Lessons in knowledge types

Post thirty-seven in our (re)learning to teach music series. This is the first week responding to the tasks in chapter six in Learning to Teach Music in the Secondary School. This is week eight of the collaborative blogging. 

Mike Morgan @MikeMMusicED

Formal Knowledge: The part where pupils are asked to play one note from the chord is working on this knowledge. Pupils need to know how to play their instrument so will need to have this knowledge to help them. The linking passing notes is also something which will develop this type of knowledge as they learn harmony.

Informal knowledge: The aspects of the lesson where pupils are asked to add their own ideas. This could be from the improvisation and composing their own musical ideas where they can bring their own influences.

Intuitive Knowledge: This is one of the aspects that is being developed extensively in this kind of task. The improvisation where pupils are thinking about what is musically right in a style. I feel this type of knowledge is difficult to teach with pupils and tends to come through practice and listening. This is evident when trying to get pupils play or record in time to a click track.

Supervisory Knowledge: This knowledge is being developed through use of discussions and evaluations of music. Looking back on what has worked intuitively and making sense of this to apply in another context

Vaughan Fleischfresser @VFleischfresser

Here are my thoughts on the activities suggested to help achieve musical immersion in the context of Pachalbel’s Canon.


  • The pupils will form instant opinions of the music through – The progression from Pachalbel’s ‘Kanon’ is played to the young people live and on a recording. This will be influenced by their prior musical enculturation.
  • The pupils will bring their own relationship with music, and their understanding of it, to the activity – They are asked to improvise vocally above the ‘feel’ of these chords, following a teacher model. That which they improvise will be informed by the music they’ve heard and engaged with prior – their music.


  • When – They are then asked to sing/play one note from each chord, with and without accompaniment – the pupils will learn the power and depth of their intuitive knowledge. The note or notes that they choose will be informed by this intuition, which will also be influenced by their informal knowledge.
  • Their intuitive understanding and learning would then be developed further through – They then sing/play one note from one chord and two from the next, then two notes from each chord. This builds their understanding of what sounds and feels right within the style.

Intuitive / Supervisory

  • These two knowledge types come together for – The young people then add linking or passing notes from each chord note. The notes they choose to add will be influenced by their intuition of what sounds good, or not. They’ll also be guided and informed by the knowledge they’ve acquired of the style through the previous activities in the sequence (supervisory).


  • An opportunity to express their newfound understanding of the music through immersion is presented through – They freely improvise tunes together to create a contrapuntal texture. It would be fascinating to witness first-hand the differences between these improvisations and the initial improvisations made at the beginning of the sequence of activities. I wonder how different they may, or may not, be.


  • Their understanding of traditional notation and transcription of musical ideas will be enhanced through – They then compose and notate their own melody. The difference of this activity to the others couldn’t be starker, yet the pupils understanding of it, and engagement in it, will be greatly enhanced due to what has taken place already.
  • More formal knowledge of notation and chord progressions could be learned through this sequence, depending on at which point the teacher decides to have the pupils look at the notation, rather than attending to the sequence from a purely aural perspective.

David House @House_dg

There is much musical learning to be gained from the activities connected with Pachelbel Canon, with opportunities which would fall under categories noted by Philpott and Elliot. By the end of the activity there will be knowledge gained ‘about’ the piece as it is put into context, in the course of doing the activities the ‘how’ of music is inevitable, and by participating knowledge ‘of’ from the “inside” if you like, is generated. Similarly Elliott’s ‘intuitive’ knowledge is shown during the parts of improvisation and when exploring the chord sequence themselves ‘supervisory’ elements will be to the fore. It would vary from class to class whether previous ‘formal’ knowledge [eg of chords and notation reading] is drawn upon or whether, for some students, this is rather their ‘informal’ knowledge. I much prefer teaching from a starting point such as this – building on a short, straightforward example but being aware of the chance to take things off in many directions – all the time building awareness and understanding across the group.

Ewan McIntosh @ETMcINTOSH

The pupils are learning a number of skills from doing exercise 6.2, the chord sequence from Pachebel’s Canon. They are learning some harmony and how to fit a melody/part to a chord progression in the part of the task where they are improvising vocally over the top of the chords. They are also learning about voice leading, part writing, holding their own part when singing as well as looking at improvisation and melodic writing to fit a chord sequence. This is developing all of Elliot’s knowledge types that we discussed yesterday. Again, getting the feel for the music may take quite a long time so I would maybe move the second task to a bit later as this may be difficult for pupils to achieve well, even after teacher modelling.

Steven Berryman @steven_berryman

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