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

 

 

Drumkit Rock Rhythms Poster

At its most basic, a drumkit rock rhythm can have just just four components: a snare drum hit on beats 2 and 4, a bass drum hit on beats 1 and 3.

The pdf  poster features eight variations on this idea, each adding a slightly more complex hi-hat pattern or bass-drum variation.

The bass drum is coloured red, the snare green and the hi-hat blue.

Small groups of students can play these patterns together. Allocate one student to the bass / snare pattern and a second to the hi-hat pattern. The hi-hat pattern can also be duplicated on the ride cymbal and (lightly) on the bell of the crash cymbal.

Before playing the patterns on the kit, have students practice using their hands and feet while sitting on chairs. Rehearse the counting patterns, particularly for the two last rhythms with the more complex bass pattern.

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Download Basic Rock Patterns Poster

Classroom Rights & Responsibilities

Here are three posters sets from my classroom.

The first chart in each set lists five rights children have as students. The second chart lists the relevant responsibilities these create. The third chart lists ten class rules that will help safeguard students’ rights and guide their responsibilities.

I use adaptations in my Drama and Music areas.

Music:  ‘Listen while others speak or perform’, ‘Applaud performances’. “treat the Music Area with respect’

Drama: ‘Listen while others speak or perform’, ‘Applaud performances’. “treat the Drama Area with respect’

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