Australian Song Lyrics Analysis

Two questions.

Who is Australia’s most erudite lyricist?

And how can you embed the General Capabilities in secondary music lessons?

Aussie Song Lyric Readability

In answer to the first (but no spoliers here, let me tell you) you’ll need to read all the way to the bottom of  How complex are Aussie song lyrics? Analysis shows our wordiest songwriters to find out. The article looks at readability scores, length and the difference between being able to read the words and having the life experiences necessary to understand them. Along the way there’s fine (YouTube linked) examples of our best talent, from Paul Kelly and ‘Dumb Things’ through to Kasey Chambers and ‘Nothing at All’.

Embedding General Capabilities

Now let’s use the con concept of assigning readability scores to song lyrics as a way of embedding general capabilities into music lessons:

Start with the article. It will make a fine primer and Australian-artist orientation for students before delving into lyrical analysis.

Now have students collect lyrics from their favourite artistes and paste them (the lyrics, not the artists)  into Word.

  • Click the File tab, and then click Options.
  • Click Proofing.
  • Under When correcting spelling and grammar in Word, make sure the Check grammar with spelling check box is selected.
  • Select Show readability statistics.

Word will also give a word count for the text. Record the results and organise them in Excel. Their efforts might look a little like this, from The Dumbest Hits of the Last Decade:

Click for full size view: from ‘The Dumbest Hits of the Last Decade

Questions to ask. Which artist pitches (hah!) their lyrics at the lowest reading age? Which at the highest? Who has the longest word count? Shortest? What’s the average readability? Who uses the longest words? Shortest? What correlations can be found across genres? What other generalisations can be made?

So what General Capabilities have been covered? You can certainly tick off:

Literacy

  • Comprehending texts through listening, reading and viewing
  • Text knowledge
  • Grammar knowledge
  • Word Knowledge

ICT

  • Investigating with ICT
  • Communicating with ICT
  • Managing and operating ICT

Numeracy

  • Estimating and calculating with whole numbers
  • Using fractions, decimals, percentages, ratios and rates
  • Interpreting statistical information

Critical & Creative Thinking

  • Inquiring – identifying, exploring and organising information and ideas
  • Generating ideas, possibilities and actions
  • Inquiring – identifying, exploring and organising information and ideas

Resources

 

 

A-Z Musical Instruments Poster Pack

I’ve been looking for a set of A-Z musical instrument posters for our music room. But most sets seem to skimp on the difficult instruments (quick- name an instrument beginning with I, N, Q or Y!) and many are just line drawings.

So I’ve created my own with all letters represented including I for Igil, N for Nyckelharpa, Q for Quena and Y for Yanqin.

You can download the first set – letters A through H – here for free and I’ve included links for the other two packs and the first ‘expansion pack’ below. They’re just £3.90 (around $6.50) on the TES store.

A-Z Musical Instruments Poster Pack Set 1: A-H

Download: A-Z Musical Instruments Poster Pack Set 1 A-H

This is Set 1  (containing 8 posters)  of the A-Z Musical Instruments Poster Pack, a collection of 26 alphabetical posters in three packs depicting a range of common and uncommon musical instruments. Set 1’s eight posters include the Accordion, Bassoon, Clarinet, Didgeridoo,  Electric Guitar, Flute, Glockenspiel and Harp.

Each instrument poster features a highlighted alphabet-letter, colour and icon coded categorisation, a large photograph of the instrument, smaller supporting photographs of features and playing positions and an information box detailing alternative names, era of development, related instruments and more. Just the resource to brighten your music room walls or use as a hands on lesson resource!

It also includes a PowerPoint presentation with audio files (or YouTube links ) of each instrument.Use the PowerPoint presentation to introduce new instruments, feature an ‘instrument of the day’ or supplement other music lessons.

DownloadMusical Instruments PowerPoint A-H

Other sets

Set 2 (I-Q) posters include Igil, Jaw Harp, Kalimba, Lute, Maraca, Nyckelharpa, Oboe, Piano and Quena.

Set 3 (R-Z) posters include Recorder, Saxophone, Timpani, Ukulele, Violin, Washboard, Xylophone, Yangqin and Zither.

Set 4 (Brass) posters include Bass Trombone, Bugle, Cornet, Euphonium, Flugelhorn, French Horn, Sousaphone, Trombone, Trumpet and Tuba.

Free Music Resources

Matthew Hindson, Composer. Deputy Dean at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and Curator, Australian Music Program has a number of useful free music resources on his blog.

Free Manuscript Paper: Five different styles including a compact 18 stave version.

Free Music Fonts: There are 14 different fonts including a recorder fingering font, a guitar strings font, a sax fingering font and a tempo indications font. My two favourites are the Rhythms and StaffClefPitchesEasy fonts.

Free English language hyphenation dictionary: A great resource if you’re a songwriter. I organised this (massive!) text file into Evernote for easier access.

 

Rainbow Tone Rows

My Year 6 music class experimented with serialism and tone-rows but using a diatonic scale (A B C D E F G) rather than a chromatic one (ie with all the semitones).

I used the phrase ‘Rainbow Tone Row’ to link in with out use of BoomWhackers.

Although this does somewhat negate serialsims goal of removing the influence of key from compositions, it allowed for easier composition and the use of our decidedly diatonic glockenspiels and BoomWhackers.

I demonstrated the technique on the board and then had students perform. The methods on the sheet (including writing the tune a third higher) are not authentically serialistic but the aim was to provide the students with readily accessible composing techniques. After students had tried their hand at writing and performing their (own diatonic) tone rows, we chose one student’s piece to perform using the performance grid. The class divided into four groups, with each group ‘soloing’ and performing with others.

Downloads

    

Extension

A quick search of YouTube will turn up many videos on serialism.

Advanced students may like to try composing the chromatic scale. There are lots of resources around but mostly aimed at secondary students. This 12 tone serialsim worksheet at TES.com might be useful.

Australian Curriculum links

  • Explore dynamics and expression, using aural skills to identify and perform rhythm and pitch patterns (ACAMUM088)
  • Develop technical and expressive skills in singing and playing instruments with understanding of rhythm, pitch and form in a range of pieces, including in music from the community (ACAMUM089)
  • Rehearse and perform music including music they have composed by improvising, sourcing and arranging ideas and making decisions to engage an audience (ACAMUM090)

ACARA COPYRIGHT

© Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) 2010 to present, unless otherwise indicated. This material was downloaded from the Australian Curriculum website (Website) (accessed [7/5/2017]) and was modified. The material is licensed under CC BY 4.0. Version updates are tracked on the Curriculum version history page of the Australian Curriculum website.

ACARA does not endorse any product that uses the Australian Curriculum or make any representations as to the quality of such products. Any product that uses material published on this website should not be taken to be affiliated with ACARA or have the sponsorship or approval of ACARA. It is up to each person to make their own assessment of the product, taking into account matters including, but not limited to, the version number and the degree to which the materials align with the content descriptions (where relevant). Where there is a claim of alignment, it is important to check that the materials align with the content descriptions (endorsed by all education Ministers), not the elaborations (examples provided by ACARA).

 

 

Music Alphabet Cards

Alphabet CardsMusic Mind Games” (Michiko Yurko, Warner Bros Publications) is an outstanding resource for any music educator, especially so if you’re planning on teaching any aspect of music theory.

With its emphasis on cooperative learning, hands-on games and ‘joyful learning’ the simple, focused and fun games can be used to teach everything from the basic music alphabet through to advanced triad building and interval recognition.

A simple resource mentioned is the alphabet note pack. These are typically small square cards printed with the letters A-G and available in a variety of colours. Michiko utilises them for a variety of games, including ‘Snake’ where students simply place them in order from A to G to learn the musical alphabet. I’m using them for recorder lessons, sight-reading and composition activities.

The attached resource is a printable pdf of cards. Each A4 sheet has six note squares. The 100mm cards are big enough for small hands to manipulate and  make efficient use of space on the page when printing. Note that the seven letter alphabets “wrap around” to the following sheet. Printing off the seven pages will give you six complete musical alphabets.

Music Alphabet Cards Download

Printing hint: Print out at 100%. You’ll lose a little of the cutting lines on the left, top and bottom margins but the cards will only require four cuts to create your cards.

Of course, if you don’t want to make your own, you can purchase them from the Music Mind Games website.

Printable Paper

Printable papers website screenshotPrintable Paper is a top resource for teachers – and students – with a huge range (1300+ and counting) of paper templates, graph paper, lined paper and music paper.

It’s all free, it’s all organised beautifully (just don’t click on the occasional ‘Start Download’ ad links) and there’s no registration needed.

Try these pages:

Graph paper – imperial and metric measurements.

Music paper – grand staves, tablature, chord charts and SATB

Handwriting practice paper – huge variety of line spacing, orientations

Calendars – monthly, weekly, perpetual

Templates – doorhanger, CD cover, postcards

Paper games – battleships, hangman, dot game, word ladder

Comics pages – three panel;, top action, grids

Storyboard template – small, medium, large, 4:3, 16:9

Teacher resources – attendance, grade book, lesson plans

 

 

Erols Singers Studio

As a music teacher, it’s a bit embarrassing to admit that my singing voice is most definitely not up to scratch.

In fact ‘scratch’ is probably a fair assessment of the tonal range and pitch qualities!

I’ve tried a few iPad apps in the hope they might – at the very least – provide me with a little more accuracy when singing. Of the several I’ve tested, one stands out from the pack; ‘Erol’s Singers Studio.

Data. data and more data

To improve my singing accuracy I need feedback on how I’m going, and Singers Studio provides that in spades.

Match your pitch to the blue notes.

Match your pitch to the blue notes.

Vocal exercises feature standard music notation plus a ‘piano roll’ style display with a graphed line of your vocal (in realtime) and notes that turn gradually greener according to your accuracy.

Each exercise  ends with a percentage score for each note. Top scores are recorded as a point value: overall percent for an exercise multiplied by the number of octaves covered.

A ‘range’ graph gradually solidifies as you progress with the exercises.

The green 'blob' shows your (hopefully) widening vocal range.

Exercises

A solid range of exercises are included in the app. I started on the ‘Beginner Program 1’ and there was enough material to keep me going for three weeks, until I changed to ‘Beginner Program 2’, an in-app purchase.

By this time I was so enjoying the app I bought all the in-app purchases, which still totalled less than one decent lesson!

It’s worth a hunt through the users manual in the help section, as you’ll probably discover a few things you didn’t realise the app could do, such as being able to slow down exercises, or set a key.

It’s also worth while reading the comments on the different sections from users, which range from ideas for improvements through to questions of technique and progress.

Best of all is reading Erol’s replies; thoughtful, helpful and professional. Just what you need in an app that is a teaching tool.

Singers Studio is brilliant, Erol is brilliant and although my voice isn’t brilliant, it’s not as scratchy as it used to be.

 

Cost

App: $14.99

  1. Ear Training for Singers – $3.99
  2. Beginner 2 – $0.99
  3. Intermediate 2 – $1.99
  4. Advanced 2 – $2.99
  5. Advanced 3 – $2.99

Links

Finale Songbook

Finale Songbook icon

Woo hoo! There’s now an official Finale music notation app – Finale Songbook – and for a (free) first go, it’s not bad – not bad at all.

Now I’ve used the Finale notation program ever since it was available on Windows, and I have all the disks to prove it! Back in the day, Finale had no ‘undo’, scant MIDI support and a frankly horrendous learning curve. The learning curve is still there, but everything else has improved exponentially, and despite newer and flashier programs such as Sibelius (much loved by our Education Department’s Instrumental Service) I’ll probably remain a Finale fan to my dyin’ day – and certainly Finale Songbook does nothing to change my mind.

Finale Songbook screenshot

First up though: it doesn’t do that much. Songbook will:

  • Display Finale ‘mus’ files
  • Auto scroll through them
  • Display the score’s parts separately
  • Create ‘playlists’
  • Sort your Library by title, composer and file name.

A bit like my much used Musicnotes app.

But the kicker, and I was most surprised by this, it plays your score. And pretty darn well too (especially if ‘human playback’ is available.

Oh, and along with the playback, it  has a metronome to set the tempo, a resume feature and a scroll bar to quickly move to a desired page.

All in all it’s pretty useful and I can certainly see myself using it at school for:

  • Playing new arrangements on the interactive whiteboard
  • An accompaniment machine for my instrumental groups
  • Playing songs from my musicals when learning them – follow the moving bar
  • Analysing songs for melody, harmony, rhythms etc

Wish list? At this point I’d see huge benefits in:

  • Selecting a part to display while the score plays.
  • Rudimentary editing
  • Ability to add annotations

In the meantime, download, install and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Music Essentials – Arranging

Cover of the book 'Music Essentials - Arranging'

Cover of Music Essentials - Arranging

Arranging is one of two creative secondary music titles I’ve written for Blake Education.

It was written with Year 9-10 in mind, but could be readily adpated for younger students with more music experience.

It’s fully photocopiable, so you can make your own arranging booklets or cherry-pick the material for inclusion in your own courses.

Chapter topics include:

Transposing, Chords, Keyboard Styles, Chord Inversions, Chord Inversions at Work, The Keyboard Accompaniment, Bass guitar, The Guitar Part, Guitar TAB, Drums, Counter Melody, Fills, Harmony, Finale Notepad, Templates and a Reference Page.

My aim for the book was for students to complete an actual arrangement, learning skills in transposing, writing accompaniments and creating melody fills. The book works equally well with paper or software and Finale Notepad which is mentioned in the book has now had some serious updates to it, as is once again free.

Here’s what Blake have to say about it:

Music Essentials: Arranging includes activities relating to arranging; transposing; chords and chord inversions; accompaniment styles; notation for guitar, bass and drums; and harmony and counter melodies. Creative approaches to learning the skills of songwriting and arranging that don’t require additional equipment and only basic note reading skills. Covers everything students need to start composing their own songs, including lyrics, tunes and chord progressions. Elements of music theory – such as major scales, blues scales and basic chord construction – are also woven into the activities to provide a solid theoretical foundation. A key feature of this series are the suggested ways in which to integrate notation software and freeware into music lessons.

Music Essentials – Arranging is available from www.blake.com.au for around $40