Ostinato: Melodic and Rhythmic

Ostinato: melodic and rhythmic

Marilyn Hostetler
[email protected]
Jamestown Public Schools

TI:ME Technology Areas Addressed:

Electronic Musical Instruments


Middle School






50 Minutes

Prior Knowledge and Skills:

Ability to play, “Frere Jacques”, key of C.
Vocabulary includes phrase, rhythm pattern, melody, rhythm.

MENC Standards Addressed:

MENC 2: Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
MENC 7: Evaluating music and music performances.


Sheet music for the melody of, Frere Jacques, key of C (one per student as well as teacher)
A synthesizer for each student as well as the teacher. Synthesizers should have a bank of various rhythm patterns.
Paper and pencil for each student.
A poster with the definition of Melodic Ostinato and Rhythmic Ostinato clearly printed on it. Post in easy view of students as they play.


Through teacher observation, the student will play a rhythmic ostinato with 90% accuracy.
Through teacher observation, the student will play a melodic ostinato with 90% accuracy.
Using a teacher generated listening test, the student will be able to distinguish between a melodic ostinato and a rhythmic ostinato with 100% accuracy.


Be sure everyone is on “speaker” (no headphones yet).
1. With either a metronome beat or a basic rhythm pattern such as “swing”, the teacher will play the first half of each of the four phrases of “Frere Jacques”, while the students will play the second half. This will result in a call and response form. Be sure the students stay on tempo, with correct entrances.
2. Switch parts so the students are the “call” and the teacher is the “response”.
3. Split the class into 2 groups to play the call and response so the teacher is free to observe, listen, and assess.
4. Divide the class into 4 groups. Have each group be responsible to play one phrase in the song. Be sure the groups are in the order they will play. Be sure to have the metronome or “swing” going to set the tempo for everyone.
5. Have group 1 play their phrase 4 times while everyone one else continues playing their phrase only once at the appropriate time in the song. Point out that group 1 has just created the sound of an ostinato when played with the melody created by the other groups.
6. Now it’s group 2’s turn to play an ostinato. Have them play their phrase 5 times with group 1 starting the melody after group 2 has played their phrase once.
7. Do the same with groups 3 and 4.
8. Have everyone switch to percussion. Have everyone only use one key (select a drum).
9. With the teacher playing the melody, have each group play their phrase on the “percussion key”. Have only one group at a time play their rhythm ostinato while the teacher plays.
10. At the end, have the class discuss which rhythm ostinato they liked best with the melody and explain why.
11. Final assessment: Students will number 1-10 on their paper. The teacher will play 10 different ostinatos, mixing up the melody and rhythm ostinatos. Student will write if they heard a melodic ostinato or a rhythm ostinato.


Teacher observation will include correct keys, appropriate entrances, correct tempo, and knowledge of songs’ phrases.
4 – Perfect execution of phrases. Teacher observes musical anticipation in the student’s performance. Teacher also observes the student’s familiarity with all the melodic phrases. The student plays to the music rather then to the students in the group.
3- Student is comfortable with their phrase. Entrances and tempo is reliable, correct approx. 90% of the time.
2- Student seems to know the phrase (occasional key mistakes) but entrances are consistently off the beat resulting in inconsistent tempo.
1- Student does not demonstrate consistent knowledge of the phrase but makes the effort.
Listening test- 4 or “exceeds” is not possible. 3 or a “meets” is expected. 2 would be more then 2 mistakes.

Follow Up:

The following lessons will incorporate notating on paper,
the melodic ostinatos, in correlation to the melodic line of Frere Jacques correctly. The students then will compose and perform their own ostinato to a familiar song of their choice. (A melody they had already learned on the keyboard).

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