Sounds-Like

See “Sounds-Like Suggestions for ideas!

“Sounds-like” is a concept I developed to use music to communicate the essence of content. Another way to say that is to make a musical association with a subject or learning topic. It is based on my observation that every topic has a certain feel to it that can be depicted in sound. For instance, in a unit on atomic structure, I play “Celestial Soda Pop” from Ray Lynch’s classic electronic recording Deep Breakfast. This piece uses fun, synthesized sounds that I feel portray the action of electron movement in an atom.

When we study the flow of electricity, I use a song from Eric Chappelle’s Music for Creative Dance that has an orderly, structured sound and is also humorous. Students act out electrical flow by role-playing protons, neutrons, and electrons. The music speeds up at the end and the electrons have to move more quickly, bringing the activity to playful closure. While these selections weren’t created to relate to atomic structure and electricity, the music can act as an activity soundtrack because it “sounds-like” what we can imagine the action to be.

That’s very different, but equally effective, as playing music of an era that we are studying. This gives students a feel for what people were about in a different time period and helps them connect to life in another time period.

There are many opportunities for making musical context associations. You can find music that “sounds-like” the respiratory system, or that can communicate the expansiveness of the setting of Call of the Wild. Other sounds can depict historic human events or cataclysmic natural incidents. Using music to create a context of sound that reflects the mood and nuances of subject matter adds a unique perspective of understanding that can make learning a lot more fun and interesting.

Sound Effects
Don’t forget sound effects! These help accentuate lessons and activities. Nature sounds work especially well for associations with nature-related content. Bird sounds, gentle rain, and slow ocean surf can also be quite soothing and help focus student attention. To enliven other topics or improve classroom-management practices, sound effects such as horn honks, rocket take-offs, train whistles, and other novel sounds are fun ways to get attention. The options are endless and wonderfully fun!

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