Song Bank

Popular music with a teachable purpose.

You should teach popular music in traditional school music classes. One way to do so is to connect the basic music theory concepts & curriculum standards you may be teaching with popular songs that also feature that theoretical concept.

The music theory concepts discussed are broken down as such:

  • Jazz & Classical Samples

    • Songs featuring Teachable Jazz Samples

    • Songs featuring Teachable Classical Samples

  • Harmonic & Melodic Concepts

    • Interval Studies

    • Modulation

    • Modes

    • Cadences

  • Rhythm & Meter Concepts

    • Cross-Rhythm

    • Changing Meter

    • Asymmetrical and/or Compound Meters

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. 

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

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

 
 
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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.

 
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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!

 
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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.