Song Bank

Popular music with a teachable purpose.

You should teach popular music in traditional school music classes. How can I accomplish that? you might ask. One way to do so is to connect the basic music theory concepts you may be teaching (while teaching repertoire, or just when introducing ideas) with popular songs that also feature that theoretical concept.

Are you teaching your students — or interested in learning yourself?! — about major thirds, Aeolian Mode (esp. vs. Dorian Mode), Picardy Thirds, asymmetrical compound meter, direct (or otherwise!) modulation, and more? You can use pop examples listed here. For each song listed & linked, there's an entry talking about the song & artist's cultural significance, an analysis of the teachable content in the song, and commentary on the school appropriateness of the song. 

Do you like music, but have no clue whatsoever what a major third is? I’ve included a glossary to explain certain terms.

Songs listed range in date from the 1950s to 2018, cover a wide swath of genres that are considered Western pop. Most artists listed here hail from the U.S., Canada, the UK, and Australia.

Teachable songs are listed in three conceptual categories: classical & jazz samples, harmonic & melodic concepts, and rhythm & meter concepts. Enjoy!

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songs featuring classical & jazz samples

From Evanescence sampling Mozart to Jurassic 5 sampling the Oscar Peterson Quartet (and Janet Jackson sampling both Erik Satie & Herbie Hancock), the songs featured here can help connect ensemble (and solo) performance literature to styles of music students may already be more familiar with.


Songs to reinforce harmonic & melodic concepts

Here is a list of songs that serve as good examples of theory concepts related to melody & harmony, broken down into four major categories and several subcategories: intervals, modulations, modes, and cadences.  Enjoy!


Rhythm & Meter Concepts

Do your students (band, chorus, orchestra, guitar, modern band, private piano, music theory, etc.) need help counting?  There's so much popular music out there that can expose them to rhythmic concepts that are often difficult to explain, listed here with three main features: cross-rhythms, changing meter, and compound and/or asymmetrical meter.