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Rhinegold Education Key Stage 3: Lesson 11

From Rhinegold Education, Key Stage 3: Lesson 11 (ages 11-14) is all about the relationship between words and music.

Learning Objective: to listen with increasing discrimination to a wide range of music; develop aural and visual intervallic awareness; recognise the link between intervals and text within songs; use this understanding to create a musical composition

Length: 45 mins 

1. Watch this clip from the musical West Side Story, by Leonard Bernstein (music) and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics).

How many times do you hear the word “Maria” being sung?

2. Let’s look closely at the song.


As you can hear, it is built around the word, “Maria.” Bernstein had a choice to make. Should Maria be sung on only one note? If not, what direction should it take? Which of these directions do you think is the most natural? (Hint: say “Maria” out loud and see what is most natural to you).

Listen to the clip again. Which version do you hear most often?

Check your answers to questions 1 and 2 below.

3. Some songs have one stand-out word or phrase (such as “Maria”).

Listen to this theme song for a popular TV soap opera.

a) What is the stand-out word?
b) How many times do you hear it?
c) When this word is sung, does the music go up or down? 

4. Listen to another song with a stand-out word.

a) What is the stand-out word?
b) How many times do you hear it?
c) When this word is sung, does the music go up or down?

Now check your answers to questions 3 and 4.

5. The melodies of “Neighbours” and “Feelings” have a lot in common!

Both have stand-out words, and the melody of these words fall. The melody of the word “Neighbours” falls a short distance:


The melody of the word “Feelings” falls much further:


The distance between one note and the next is called an interval. The distance between the first two note of Neighbours (E to D) is a second (a small interval). The interval between the first two notes of Feelings (B to E) is a fifth (a bigger interval).

When calculating intervals, count from the lower note up each step to the higher note and make sure you count both the first and last note. 

6. Using any instrument, play these intervals:

a) A second: play C then play D
b) A third: play C then play E
c) A fourth: play C then play F
d) A fifth: play C then play G
e) A sixth: play C then play A

Here are the intervals, written out:

Step 6 Intervals

7. Name these intervals. Can you play them?

Step 7 Intervals

Check your answers to question 7 below.

8. All three songs, “Maria,” “Neighbours,” and “Feelings” have one, stand-out word.

The music for that word goes with a particular interval.

• “Maria” has a rising 4th*
• “Neighbours” has a falling 2nd
• “Feelings” has a falling 5th.

In “Neighbours,” the interval is always a falling second, (even if the actual notes are different) whenever the word appears. This makes the song catchy and memorable. For example:

Neighbours Interval

9. Use what you have learnt to compose some music!

Choose a section from one of these poems and compose some music to go with it. Before you do, listen to this explanation.

Still I Rise: https://poets.org/poem/still-i-rise
I Want To Love You But: www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/i-want-to-love-you-but
Love Me: www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/love-me-4

For more songs with a stand-out word or phrase, listen to these songs. In each case, the title is the stand-out word or phrase:

Don’t Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin (Falling third)
Yesterday by the Beatles (Falling second. stops after 1:17)
Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen (the chorus starts at 0:50)
Hallelujah Chorus by George Frederick Handel

*Note: “Maria” has a rising augmented 4th (Db – G, the same interval as C – F#.) For an explanation of this interval, see:

10. Being able to calculate intervals is a great skill to have.

You can learn how to do it quickly and easily it in Samantha Coates’ fantastic book How to Blitz! ABRSM Theory Grade 5

By Tim Cain for Rhinegold Education

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