The Five Elements of Music

Contributor: Morgan Haney. Lesson ID: 13346

What makes a piece of music unique? Discover what makes each song different from every other by exploring the five elements that make up a piece of music!


Musical Arts

Fine Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Lion, Otter
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


That's just the songs that are on Spotify, which is one of many ways people listen to music. Plenty of songs are not included in Spotify's catalog.

  • So how is it that with so many songs, each is unique and recognizable?

Today, we'll explore the five elements of music that composers use to create songs. The endless combinations of these elements allow for millions of pieces of music, each different from every other piece!

Try to think of two songs that sound exactly the same. Think of two songs with the same notes, the same beat, and the same instruments.

Hopefully, no two songs are coming to mind. There are many copyright laws in place to ensure that no two songs sound the same so that artists don't plagiarize one another's work.

  • What makes songs different from one another, and how do composers continue to come up with original music?

Today, we will examine the five core elements of music. These are the variables that composers utilize to create their music, and the enormous possibilities within each variable allow composers to continue to create unique and original music.

We are about to discover the elements of music; but before we do, take a moment to think on your own about what they might be. Turn on your favorite song and think about what variables make it unique.

  • What makes up a piece of music?

Make your own list of five elements of music, and at the end of this section, compare it to the list we are about to build.

To discover the five musical elements, we are going to listen to five sets of contrasting songs.

As you listen to each set, try and identify the most striking difference between the two pieces. (It may help to close your eyes and not watch any video content.)

Because they are two entirely different pieces, there will be more than one thing that sets them apart. For this exercise, we are listening for the most noticeable difference.

After you have a guess for each set, click on the Reveal Musical Element button to find the musical element highlighted in the two pieces!

We've developed a list of the five elements of music that make each song unique:

  1. pitch
  2. rhythm
  3. tempo
  4. dynamics
  5. instrumentation

Compare your list from before you listened to the examples to the one we discovered.

  • Did you guess some of the elements, or guess words that mean something similar to the ones we discovered?

When you've familiarized yourself with the elements of music, move on to the Got It? section to test your understanding of them!

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