East Asian 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 be exposed to East Asian music. They will learn to distinguish the trends of East Asian music and will research traditional musical compositions.

Learning Objectives

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

  • Define the central themes of East Asian music.
  • Identify traits of East Asian music aurally.
  • Discuss the components of East Asian music, and their impact on the overall musical aesthetic.


45-60 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.


Introduce a topic and organize ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.


Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.


  • Printed copies of Lesson Quiz
  • Internet access
  • List of traditional East Asian songs (optional)


  • Ask students what they know about East Asian music. Can they name any songs/melodies? What differentiates it from Western music?
  • Begin video lesson Music of East Asia: Scales, Themes, Instruments & Characteristics. Pause at 2:17, and discuss as a class.
    • What does the video mean that music has rules? How do these rules impact the aesthetics of music? What are the rules of Western music?
    • What is the pentatonic scale? How does this impact the sound of East Asian music?
    • Why do you think East Asia and Western Europe developed different musical scales?
  • Resume video. Pause at 4:10, and discuss as a class.
    • What is the melody in music? How is the melody treated in East Asian music? How are harmonies treated in East Asian music?
    • What is the relationship between instruments in East Asian music?
    • What does the purpose of music seem to be in East Asia? How can linearity and transparency reinforce word orientation? How do all of these traits work together? What does this tell us about music in East Asia?
  • Resume and complete video. Discuss it as a class.
    • What sort of instruments and sounds do you generally think of when you imagine East Asian music? How would those instruments technically be classified?
    • How do you think the preference for certain instruments impacted East Asian musical tastes? How would the linearity or transparency of a composition be impacted by the choice in instruments performing it?
  • You may test student understanding using Lesson Quiz.

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