Example 2. “For Free (Interlude)” in a lesson plan on musical scores

By the end of this lesson, students should be able to:

5 min. Introductory think-pair-share activity1

Ask students to write individually for one minute, answering the question “What are the components of a musical score?”

For two minutes (one minute for each student), students share their ideas with the person sitting next to them.

For the remaining three minutes, students share their ideas with the whole class.

15 min. Components of musical scores

Distribute a handout including excerpts from various types of musical score. These might include an orchestral score, a sound waveform from an audio track, TUBS notation (Koetting 1970), Chinese jianpu notation, a jazz lead sheet, medieval neumes, an easy piano score, etc.

Ask students to consider what each score includes and what it leaves out. You might assign each score to an individual student or create small groups in the class to work on all or some of the examples.

Discuss each example as a class, compiling a list of the components of a musical score on the board as you go along.

10 min. Creating a musical score

Tell students to transcribe the line “You lookin’ at me like it ain’t a receipt/Like I never made ends meet/Eatin’ your leftovers and raw meat.”


Deliberately do not give them any other instructions. Play the passage on a loop, and alternate sections of playing it with sections of silence. While students are transcribing, observe their work and look for similarities and differences in transcription style and process.

5 min. Partner sharing

Ask students to share their work with a partner, explaining both their transcription and the process they used to create it.

10 min. Class discussion

Lead a class discussion about different transcription styles, using your observations of the class and partner discussions.

10 min. Concluding thoughts

Connect this work to the larger repertoires you will be covering in the semester. For instance, discuss the elements of music that Western notation and art music scores privilege; connect the diversity of transcription styles for the Kendrick example to the diversity of notation styles in Western art music outside of the common-practice period; discuss the performance practices of hip hop performers and how they differ from Western art music in terms of the use of scores. (Some of this discussion might begin earlier in the class; for instance, during the “Components of Musical Scores” segment.)

1 The think-pair-share method originates in Lyman 1987 and has been widely adopted and adapted across the disciplines and in both post-secondary and K–12 educational contexts.