of five grids at the top of the score indicates how these chords can be played on a
guitar using standard tuning.

Pupils should have identified a number of musical elements which were not indicated on this
score/lead sheet. The melody, the rhythm and metre, and any indication of the instruments used
(drum kit, two electric guitars and a bass guitar) are the most noticeable but pupils could have also
identified that the chords in the recording, played by guitars, are not “strumming” chords, but
playing a string of short rhythmic and melodic motifs (rock guitarists wouldn’t use the word ‘motif’
though – RIFF would be more likely!)

ACTIVITY 13
Not surprisingly, musical notation is much more in evidence with the Mozart that it is with the
Captain Beefheart.

In Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band example, the singer and band manage to coordinate
quite a complex piece of music without any written reminders.

In the Mozart Piano Concerto, of course, all of the orchestral players keep their sheet music in
front of them throughout, as does the conductor, Frederic Chaslin; the exception is the pianist,
Elisha Kravitz who manages to play all of his part from memory. This illustrates that the tradition
of playing from notation is not just about necessity, but is also partly a matter of convention.
Nowadays, Concerto soloists usually play from memory in public performance, as if it is “expected”
– though it wasn’t usual in Mozart’s day, and only became part of the concert convention during
the nineteenth century.

ACTIVITY 14
The information contained in the notation itself can be summed up as the following: the metrical
structure, an arrangement of 16 beats indicated in the western notation as four bars of four
crotchets each; the main pitches of the melody (but without any embellishment apart from a kind of
slur indicating that the long note indicated by the first letter ‘M’ (E flat on the western notation) is to
be held and then to slide continuously down to the next note (‘R’, the C); and the alignment of the
text with this melodic and rhythmic framework.

None of the instruments are indicated on the notation: the tabla drum set, the harmonium, which
shadows the melody, or the tanpura, which provides the drone in the background. There is
therefore no indication of timbre/sonority or texture – nor of tempo or dynamics. Moreover, as the
singer repeats this line of text she varies the melody continuously, adding more and more
embellishment: this variation is not notated at all.

ACTIVITY 15
Of the three examples you’ve explored – the Mozart Piano Concerto, the Captain Beefheart Lead
Sheet and the Indian notation of Raga Madhmad Sarang, the MOZART score contains by far the
most INFORMATION, because it is intended to enable MUSICIANS to play the piece. Of course,
it isn’t all they need to know, because to be able to carry out the instructions properly requires
many years of TRAINING AND PRACTICE – musicians bring an enormous amount of contextual
and TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE to bear in interpreting a SCORE. Nevertheless, what this kind of
notation allows WESTERN CLASSICAL MUSICIANS to do is to reproduce a very complex music,
often involving the coordination of many different PARTS, with a high degree of precision. There
are other examples of musical traditions involving the coordination of many different parts, such as
INDONESIAN GAMELAN, which use notation very little or not at all. But in these cases
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musicians tend to be much less concerned with playing music the same way it has been played
before, and more comfortable with the idea that the piece is being recreated in a slightly different
FORM each time.
To some extent then, notation can help to STABILISE a piece of music in a particular form and
slow down what would otherwise be an inevitable process of change; in western art music this is
often considered desirable. This doesn’t mean the SOUND of the music doesn’t change over
time, but the things that change most tend to be the things that aren’t SPECIFIED on the score:
the instrumental TIMBRES/SONORITIES and PLAYING TECHNIQUES, precise TEMPO
MARKINGS and DYNAMICS, rather than the actual notes. This is just one of many ways in which
the nature of the notation musicians use plays a role in determining the music which is played and
listened to.

ACTIVITY 16
Suggested definitions of ‘The Elements of Music Key Words’ are given on the following pages:

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THE ELEM ENTS OF MUSIC


KEY WORDS
Understood Signatures
Key Word Meaning (tick) (staff, student, parent)

Chord Any single instance of notes sounding simultaneously.

Can be used to describe the length of piece of music i.e. how long a piece of music lasts,
Duration how long different sections (movements) of a piece of music last and also the length of a
musical note or sound – long or short.
The volume of the music or a sound – loud or soft or gradations of (gradually getting
Dynamics louder – crescendo; gradually getting softer – diminuendo)

Simultaneously occurring frequencies, pitches (tones, notes) or chords. The study of


Harmony harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions.
The basic musical notation of a song in pop or jazz usually consisting of the melody (the
Lead Sheet ‘lead’), with lyrics if there are any, and indications of the accompanying harmony using
chord symbols as standard. Lead sheets provide only a “rough guide” for performers.

Melody The main musical line (often called the “tune”) following a succession of pitches.

The rhythmic structure, the patterns of accents heard regularly recurring measures of
Metre stressed (accented) and unstressed (unaccented) beats at the frequency of the music’s
pulse. Metre is notated at the beginning of a composition with a time signature
A seven-note scale with a fixed pattern of tones and semitones between the notes,
Mode different from conventional major and minor scales. Renaissance church music was
based on a system of modes inclduing the Dorian, Lydian and Ionian modes.
A short music idea which keeps on occurring during a piece of music. A motif is often a
Motif fragment or succession of notes that has some special importance in or is characteristic
of a composition.
The name given to a smaller “sub-section” within a larger piece of music/work e.g. a
Movement(s) Concerto, Sonata or Symphony. Movements are often contrasted by tempo or mood.
The way music is written down. A number of different musical notations include ‘staff
notation’ (common for western classical music), lead sheets (for pop and jazz) and
Notation notations particular to a certain genre of music or instrument e.g. Indian notation or
cipher notation.
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Understood Signatures
Key Word Meaning (tick) (staff, student, parent)

Phrase(s) Similar to the phrases of speech, a musical phrase is the grouping of rhythms.

The highness or lowness of a sound, governed by the rate of vibrations producing it (e.g.
Pitch a string, a column of air, a metal plate etc.) Faster vibrations give higher pitches, slower
vibrations give lower pitches.
Perceived as a series of underlying regular beats. In some music, the pulse is obvious,
Pulse in other music it can be more subtle. In certain kinds of music, there is no pulse, or a
pulse that is weak or intermittent.
How sounds are distributed over time and how notes or sounds come and go in varying
Rhythm patterns in relation to the pulse, metre and tempo. Rhythm can consist of patterns of
longer or shorter notes in various combinations: even or uneven.
Any set of musical notes ordered by pitch. A scale ordered by increasing pitch is an
ascending scale, and a scale ordered by decreasing pitch is a descending scale. Some
Scale scales contain different pitches when ascending and descending e.g. a melodic minor
scale.
The speed of the underlying beat in a piece of music. Tempo is measures in BPM or
Tempo Beats Per Minute. 60 BPM is one beat every second. Sometimes the tempo is written at
the beginning of the music and is called a Metronome Marking
How much sound is heard, in its simplest form “thick” texture is a lot of sound and “thin”
texture is a few sounds. Words which can describe musical texture include
Texture POLYPHONIC, HOMOPHONIC CHORDAL, HOMOPHONIC MELODY AND
ACCOMPANIMENT, MONOPHONIC and HETEROPHONIC.
The character or quality of a musical sound or voice. Each musical instrument has its
Timbre/Sonority own unique timbre/sonority which is how we identify it as distinct from others e.g. how we
distinguish a clarinet from a trumpet or to distinguish between the voices of two singers.

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