Tag Archives: November 2014

November 2014: “Word Crimes” by “Weird Al” Yankovic

Meets National Core Arts Anchor Standards 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7



  • Perceive and analyze artistic work
  • Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work
  • Organize and develop artistic ideas and work
  • Refine and complete artistic work
  • Develop and refine artistic work for presentation



  • CD (November 2014)
  • Piano or other classroom instrument


Play “Word Crimes” by “Weird Al” Yankovic (CD track 1)

Ask the students some questions to help them analyze the song.



What is the key signature? (G major.)

What are the different sections? (Intro, verse, chorus, bridge.)

All they all the same length? (All are 16 measures long except the intro, which is eight measures long.)

Does the chord progression behave differently in each section? (No, it’s the same throughout.)

What’s the harmonic rhythm—the rate at which the chords change? (Every four bars.)

If the music is so simple, then why doesn’t the song get boring? (Probably the biggest reason is the deft wordplay.)

Help students work on singing chromatic lower neighbors:

  • Play a random pair of notes on the piano—a major second apart melodically— and have the students sing the pitches.
  • Play the same pair again, but with the lower note situated a half step higher, then have the students sing the pair back to you.
  • Explain to the students that they’ve just sung a chromatic lower neighbor.
  • Repeat the whole process a handful of times.




  1. Using “Word Crimes” as an example, ask the students to come up with their own parodies of the pop songs of their choosing. If you can, help suggest topics that they can use in rewriting the lyrics that will tie into things they’re currently studying in other classes. Collect the students’ work, and if they’re amenable, have them sing their work before the class.



Did the students analyze the song with you?

Did they sing the song together?

Did they parody a popular song?


November 2014: Old School Records

Meets National Core Arts Anchor Standards 7, 8, 9, and 11


  • Perceive and analyze artistic work
  • Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work
  • Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work
  • Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural and historical context
  • Learn about the history of recording

CD (November 2014)

Have the students read about the history of vinyl recordings and the renewed interest in the format.


1. Play “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc. (CD track 2).

What time signature is this in? (4/4.)
Does it start in a major or minor key? (C major.)
The pitched drum sound that comes in at around 0:03 contains two notes. If the higher one is E, then what’s the lower one? (C.)
What interval is this? (A major third.)
When the bass sounds kick in at around 0:22, what interval is heard between the successive notes? (A perfect octave.)
What note value is this bass line based on? (Eighth note.)
Can anyone say what happens to the key of the song at around 1:58? (Changes to C minor, with a C natural minor melody and a Cm7 chord on the guitar.)
When do you think this was recorded? (Late 1970s, specifically 1979.)
Based on your reading, in what format do you think it was available as a single? (12-inch single, on account of the length.)

2. Play “Blue Monday” by New Order


What time signature is this in? (4/4.)
Which beats are emphasized? (Beats 2 and 4.)
What about the key signature? (D minor.)
Do the drums sound like a regular acoustic set or a drum machine? (The latter.)
Do the lead vocals sound electronically processed or pure? (The former.)
If you had to guess, are the vocals at 1:35 a live choir recorded for the song? (No, this is a sample.)
Do you hear any “real” instruments? (Yes, a little guitar.)
This single was referenced in the article as the all-time biggest-selling 12-inch single in Britain. Can you name it? (New Order’s “Blue Monday.”)

Play “2 Bit Blues” by Kid Koala (CD track 3).

What’s the time signature? (4/4.)
Can anyone describe the rhythmic feel? (It’s got a swing feel, in which pairs of consecutive eighth notes are played not evenly but long-short.)
Is this piece in a major or minor key signature? (Major—F major.)
How would you describe the harmony? (It’s essentially static: one big F7 chord.)
At around 0:22, there’s an example of a DJ technique described in the article. Can anyone name it? (Scratching.)
This selection was recorded by a modern turntablist mentioned in the article. What’s his name? (Kid Koala.)


Have the students compare these works stylistically. Each was recorded in an era when vinyl records were


Did they discuss the listening selections?
Did they complete their essays and discuss them?

November 2014: The Music of Madagascar

Meets National Core Arts Anchor Standards 4, 5, 7, 9, and 11


Learn about the music and culture of Madagascar, and understand how history and geography have contributed to the development of its distinctive modern music.

Analyze the rhythmic structure and vocal arrangement ideas in two contemporary Madagascar pop songs

Try to recreate the complex 12/8 time used in Malagasy music (Pr5)



CD (November 2014)

A globe or map of the world. Google maps link:




Find Madagascar on the map.

Read (or have students read) a brief history of the music of Madagascar:


Focus on two musical styles: salegy and tsapiky


What are the key differences between salegy and tsapiky? (Salegy is older, from the north, and in 12/8 time; tsapiky younger, from the south, and in 4/4 time.)

 Play Jaojoby’s “Somaiko Somainao”

(CD track 5 with video linked below).

Consider the way the song’s rhythm unfolds. When the bass drum comes in at 0:28, count the song out in 4/4 time. Then notice what happens when the band comes in at 0:48. A strong triplet feel is established—1-and-ah, 2-and-ah, 3-and-ah, 4-and-ah—the signature beat of salegy music. Notice also the way the two different guitar parts interlock to create a rhythmic and melodic texture. That kind of interplay is a common feature of modern African music.

Play Damily’s “Nahoda” (CD track 4).

Notice that it is in a clear 4/4 time—no triplets. However, the bass drum does not play the straight four beats. Rather, it plays a three-beat, syncopated pattern that repeats twice in each four-beat measure. Between the bass guitar and the bass drum, the 4/4 time feel is established, even though neither one is playing it directly. No wonder outsiders find Malagsy rhythms challenging to master!


Compare the vocal arrangements in the previous two songs. Both involve a lead voice (harmonized in the Jaojoby track) with other singers responding. This is known as “call and response.” But each song uses a different approach. The Jaojoby track is more predictable and organized—like a pop song. In the Damily track, the male and female voices intertwine, and there are spoken passages that feel improvised, reflecting the fact that this comes out of social occasions, where interaction with the public is a key ingredient.

Play D’Gary’s “Lamba Flanelle” (CD track 6).

Notice how intricate the rhythmic phrasing of the guitar and the percussion instrument (katsa) is. After 1:28 the song settles into a fast triplet feel. At this rapid speed, it is difficult to analyze. So let’s slow it down.

Using voices and hand-clapping, have the whole class clap out a slow 4/4 beat—the downbeat. Then have them speak a triplet feel, with the first beat coinciding with their claps: ONE-two-three, ONE-two-three, etc. Now, keeping the claps steady, change the accentuation by having the class speak the second beat of the triplet louder: one-TWO-three, one-TWO-three, etc. That feeling of accenting a beat that does not fall on the downbeat, but just after it, is a common characteristic of Malagasy music.


If you find the rhythms in this music challenging, that’s no surprise. There is a lot of Africa in the American music we all grew up with—especially blues, rock, funk, jazz, and hip-hop. But the Africans who contributed to the development of those sounds mostly came from West Africa. Madagascar, due to its affinities with east Africa and southeast Asia, reveals a different kind of rhythmic sensibility, less familiar to our ears. More proof that music encodes the histories of people, everywhere in the world.