Analyzing Auto-Accompaniment Styles on an Electronic Keyboard

Analyzing Auto-Accompaniment Styles on an Electronic Keyboard

Christopher Lee
[email protected]
Newtown High School

TI:ME Technology Areas Addressed:

Electronic Musical Instruments


High School


General Music


Electronic keyboards (ideally one per student) equipped with an auto-accompaniment feature that allows for multiple style options (e.g., Yamaha PSR series keyboards).

Headphones for each keyboard.


55 Minutes

Prior Knowledge and Skills:

Ability to engage and manipulate the auto-accompaniment keyboard feature, both percussive and harmonic components (e.g., select different styles, change tempo, access style variations, etc.)

Ability to describe (using accurate terminology) the basic musical components that combine to form a complex musical texture (e.g., bass line, meter, accompanying ostinatos, etc.)

NAfME standard of 1994 Addressed:

NAfME standard of 1994: Listening to, analyzing and describing music.

NAfME 2014: Responding 


teacher-generated written worksheet on which the students will record their aural analyses


1.) Students will provide aural analysis of musical accompaniment styles by describing distinctive musical features.

2.) Students will use specific musical observations to explain why two accompaniment styles sound contrasting (and possibly similar).


The general activity for the class period is to hear and analyze given musical accompaniment styles by describing the following elements: a.) meter (duple vs. triple); b.) general nature of the drum beat (e.g., square rhythms vs. syncopation, etc.); c.) general nature of bass line (e.g., static, conjunct, disjunct, etc.); d.) number of layers beyond the “drum beat” (i.e., harmonic layers and auxiliary percussion layers); and e.) general instrumentation and nature of those layers (e.g., finger snaps on upbeats, accented guitar hits, rolling piano chords, etc.). These observations are recorded on a written worksheet.

This activity is implemented as follows:
1. Teacher presents an accompaniment style and models an analysis of it. (5 min)
2. Teacher presents another style and guides class through its analysis. (5 min)
3. Teacher presents a third style and students work independently to analyze it. Teacher facilitates class discussion of that analysis. (10 min)
4. Working independently, students select two new styles that sound contrasting to their ears and provide analysis for both. (20 min)

Individual students present their findings to the class and describe those musical elements that cause the two styles to sound contrasting. (Students may also note musical qualities that are similar between the two styles.) (15 min)


Teacher provides informal evaluation throughout class period in the form of verbal feedback.

Teacher collects and assesses written analysis worksheets.

Follow Up:

Students improvise simple melodies over those accompaniment styles previously analyzed. Students attempt to create improvisations that complement the given style.

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