The University of St. Thomas


Werdahl, Kari

Werdahl, Kari

An Approach to Music Listening: Style Analysis Through Cooperative Learning Activities
Kari P. Werdahl

The National Standards document states that all children should be able to listen to, analyze and describe music. Unfortunately, most children do not have the vocabulary or listening skills to describe what they hear. Students know more than they can tell, especially when it comes to music listening. They ‘hear’ music every day in many different places but rarely ‘listen’ to it. In this project I developed an approach to music listening that combines cooperative learning techniques and style analysis.

SHMRFF is an acronym for the elements of music, (Sounds, Harmony, Melody, Rhythm, Form and Feelings). I used this method, which is modified from the book Guidelines for Style Analysis by Jan LaRue, with fourth graders when they analyzed a piece of music.

The four main areas of research in this paper are: (a) music listening research, (b) preference studies, (c) cooperative learning, and (d) affect or expression in music. Most of the research agrees that a difference exists between ‘hearing’ music and ‘listening’ to music. If students can develop analytical skills, the potential for musical enjoyment increases greatly. In order to teach children how to listen to music it is important to understand what determines their preferences. Many studies indicate that the type of music students choose to listen to can be affected by musical training, performance experience and repeated listening. Research also indicates children should be taught musical elements in a structured developmental sequence beginning with timbre and dynamics. If children are encouraged to talk about the music they listen to, they may better understand how the music makes them feel. Some educators and philosophers believe this will give them a better understanding of who they are.

Cooperative learning in the music classroom provides the opportunities for students to reflect verbally about their affective or aesthetic response to music. A good way to develop language skills and vocabulary is through small group discussions. This teaching tool has had documented success in the non-music classroom and results in a better attitude toward subject matter.

Music listening is a daily and essential part of the music class. It is our job as music educators to provide quality listening experiences that allow children to process and debrief with each other about the possible meaning the music might have for them. It is also our job to give students tools and vocabulary to analyze all kinds of music so they are better able to judge new music and understand its meaning.

Principal Advisor
Hilree J. Hamilton