Sounds of the Times

Lesson 5: Sounds of the Times


Learning Objective: Students will demonstrate their understanding of time-appropriate music by creating a music playlist of 5 songs for an assigned time period.  They will share 20 seconds of one song with the class and explain why they selected that particular piece.


Materials Needed:


Evolution of Music video (

Speaker and connecting cord (should connect to a phone)

CD’s with different time periods of music

CD player



Have the students watch the Evolution of Music video by Pentatonix and identify specific differences between the years.  Lead a class discussion that answers the following questions:

  • If it hadn’t been a ‘Capella, would there have been different instruments used from year to year?
  • How did the tempos change through the years?
  • What kinds of stories were told with the lyrics in each time period?



Teach the students about the five different musical time periods – Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and 20th Century.  Teach the following: (information from

·       Renaissance (approx. 1400-1600)

The Renaissance era of music introduced a clearer, more voice-centric melody. These songs joined balanced polyphony and created pieces that people could sing with ease. Chords became more flexible, making pieces easy to adapt according to the style of the artist. Finally, the advent of the printing press made the most significant contribution of all, giving artists and people who were just beginning to learn music new resources to expand their talents and passions.

Fun Fact: John Taylor, an ocular surgeon, ruined the vision of two giant composers, Bach and Handel. Despite this ocular error, both were still musical visionaries!

·       Baroque (approx. 1600-1700)

The Baroque period ushered in a surge of instrumental musical revelry, and secular music became more prevalent than ever before. Counterpoint (they use independent, polyphonic melodies) was a strong influencer on the music of this era, giving pieces a richer flavor. Composers also introduced improvisation into their design, and the bass and keyboard allowed for the expansion of possibilities to stretch across all keys.

Fun Fact: Mozart created some of his most outstanding work on the fly.

·       Classical (approx. 1700-1810s)

Harmony really defines the Classical era (aka Western Art Era). Composers brought components together in harmony, creating distinct chords with a melody and accompaniment. Some unforgettable pieces emerged during this era that aren’t comparable with anything that came prior, like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, for example. Mozart was notably one of the most influential composers of the time, along with Beethoven and Richter.

·       Romantic (approx. 1810s-1900)

As you can imagine, the Romantic period brought an increase of emotion and meaning into the musical art form. From Schumann to Chopin to Wagner, compositions became ever-more complex, as is symbolized by some dramatic pieces like Siegfried by Wagner.

·       20th Century (approx. 1900-2000)

Once the radio was invented, music as we know it changed forever. Other technologies such as recording and reproduction devices, not to mention the television and music videos also influenced the era, bringing music to the masses. With these revolutionary advancements permeating the culture, music flavor, tempo, and form also dramatically transformed and evolved. This is evident by the fact that every decade of the 20th century ushered in a new sound and a new hunger for something different.


Research Activity/Assessment:

Assign the class to five different groups – Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and 20th Century.  Each group will have 20 minutes to look up facts for their assigned music period and given access to a computer and the library. Students may also use their phones as long as they’re only looking up different types of music.  There will also be a few CD’s provided that students can listen to.


The groups will be creating a five-minute presentation that will be given at the end of class.  Presentations should point out popular instruments, vocals, and tempo for their time period and end with a list of five songs that appropriately reflect the music that would have been played back then (this list will be turned in to the teacher at the end of class).  Each group should be prepared to play 20 seconds of a song from their list they think best personifies the time period.   Points will be given for participating in the research, presentation, and for having a 5-song playlist.