To be able to listen to, perform and create music, musicians depend on a conceptual understanding of music.

All cultures in the world conceptualise music differently. Some cultures do not separate dance, instrumental accompaniment, and songs. Their music tells stories, performs rituals, and celebrates life. However, Western approaches conceptualise and describe music as a multidimensional structured whole and musicians use these structures to listen to, create, and perform music.

This page will introduce you to learning material that will help you to understand music and music teaching.

Conceptualising music: explains the multidimensional structured whole of music – the starting point of musical thinking.

Fundamentals of music: takes you to an exciting music literacy learning experience.

Music developmental phases: shares the developmental stages of learners and how the music teacher should take these phases into consideration when planning music-making activities.

Conceptualisation of music

watch the video>

explains the understanding of music as a whole.

(the attached video reinterprets Wiggins’ (2015) heuristic representation of the concepts of music)

Music can be understood as a relationship between both process and product.

Musicians use the ‘tools’ of music to create (compose, arrange or improvise) the product. These ‘tools’ are the concepts of music organised in an authentic combination. The combination of concepts allows the musician to perform a musical work in such a way that the listener hears the combination of concepts as a unified whole.

Through participation in musical experiences learners should construct their own understanding of process and product – regardless of the learners’ age in order to become independent musicians.

Wiggins, J. (2015). Teaching for Musical Understanding. Oxford





Fundamentals of Music

Learn and enhance your understanding of the fundamentals of music by watching the videos below.

Video 1 – People and Music,  Video 2 – Qualities of Sound, 

Video 3 – How Sounds are Made, Video 4 – Musical Instruments

Textbook: Listen & Learn – Music Made Easy

is a music textbook which looks at the fundamentals of music through the lens of sounds from around the world. In this series we show that ALL music is based on the same foundations and that all music should be valued equally.

Although the videos introduce topics that relate to the South African Creative Arts Grade 7-9 syllabus, anyone can learn and enhance their understanding of the fundamentals of music by watching them.

Contact the International Library of African Music (ILAM) at Rhodes University should you want to buy the hard-copy with a teacher guide. The book contains chapters on Fundamentals of music, Building blocks of music, Musical tools, and Music theory.

South African Creative Arts Grade 7 – 9 syllabus. Download and use in your classroom.

Activities for skill development

This section includes ideas to support the teacher in planning learning activities:

(click on image to enlarge – all images can be downloaded as PDFs)


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