Home School Years

Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.

All About Music: Instruments, Notes and More

Related Posts:

Music Theme

Songs: Lyrics and Meaning

The Performing Arts

Recommended Books:

  • Moonlight on the Magic Flute (Magic Tree House Series) by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Maestro Stu Saves The Zoo by Denise Brennah-Nelson
  • Nate The Great and The Musical Note by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
  • Jazz Cats by David Davis
  • Hokey Pokey: Another Prickly Love Story by Lisa Wheeler
  • Wooleycat’s Musical Theater (with CD) by Dennis Hysom & Christine Walker

Musical Scale and Notes:

Since the weather was so nice, I decided to school outdoors for part of the lessons. The driveway became my blackboard of sorts for our lesson on musical scale and notes. I used colored chalk to create the G clef staff scale and cut out the center of paper plates to create the notes. I taught my son the note scale by using Every Good Boy Does Fine (EGBDF) for the line notes and FACE for the space notes. I also discussed the Do, Re, Mi scale as a musical staircase by which you go up or down to get a specific pitch or sound for a note (each step is a specific pitch/sound). In addition, I used this awesome printable from letsplaykidsmusic.com to teach him about note values. It was a fun and effective tool!

Learning the musical notes scale

Learning the musical notes scale


I offered a brief biography on three composers: Mozart, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. We also listened to a few of their pieces and studied their rhythm/pattern. My son was most taken with Mozart’s story as the child music genius. He really enjoyed the Magic Tree House series book Moonlight on the Magic Flute by Mary Pope Osborne which takes Jack and Annie on an adventure to Vienna to meet a young Mozart.

Instrument Families & Orchestra:

We discussed four main instrument families: string, woodwind, brass/horns and percussion. We discussed each family by offering a brief history on each instrument, what they are made of, how they are played and what kind of sound each makes. I then used picture cut outs of them and had my son match the instrument to the appropriate family. Once he was familiar with the instruments, we discussed an orchestra. Specifically, we discussed conductor/maestro, symphony, harmony and concert. The book Maestro Stu Saves The Zoo by Denise Brennah-Nelson was a great read for that theme. We also briefly discussed different types of music (classical, folk, jazz, blues) and the instruments usually associated with them. Jazz Cats by David Davis is a fantastic read-aloud resource for that theme.

Learning about instruments and creating music

Learning about instruments and creating music

Melody and Lyrics:

I discussed melody by humming the tune to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (which is the same as the tune to ABC/The Alphabet Song) to explain that melody is a tune (what we sing). For that particular example, I also showed that without lyrics, a melody can be a tune that is used for more than one song. Another lesson I did recently regarding lyrics was to discuss how they can be used to express feelings, such as patriotic, love and protest songs (anti-war or pro-peace songs). We read various lyrics to help my son understand each song’s message. We also read a few song books to explore the story or meaning of various folk songs and nursery rhymes. Lastly, I had my son sing names ~ his, as well as those of family members. We came up with variations on each to explore the difference between the way we speak and sing.

Tempo and Movement in Art:

Another fun activity was discussing tempo and how movement can be captured in art. I gave my son a white sheet of art paper and asked him to get his crayons. We then listened to short clips of music contained in these musical composers samples from starfall.com. Using one color for each song, I asked him to draw the movement/tempo of each song on the paper. We discussed fast, slow, quick, short, long, high, low, swaying, swirling, broken, back and forth. He was to capture through coloring what he heard or felt as the movement of each sample piece. This is what he captured:

Capturing musical movement in art

Capturing musical movement with art


We discussed the difference between a play, a musical and an opera. Specifically, we talked about the following: theater, play, stage, characters, set, scenery, props, script, costumes, backstage, box office, audience, orchestra, lighting, special effects, as well as the phrases break a leg, grand finale, it’s not over until the fat lady sings and bravo. In addition, I had my son read/listen to a few musical pieces from the Wooleycat’s Musical Theater CD book by Dennis Hysom & Christine Walker. They have a great collection of 10 brief musicals based on well-known nursery rhymes. My son really enjoyed it. I highly recommend the book as part of a lesson on musicals.


On the last day of our music-themed week, we focused on dance. I discussed these related words: dancing, whirling, twirling, jumping, stomping and gliding. We also read Hokey Pokey: Another Prickly Love Story by Lisa Wheeler, which mentions rumba, waltz, tango, fox-trot, bunny hop, funky chicken and the hokey pokey. We not only talked about the different dance types, we also acted some out. My son’s favorite was the hokey pokey, especially the part when the tempo got faster. He was still singing the song long after the lesson was done! I also played Shout! by the Isley Brothers. It was a great song to showcase many of the aspects we discussed during the week: tempo, pitch, harmony, rhythm, dance, and all around fun!


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