Constructing Meaning in Musical Chairs

Learning Target OR Standards & Connections
  • NCAS Creating – Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
  • NCAS Performing (Extension Activity) –  Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.

  • NCAS Responding – Organize and develop artistic ideas and work
  • NCAS Connecting (Extension Activity) – Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art. 
Essential Outcome(s) Level(s)
Students will…

  • Demonstrate an understanding of phrasing in music through creating interactive musical experiences. 
Upper Elementary to Middle School
  1. The teacher should start by providing an example of a musical chairs game that he/she created in Soundtrap. The selections could include a variety of music that in common to the students as well as musical selections that will be studied in the course. 
  2. The musical chairs excerpts should stop at the end of phrases, which the teacher should make sure students recognize as a way to excel in the game. Suggestion: Rather than the common way of playing musical chairs in which everyone moves around while the music is playing, having the chairs face inward in a circle and having the students sit and only move when the music stops tends to help students stay quiet and focused on the music. 
  3. After students are able to recognize and anticipate where phrases will end, provide them with samples of music excerpts that can be dropped into Soundtrap. (Accepted file types include: mp3, wav, mp4, m4a, ogg, and aac) Alternatively, students could find musical excerpts on their own. Excerpts could be from a particular genre of music (e.g. Chinese art music, West African Drumming, Egyptian Protest Music, etc.) or excerpts from musical selections the students will be performing (e.g. selections for the year). 
  4. Students cut each excerpt into phrases using CMD-E to split the track, then deleting the rest of the track. 
  5. Students produce a track with 4-5 rounds of phrases in it to play the musical chairs game.
  6. Students download the wav file of their track and send it to their teacher.
  7. For smaller classes, each track could be played as a musical chairs game. For larger classes, the teacher could pick several to showcase and play the game in class.
  8. The reward for students completing the work is to be able to play the game with the class. 
Extended Learning
  1. This could also be used as a get-to-know-you activity in which students pick their favorite music to share with the class, dividing by phrases, and playing the musical chairs game. 
  2. Instead of using pre-recorded music, students could record themselves playing select phrases of repertoire they are studying. Advanced students could explore how knowing phrases help inform musical decisions such as dynamic shaping, rubato, breathing, etc. 
  3. For an interdisciplinary connection with cultural studies, students could be asked to identify common musical characteristics in a culturally-specific genre of music and then find other musical excerpts from other genres that contain those same characteristics. 


Lesson plan submitted by Bill Manchester. Bill is a music specialist in the Bexley City Schools, a public school district in Columbus, OH, USA. He teaches a required middle school course that builds students’ performance, creativity, and critical thinking skills through music and other performing arts. He holds degrees from the Ohio State University and Belmont University teaching experience spanning from kindergarten to college in music, math, STEAM, and reading.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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