Musical Patterns

Do you know anyone who can't hum the opening bars of Beethoven's 5th Symphony? Its memorable beginning notes form a pattern, or motif, that is repeated in various ways throughout the movements. The Beatles knew about musical patterns, and so did Frank Sinatra.

Music has always been a part of the human experience--from ancient man's humming while he clubbed a mastadon--to inspiring reflections of man's religious beliefs--to delightfully complex classical fugues--to commericial jingles that play over and over in our minds.

Sample some of the following activities to learn more about musical patterns.  


Places To Go    People To See    Things To Do    Teacher Resources    Bibliography

Places To Go

The following are places to go (some real and some virtual) to find out about patterns in music.

Africa Focus: Sights and Sounds of a Continent
Listen to the amazing rhythms and patterns of African music.
Country Music Hall of Fame: The Roots of Country
Travel to the Country Music Hall of Fame and discover the origins of country music.
The New York Philharmonic Kid Zone
Visit this world-renowned orchestra and make your own musical patterns. This site lets you explore the ways a piece of music can sound when played by different instruments.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Glide on over to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and see what the big deal was about the musical patterns of Elvis's gyrating hips.

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People To See

American Treasures of the Library of Congress
American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Memory (God Bless America). America's unofficial national anthem was composed by an immigrant who left his home in Siberia for America when he was only five years old.
Arts Alive: Great Composers
Select the composer you would like to learn more about. As you read along find yourself transported to another country and another time!
Bobby McFerrin
An innovative vocalist, composer, and conductor, Bobby McFerrin is famous for his rhythmic vocal explorations. His joyous ditty "Don't Worry, Be Happy" hit the #1 spot on pop charts in almost every country in the world in the late 80s.
Buddy Holly
Meet Buddy Holly and learn about his contributions to the musical genre rock and roll.
Fred Astaire
Get to know Fred Astaire and discover his fascinating rhythms.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a Zulu choir who sings a rhythmic a cappella music known as mbaqanga, Isicathamlya or "township jive."
Library of Congress: Omaha Indian Music
Get to know Omaha Native Americans and listen to the patterns of their music.
Yale University: Oral History American Music
Meet dozens of American musicians and experience their personal musical patterns. In this primary source collection, you can hear video and audio recordings of musicians telling their stories in their own voices. You can hear Aaron Copland explain how he named his work, Appalachian Spring.

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Things To Do

8 Notes
Learn about musical patterns by downloading free sheet music from several musical genres.
Campfire Songs
What is the pattern to the classic song, Do Your Ears Hang Low? Find the lyrics to all your favorites from this website.
Duke University: Historic American Sheet Music
Browse through musical patterns of over 3000 pieces of sheet music published in the United States between 1850 and 1920.
FunBrain: The Piano Player
Test your ability to work with musical patterns. Play this musical game and see how well you do.
Lincoln Center: Jazz
Here you'll find all the things we broadcast including our popular and long-running Jazz at Lincoln Center Radio series. You'll also find our latest podcasts including JazzStories featuring behind the scenes stories and personal insights from musicians.
Polka Patterns
Check out this "tongue-in-cheek" song that recognizes that patterns are indeed everywhere.
San Francisco Symphony Kids Fun With Music
Explore the language of music. The patterns in musical language organize sounds so that instead of noise, you get music.
Scholastic: History of Jazz
Jazz has its own unique blend of musical patterns. Learn about the swing rhythms of this American musical genre.

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Teacher Resources

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  •  The Kingfisher Young People's Book of Music. New York: Kingfisher, 1996.
  • Ardley, Neil. Music: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. New York, N.Y. : Facts on File, 1986.
  • Dixon, Malcolm. Sound and Music. Mankato, Minn.: Smart Apple Media, 1999.
  • Hart, Avery. Kids Make Music!: Clapping and Tapping from Bach to Rock. Charlotte, Vt.: Williamson Pub., 1993.
  • Love, Presley. Rock Lyrics Trivia: Quiz Book. Honolulu: Hi-Lite Pub. Co., c1992.
  • Pogue, David. Classical Music for Dummies. Foster City, CA: IDG Books, c1997.
  • Rowe, Julian. Music. Crystal Lake, IL: Rigby Interactive Library, c1997.
  • Schleifer, Martha Furman. Women Composers: Music Through the Ages. New York: G.K. Hall, c1996.