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Classical Kids Music Lessons: Musical Maps, Part I

A collection of maps Unsplash/Ruthie

Need ideas for easy and fun at-home music learning? Here's our latest Classical Kids Music Lesson.

Target age range: Grades 2-6. Teachers are encouraged to modify and adapt concepts and language to align with social studies units and make content grade-level appropriate.

1. Start with a brief discussion about maps. What is a map? We recognize maps when we see them, but how would you define a map? How do maps help us?

We will define a map as "a graphic diagram or representation of something."

In geography, this means a representation of an area of land. A map might show roads in a certain area, or features of the land (including things like rivers and mountains) or climate.

In science, biologists map out different parts of the body, including tiny particles we can't see without help from a microscope.

Thematic maps show the location of a certain topic of interest. Can you imagine a map that shows all the major sports teams in the USA? Or the location of every bookstore in the city where you live?

2. Look at the four maps below and think about what each map tells us.

Maps Wikimedia Commons/Katie Condon

Brainstorm a short list of different kinds of maps, or things you would like to map out.

3. Time to think a little bit about how we can map a piece of music. We can map the things we hear, and we can focus on one particular aspect of the music. For example, think about how you might create a map for the following musical elements:

• Dynamics: The volume level in a piece of music, or the sequence of loud and quiet sounds.
• Melodic contour: The shape of the melody, or tune, in a piece of music. Shows the movement of high and low sounds.
• Instrumentation: The instruments used in a piece of music.
• Structure/form: The pattern of different sections in a piece of music. Shows contrast and similarity of musical ideas.
• Articulation: The way certain notes sound- short, long, smooth, bumpy.

Can you think of other musical elements you might be able to map out?

4. In this lesson, we will create one musical map. This map will focus on showing melodic contour. Melody is the tune of a piece of music. Melodies use high and low pitches to move up and down. The shape of the up and down movement of a melody is called melodic contour. Here is a full lesson on melodic contour if you want a refresher.

5. Take out a blank piece of paper and lay it with a landscape orientation. Label the top "Melody Map of 'The Swan' from Carnival of the Animals." It will look like the image below.

Melody map Katie Condon

6. In "The Swan," the cello plays the melody while the piano plays a gentle accompaniment underneath. Imagine your pencil, marker, or crayon is the swan. Once you hear the cello's melody, use your writing utensil to glide from left to right, moving up a bit when you hear the notes in the melody move higher, and gliding down as the notes descend, or get lower. Move slowly and with small motions so you leave room on the paper. If you get to the edge of the paper, start a second line below the first.

Click on the arrow below to play the music for this map.

LISTEN Carnival of the Animals XIII. The Swan
Camille Saint-Saens
David Owen Norris, piano; Yuli Turovsky, cello

7. When you are finished, maybe you will listen again and use your finger to trace the map of the music's melody. Show your map to someone and explain what the line represents.

8. As you listen to music over the next few days, see if you notice the melody and the melody's shape. Think about other parts of music that you might also map. Look for another lesson on musical mapping sometime soon!

Have a question or suggestion? Contact Katie Condon, music education specialist.

More: View all of our Classical Kids Music Lessons

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