Music education always & always looking forward.

A little note about formatting

Do not pull any of this "recipe blog" garbage on me, Emily. Get your act together. 

Let me explain how these song entries work!

I started this blog to disseminate some of my graduate work. Said graduate work was first going to be a paper, then a website, then it took form as a wiki, then this blog. 

The Blog discusses using popular songs as teaching points and/or reinforcements to musical concepts.  Having a hard time teaching your kids about changing meter?  Play them Michael Jackson's "Burn This Disco Out".  Need your theory class to recognize the difference between Dorian and Aeolian mode?  Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars's "Uptown Funk" might help you out there.  Want to reinforce the historical idea of the tritone as the Devil's interval, while taking a break from species counterpoint?  The opening to Black Sabbath's "Black Sabbath" might connect with students.  

I believe that popular music is a powerful tool and worthy of study in music classrooms. It was my goal to find up to 200 songs that helped explain specific musical concepts. For example, my chorus students have demonstrable trouble counting to seven. Playing a song like "7/4 (Shoreline)" by Broken Social Scene might help to hit home that concept. 

So how do these song entries look? First! You'll see an altered photo of the musical artist mentioned. Don't come for me -- I know how to properly use Google's usage rights feature.  

Then a couple of delightful paragraphs that contain my opinions. Then a YouTube video of the song -- the official artists' VEVO when possible. 

The Intro will contain some facts about the song or the artist and why that song or artist are culturally pertinent.  (But let's be honest -- it's much easier to defend the cultural relevancy of Janet Jackson than it is Neutral Milk Hotel.)

The Analysis section will always be brief. This section will always contain a short analysis and/or notes on where to listen for the musical device (changing meter, modulation, etc.) in the song. If you are not familiar with the terms used, you can consult the glossary section of the website. 

Considerations for Teaching on each entry are important, and here's why.  

As I was beginning to research my project, I found a page on the vastly underutilized website OverthinkingIt.com that listed the supposed greatest all time modulations in pop music.  The first section of the article dealt with the monster modulation in Sisqo's "Thong Song".  That essay remains my favorite piece of pop culture writing I've ever found on the Internet, and the discussions that took place on the website (including input from some music theory doctors) were pretty incredible, too.

But no responsible teacher is going to blare "Thong Song" in their classroom.  Sure, it wafted from many a DJ booth at high school dances circa 2000, but it's not appropriate for inclusion in classroom curriculum.  (I'm not THAT much of a rebel.)  Music teachers get in enough trouble as it is for the music that they program.  

For teachers reading this, the Considerations for Teaching should almost not be abbreviated as CfT but CYA.  If you find yourself in hot water because of a song that you played in your classroom, don't say I didn't warn you.  Additionally, Steely Dan might seem innocuous enough (sort of), but the origins of the band's name are not.  If a student brings that to your attention the day after you play "Aja" in class, like I said, don't say I didn't warn you.

I promised this years ago, and the playlists are now available through the Song Bank pages. 

At best, these songs & the entries I post about them can help your students connect sometimes difficult concepts found in the music in your classroom or performance repertoire to music they already connect to.  At worst, they'll provide lots of lesson plan inspiration for days when things are, for whatever reason, out of whack in your ensemble classes (testing days, alternate schedules, early dismissals, late starts, post-concert days where your admins are coming to observe, etc.).  

And then one day when a former student of yours is on a nationally televised quiz show and asked a question about musical meter, they can have a Slumdog Millionaire moment remembering when you played a Tears for Fears or Dionne Warwick song that one day in class.

General music teachers, you're welcome.

Enjoy, and carry on. 

*Edited for content & clarity (& added links) on July 2nd, 2018.

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