What did the researcher want to know?
What tonalities (i.e., modes) and meters are prevalent in commonly-used elementary music textbooks?
What did the researcher do?
Lange examined two major textbook series: Making Music (2006) published by Silver Burdett and Spotlight on Music (2006) published by McGraw-Hill. For each series, she compiled a list of every song that appeared at each grade level (1-5) along with the tonality and meter of each song.
What did the researcher find?
The majority of songs featured in these common elementary music textbooks were in major tonality. As shown in Tables 1-2, the percentage of songs in major tonality ranged from 57% to 87%. The next most common tonality was pentatonic (3-31%), followed by minor (3-16%). There were few to no songs in other tonalities, such as Dorian or Mixolydian.
The majority of songs featured in common elementary music textbooks were in duple meter. As shown in Tables 3-4, the percentage of songs in duple meter ranged from 80% to 94%. The next most common meter was triple (6-18%). Few to no songs were in uneven meters (such as 5/8 or 7/8) or were multi-metric.
What does this mean for my classroom?
Exposing children to songs in a variety of tonalities and meters enriches their musical vocabularies. However, if music teachers wish to include a variety of tonalities/meters in their classrooms, they will need to look outside of the most commonly-used elementary general music textbook series. Below are some resources for songs/chants in a wide variety of tonalities and meters:
- Music Play (includes CD!)
- Jump Right In: The General Music Series Teacher’s Editions (Grades 1-4 have the most tonal/metric variety.)
- Experimental Songs & Chants (a whole bunch of songs/chants without words!)
- You Are My Sunshine (instrumental recordings of 100 short folk tunes in varied tonalities/meters)
- Together in Harmony (book by Diane Lange on combining Orff and MLT)
If you are unfamiliar with the term “tonalities,” you can find more information and examples here:
- “Beyond Major and Minor” (includes links to pop tunes in varied tonalities)
- “Beyond Major and Minor” conference session handout (includes examples of songs in varied tonalities)
- “Beyond Major and Minor” conference session slides (includes tips for use in the classroom)