Using Incredibox to Teach Musical Form

Musical form can be a complex concept for young students to wrap their heads around. For some students, the different sections might be different to distinguish. Luckily, Incredibox offers a remarkably easy way to introduce the concept of musical form and structure. This is a short sequence of lessons that I like to do with my music technology class.

0. Introduce Incredibox

I always give my students a good amount of time to just freely experiment with Incredibox. You want them to get comfortable with all the different sounds, as well as with switching out voices. You could also show them the record function as well, because we’ll be using that at the end of this sequence.

1. Introduce the concept of musical form

You’ll want to pick something simple for this one. Make sure it’s a piece with sections that can be easily distinguished. I like to use Dizzy Gillespie’s Night in Tunisia. It’s a great example of AABA song form, and most students can hear it easily enough. Have the students just listen to it once or twice by itself so they can get the piece in their heads. After a couple of listens, have students raise their hands (or something similar) when they think a new section is starting.

I’ve had success relating AABA form to the rhyme scheme of poems. Ask a question like “Did any of the sections sound the same?” This lets you start diagramming the form with letters.

1a. Check for understanding!

Bring in a new piece to see if the students understand the basic idea behind labelling different sections of music. My go-to at this point is Dave Brubeck’s Blue Rondo a la Turk. Using just the first five sections, you can diagram the basic structure of a five-part rondo, ABACA.

2. Start thinking like a composer

The big question for my students here is “What did those musicians do to make each section different?” You’ll get answers like “They changed the rhythm”, or “The style changed”. Use that as a springboard to ask something like, “What else could we do to make sections different?” This is where they’ll start mentally planning out their compositions.

3. Plan and compose

I ask my students to write a piece in ABA form (they have the option of whether or not to repeat the first ‘A’ section) in Incredibox. Step one is usually grabbing some scrap paper and planning out their composition by writing down the sounds they’d like to use for each section.

Step two is rehearsing the piece on Incredibox, and then recording. Have your students check their piece with you before they submit it so they can get any necessary feedback about the form.

Here’s an example that I put together. This whole process usually takes about two to three class periods for me (55 minutes per class). Your mileage may vary.

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The Trombonist's Mouthpiece by Joe Guarr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License