Beacon Lesson Plan Library

A Wing and a Prayer

Kathryn La Rosa


Students improvise missing harmony accompaniment for a soloist performing -The Star Spangled Banner.-


The student organizes information using appropriate systems.

The student performs on at least one instrument, alone and in groups, using proper playing technique (e.g., embouchure, posture, or bow control) and attends to melodic phrasing, rhythmic accuracy, and articulation.

The student performs in large and small instrumental groups with proper ensemble skills (e.g., blend, balance, and intonation).

The student writes the notation for a simple harmonic progression performed by someone else.

The student improvises harmonic accompaniments in pentatonic, major, and minor modes.

The student improvises melodies over a given chord progression with appropriate notes and rhythm.

The student knows characteristics that make music suitable for specific occasions and purposes and responds appropriately within various musical settings.


-Recording of -The Star Spangled Banner-
-Score for -The Star Spangled Banner-
-Audio equipment
-Sheet music for familiar melodies
-Interval and chord review exercises (optional)
-Pitch pipe
-A pitched instrument
-A synthesizer (optional)


1. Create desired recordings.
2. Set up audio equipment.
3. Gather and organize desired sheet music and scores.


Students will be able to isolate appropriate harmonies to be used as an accompaniment for a given melody.

Authentic Context:
The Music Department selected a quartet to provide a four-part harmony accompaniment (vocal or instrumental) for an Alumni soloist performing -The Star Spangled Banner- at the Homecoming Game tonight. Unfortunately, one student came down with the flu and cannot perform. The group is desperately seeking a replacement. Since you already know how to improvise a melody, you have volunteered to improvise the missing harmony.

1. Listen to a performance of -The Star Spangled Banner.-

2. Have the class review aural recognition of intervals and chords.

3. Designate sections (vocal or instrumental) to produce given pitches that will build different chords (M, m, A, d, 6th, 7th, and 9th). Neutral syllables or solfege can be used by vocalists. Discuss which scale degrees are being added and by which sections. Start in root position and progress to inversions.

4. Have each student, regardless of vocal or instrumental section, select and produce a pitch that will build the requested chord quality from a given pitch. Tell the students whether the given pitch is the root or another chord tone. Progress to harmonizing short melodic phrases.

5. Divide the class into small groups. Have these groups select several familiar melodies that they can produce while individual students take turns improvising a new harmony part. Progress to several students harmonizing at one time.

6. Review -The Star Spangle Banner- arrangement previously learned. Select a quartet and a student to improvise an appropriate harmony in front of the class. The student's performance could be recorded for part of the student's portfolio. New performing groups could be selected by having the student who just improvised take the place of a student in the quartet who in turn selects a new student from the class to improvise. This can be done over an extended period of time. Each student improvising should submit the self section of the Improvisation Rubric (see attached file) for teacher assessment. Improvisation can be assessed on all or some components included in the rubric. This rubric is designed to critique eight measure sections of the song. Each student listening should submit the peer section of the rubric.


Use the Improvisation Rubric provided in the attached file to assess the student's performance.

Self- Reflections:
The thing I enjoy most about improvisation is . . .


Students can audition for the jazz ensemble. Part of the audition will require the student to improvise eight measures of harmony to a jazz standard.

Attached Files

The Improvisation Rubric for the activity.      File Extension: pdf

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