Example 3. “Alright” in a lesson plan on cadences

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

5 min. Listening, “Er Ist Gekommen,” Clara Schumann, Op.12, No.1

Play as much as you have time for (perhaps play the whole work before class, and then just the first three lines again once class begins).

Ask the class to consider the question “what broke that passage up into smaller units?” (the final answer being “cadences”).

5 min. What is a musical cadence?

Define cadence for your class.

List several features that create cadences (e.g., counterpoint, rhythm, pitch, harmony, dynamics).

20 min. Listening for cadences in hip hop

Play the class three excerpts from Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright.” Ask them to write down how points of rest are created in each excerpt. Then, discuss whether the points of rest in each excerpt are all equal, or, if like punctuation, some are more restful than others.

Excerpt 1 (0:00–0:14): This excerpt features silence (opening dahs); a change from one pitch to another and shorter pitches to longer; the articulation of “fight” at a higher tone, louder dynamic, and a timbre closer to yelling.


Excerpt 2 (0:15–0:19): This excerpt features repetition (“fucked up”), meter (ending on the beat), a drum fill pushing towards an ending, a vocal slide in “Alright,” and changes in texture.


Excerpt 3 (0:37–0:45): This excerpt features meter (voice ends on downbeats), rhyme or assonance, rhythm (use of longer durations), silence, and the vocal utterance “uh.”

AUDIO 1.10

Play the whole passage containing these excerpts and ask if these moments create cadences and smaller units of music, in the same ways that smaller units were created in the example by Clara Schumann.

AUDIO 1.11

15 min. Defining a cadence harmonically

Explain how a cadence is defined harmonically in Western European art music and define as many of the harmonic cadence types (perfect authentic, imperfect authentic, half, etc.) as makes sense for your course.

10 min. Listening and analyzing

Return to the Schumann example from the opening of the class. Discuss the various musical features that create cadences, and then point out the harmonic cadences used in this passage.