How Music Works

Why do tunes that are easy to sing go where you expect them to? What's the difference between a random sequence of notes and a melody? How do those magical moments in some pieces of music get made?

What are people on about when they talk about the tonic, or sequences, or minor keys? How do chords work? 

All of this is the agenda for How Music Works. It's to do with the ingredients that make up music and its structure. It's also about how music works emotionally, creating tension and relaxation, feelings of space, calm, wonder or optimism. 

Understanding more about how music works helps when taking part in music making and listening to music. It also helps on the smaller scale if you are working out how a tune goes, whether by ear or from notation. You can predict what is likely to happen next, think about the whole tune and notice the bits that are the same or similar. You can operate as a musician.

Traditionally, much of this agenda was left until students had got quite a way on with their music studies, and then it would generally focus on longer pieces of music. It was often called Music Analysis. It's useful to get into it right from the start, considering familiar, accessible bits of music.

Even the simplest, shortest tunes demonstrate basic “rules” of how music works, to do with the notes they use and their structure. Once you are able to think about the tune, through Musithink activities, you can start to explore how it works.

How Music Works activities are explorations. You'll experiment with patterns and notes, reflecting on what seems to sound right, odd, interesting or boring. You can do them through singing, but they are easier to do using an instrument. A keyboard is ideal.

As you carry on learning how music works, you'll often access the music through Score Reading, another of the activity strands in these materials. When you are score reading, you aren't having to make the notes yourself so you can concentrate on what is going on, what the effect is, and how that is achieved.