Western Music History Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Use this lesson to teach your students about how Western music evolved. Start off with a video lesson giving an overview of music throughout history before having students focus on genre of Western art music.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain the history of modern music
  • discuss how music has evolved
  • outline the six major eras of music history


1 - 1.5 hours


Key Vocabulary

  • Classical music
  • Baroque
  • Mass
  • Classical
  • Romantic
  • Modern music
  • Plainchant
  • A cappella
  • Consorts
  • Improvise
  • Dissonant

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.3

Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4

Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.


  • Engage students with the topic by asking them to discuss what they think when they hear the term 'Western music.'
  • Tell students they will be learning about the evolution of music, starting by watching a video lesson.
  • Start the lesson Development of Musical Form Throughout History and pause at 00:47. Ask:
    • What is the timeline for true classical music?
    • Why do we look to the Greeks and Romans when discussing classical music?
  • Label the board 'Medieval/Renaissance,' 'Baroque,' 'Classical/Romantic,' 'Modern,' then restart the lesson.
  • Pause after each section to complete notes and discuss aspects with students.
  • After pausing and discussing modern music (at 6:26) ask:
    • What was the church's role in the development of music?
    • What impact did new instruments have on music in the Baroque era?
    • Which period emphasized emotions?
    • How does modern music reflect past periods? How is it different from past eras?
  • Play the Lesson Summary and answer any remaining questions. Encourage students to take the quiz to test their knowledge.

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