American Colonial Music Lesson Plan

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

With this lesson plan, your students are going to learn about how colonial music was composed, as well as how it was used to reflect the events and ideologies of American colonial society.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Appreciate and describe the influences and uses of music in colonial America
  • Analyze musical lyrics as primary sources
  • Connect the themes in music to events in colonial society


45 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.


Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.



  • psalms


  • Ask students what they think of when they imagine colonial music?
    • What sort of instruments were used?
    • How was music used in Colonial America? What was the purpose of music? Who played it and listened to it?
    • What sort of themes do you expect to find in colonial music? What sort of influences do you expect to find in colonial music?
  • Hand out printed copies of American Colonial Music: Instruments & Facts.
  • Read the sections 'Who Lived in Colonial America?' and 'How Did Colonists Use Music?' aloud then discuss:
    • Who lived in the American colonies? What cultures influenced American colonial music?
    • What are psalms? What does the prominence of psalms in music tell us about colonial society? How does this relate to what we already know about why many people moved to the colonies? How can music reflect colonial ideas about religious freedom?
  • Have students read aloud the rest of the lesson, then discuss:
    • What sorts of instruments were found in colonial society? What do you think each would have sounded like? How do you think people used these instruments?
    • What sorts of themes would you expect to find in colonial music? What sorts of issues were colonists dealing with in their lives that they may want to put into music?
  • You may test student understanding with the Lesson Quiz.

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