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The final submitted concert review should include the concert thesis statement, details about the event, musical descriptions of what you heard, the lineup of the event, your favorite and least favorite musical moments, how the audience/performers engaged, and any thing else you noticed.

UPDATE: Due to COVID-19, you may use a live concert performance from online (Youtube, Hulu, Netflix, etc) as long as it is atleast 60min long.

Please review the “Writing About Music” Powerpoint before you begin writing!

Minimum length = 1250 words (3-4 pages). The paper should be in 12 pt font in Times New Roman, double spaced. I expect you to include citations if you look up information (this may be in ALA, MLA, or Chicago).


2020 BET Awards


Writing about Music
(Suggestions for your Concert Review) ☺
• Technical language vs. Lay Language (slang/everyday language)
• Try to use technical terms to summarize what you’re hearing
• Vocabulary allows you to describe the music’s elements more
• Aim for more academic/journalist writing and make sure you
• Check your tone; is it appropriate? Avoid writing in first person.
• Introduce the necessary information in the concert review (like
who, what, where, why) so we know what you saw.
• Avoid a laundry list (Ex: “I heard this song, then the next song,
then the next song”). Tell us a story about your experience.
• Provide the basic information about the concert you attended (who
performed, where, when). Why? Was this for a special occasion or just
part of a regular concert series?
• Why do you think this music exists? What is its historical context?
• What are some metaphors you could use to help describe the music?
• The performance: was it played well? Did they rock out or mess up?
• The audience: did they seem to enjoy it?
• How is the music organized?
• Was there a program/set list?
• For specific songs or pieces, could you hear sections of the music
repeating? Were there contrasting section? Could you shorthand
the form into a structure discussed in class (like ABA, AABA,
AABACA etc.)?
• What are the sounds you’re hearing?
• How do the colors or tones of these sounds change?
• How do the instruments or vocals sound in comparison to
eachother (harsh, light, dark, fragile, etc.?)
• Where there sections of the concert that stood of out to you in
regards to Dynamics? (soft, loud, etc)
• Meter: Can you hear a consistent beat? Or maybe you can’t hear a
consistent beat at all?
• Do you hear repeating rhythmic patterns? Or varying patterns?
• How is it intriguing or consistent? Maybe inconsistent?
The Music
• How would you describe the melodies of a particular piece?
• Where there harmonies supporting that melody?
• Did the piece feel like it was in a bright major key or in a darker
minor key? Sometimes composers use dissonance and modes other
than major/minor. Did hear any dissonance?
Great Review Example:
“Jazz Combo Concert Pleases All”
By Jacqui Fisher
November 22, 1996
Bryan Hall Room 305, 8:00 p.m.
Jazz lover’s will agree that WSU’s School of Music and Theatre Arts’ presentation of the Fall Jazz Combo Concert was the place to be on Wednesday night.
Performing that evening were five different jazz combos put together by the School of Music and one duet group who came up with a great jazz number. The five
groups featured were The Kingswell Cogs, Blue on Wednesday, The Four Freshman (and Joel), Bad Credit, and Hack n’ Sack. Each group performed two or three
songs written by various artists, including Miles Davis, a popular jazz artist from the mid-1900’s.
The evening started out with The Kingswell Cogs who performed three songs, including an entertaining number called “Route 66.” It was obvious that this group
was comprised of musicians who were experienced with playing in COMBO BANDS. The amazing SCAT that vocalist Adam Taylor exhibited was an example of this.
Another example was every member’s ability to IMPROVISE with such great ease that it appeared as if they had been doing it for many, many years. For this
group their LEAD SECTION was comprised of a tenor SAX and an alto sax and a VOCALIST. There was not a BRASS SECTION, but in the RHYTHM SECTION, they had
a piano, bassist, and drums. This group had a great performance and were able to truly capture the essence of jazz.
The next group to play were Blue on Wednesday who were a younger, not as experienced combo group. Bob Ratcliff, who was the host for the concert, informed
the audience that one of this group’s main goals was to play many STANDARD pieces of music. And although they did a fine job, it was obvious that they were a
“younger” group. They did not seem to do as much improvising as The Kingswell Cogs and it appeared that their pick of music was not as difficult.
The third group to perform was The Four Freshman (and Joel). This group was also a younger group and their performance was very good. The instrument that I
truly enjoyed listening to in this group was the trumpet because at times the songs would call for it be MUTED. The high and almost nasal PITCH the trumpet
gets with a mute stands out and gives the instrument great CLARITY.
The fourth group to play was named Bad Credit and was the only group with a trombone player. This group had two aspects that stood out to me. The first one
was that this was the only group where I noticed the STRONG DOWNBEATS associated with TRIPLE METER. Another aspect that I liked from this group was their
clarity. Their songs and emotions rang out from their music and when they were finished there was loud applause for the exceptional entertainment.
One of the songs that Bad Credit played was “Eighty-One” which was written by Miles Davis. Miles Davis was a wonderful jazz artist who was an important part of
the jazz world while alive. Davis started playing the trumpet around nine or ten and by the age of 19 was playing in a quintet with Charlie Parker and showed
listeners a different trumpet style than the great Dizzy Gillespie. Davis’ “Eighty-One” is an entertaining piece and was a pleasure to listen to.
After Bad Credit was a duet with VOCALIST Jamie Robinson and BASSIST Roger Shew. These two were able to show their great musical talents with the fancy
finger work from Shew and the wonderful LYRICS from Robinson. One thing that these two did well was the strong MELODY from Robinson while singing, and the
great backup with the HARMONY from Roger.
To finalize the evening was the group Hack n’ Sack. This group only had four performers, but all were very experienced and had great musical ability. Each
member of this group was given a solo throughout one of their two songs and one solo that stood out was Bob Ratcliff’s on tenor sax. Ratcliff is a fine musician
and was able to have produce great DYNAMICS as he would go from FORTISSIMO to PIANO. His CRESCENDOS and DESCRESCENDOS also made his part of the piece
very enjoyable to listen to. These four musicians came together well and provided an energized finale to a great evening of music.
Not great example:
The jazz concert was really good. I really enjoyed it and it seemed like the audience
enjoyed most of the concert as well. I liked how they played really loud and then they
played really soft. One of the guys had on a funny shirt that didn’t match the rest of the
band. My favorite song of the night was called salt peanuts because the director had us
sing parts of it along while they were playing. Everything felt really energized except for
when they played slow songs. I didn’t like the slow songs as much as the fast song. I can
see why people would want to attend the jazz concerts and I am glad I had the
opportunity to attend.
Dr. Megan Murph
What is Music?
 Music is organized sound
 Sounds may come from voice, instruments, electronics, or any
combination of these
 Communication between musician and listener
 Collaboration between musicians and audience during performance
 Intention of musician may or may not be perceived by the listener
and that is ok.
 Reception of sound/expression of the emotion varies
 Oral traditions vs. written/printed music
 Influence of technological advances, social/political events, identites,
What are we Listening for?
 Formal Analysis – how is the music structured?
 Musical Process – how does everything come together?
 “Catchiness” – what draws the listener in? This may be heard
 Riff/Hook/Groove/Timbre
 Lyrics
 Dialect
 Music and Identity (Ethnicity/Race, Gender, Class, Personal
Expression, etc.) – what is the musical function and meaning for
the people?
 Music and Technology
 Music Business/Industry (composer, lyricist, arranger, A&R –
artists & repertoire )
 Music Communities
Musical Terms Overview
A single line of notes heard in succession as a
coherent unit
Determine the volume of a given passage
The ordering of music through time
The sound created by multiple voices playing or
singing together
Based on the number and general relationship of
musical lines or voices
The character of a sound
The structure of a whole piece of music
How the music captures the meaning and spirit of
its text
Melody (1/3)
 Single line of notes heard in succession as a coherent unit
 Pitch/Note—smallest unit of music. Note and pitch may be
used interchangeably. A pitch is the specific frequency of
the soundwave. A note is the letter name given to that
pitch (C, D, E, F, etc.)
 Notes form into phrases separated by breaths or pauses
 Cadence—point of arrival
 Melodies constructed from phrases, which form complete
statements ending with a cadence
Melody (2/3)
 Melodic motion—either conjunct (motion by steps) or disjunct
(motion by leaps)
 Listen: Can you hear Billie Eilish sing in a conjuct motion during the
verses of “Bad Guy”?
 Listen: Can you hear Katy Perry sing in a disjunct motion during the
chorus of “Firework”?
 Most melodies use both types
 Melodic notes typically derive from a scale (series of stepwise
notes spanning an octave)
 Check out this quick video on scales
 Interval—distance between two notes
 Scales combine whole steps and half steps, form building
blocks of a melody
Melody (3/3)
 Central note of scale or melody determines its key
 Standard Western music uses 12 keys with two
possible modes
 Major mode—do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do; sounds bright or
 Minor mode—same as major, but lowered “mi” and
“la”; sounds dark or somber
 Mixture of modes creates melodic contrast
 The color of music, the character of sound
 Each instrument has its own distinctive register, or
span of pitches it can create, from high to low
 Range of musical timbre enormous, from instruments
to voices, individually or together in combinations
 Timbre provides variety to sound:
 EX: Would you agree a saxophone sounds different from
a trumpet?
 EX: you think Taylor Swift’s voice sounds different from
• Term used to indicate relative volume
• Ranges from very soft to very loud
• Can change suddenly or gradually
• Referred to using Italian terms:
pianissimo (pp)
very soft
piano (p)
mezzo piano (mp)
medium soft
mezzo forte (mf)
medium loud
forte (f)
fortissimo (ff)
very loud
 The ordering of music through time
 Meter—underlying, recurring pattern of beats
 Triple meter—one strong beat followed by two weak
 Duple meter—one strong beat followed by one weak
 Measure/Bar —rhythmic unit formed by meter
 Tempo – speed at which a work of music is performed
 Check out this link about rhythm!
 Listening: What meter is the USA “National Anthem” in?
 Listening: What meter is “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in?
Harmony (1/2)
 The sound created by multiple notes played or sung
 If melody functions horizontally, then harmony
functions vertically
 Harmony presents notes drawn from a scale
 Chord—three or more notes played at the same
Harmony (2/2)
 Most harmonizations use different chords to create
 A single melody can be harmonized in more than one
 Harmony works on small and large scale
 Tonic—the primary key area of a piece
 The number and general relationship of musical lines to
one another
 Monophonic—single melodic line; multiple performers can
play in unison.
 Acapella is when vocalist(s) sing without accompaniment –
this might be monophonic or homo/polyphonic (SATB+).
 Homophonic—melody with supporting accompaniment
 Polyphonic—melody performed against another line of
equal importance; every line is a melody
 The structure of a musical work, the way in which its
individual units are put together
 Based on three possible strategies
 Repetition
 Variation
 Contrast
 Different sections diagrammed with letters (ABACA)
A Framework for Listening:
 The category of a given work, determined by a
combination of its performance medium and social
 Shapes our expectations of any given work (rock
band, solo rapper, choir, orchestra, string quartet, jazz
combo, etc.)
 Knowing typical nature and function of genre can help
us understand unknown works
“Catchiness” – Repetition/Memory
 Riff: a repeated pattern designed to generate
rhythmic momentum
 Hook: memorable (melodic and/or rhythmic)
 Groove: the underlying rhythmic flow or
Word-Music Relationships
 Using musical elements to “describe” the text
 Often the structure of the poetry matches the
form of the work
 Individual words or emotions can correspond to other
musical elements (e.g., high notes on “And the
rockets’ red glare” or “free”)
 The voice: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass (SATB)
 We will see throughout history how these categories
changed! (Ex: men singing soprano or alto)

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