The use of cookies can be a fun and valuable tool for inquiry projects in music theory.  Recently, I was inspired by this website:  Music theory explained with OREOS!   Though somewhat rudimentary, the use of cookies (or any kind of food) visually reinforces the forms we often try to teach through the use of sound only.  To help visual learners grasp a concept, consider incorporating diagrams into your teaching to visually represent the topics and areas of learning taught.  Often simple ideas transformed into pictures can offer students an easy method to link the concept to the music.  Not only does the use of cookies function as an aid to remember music theory concepts, but it taste great too!

Possible music concepts that can be demonstrated through the use of cookies:

  1.  Using whole step and half steps to indicate different types of scales such as major or minor.
  2.  Playing examples of music and using Oreos to indicate:  major or minor tonality, binary or ternary forms, meters for  example 2/4 – Strong (black cookie) weak (white cookie) impulse.  The possibilities are endless.
  3.  Structure: transforming vertical timelines to umbrella diagrams

Taking Oreos to “double stuff!”:  The Umbrella Diagram 

As the year begins, students map the forms of pieces listened to in class.  For example, Renaissance instrumental music such as Susato’s Three Dances.  (Start this link at 4:57)   Ask students to do a rough sketch of a vertical timeline of the structure.

Example of vertical timeline answer:

4:57   A section Two measures in d minor

5:02   A section   Two measures, recorder embellishes melody

5:06   B section   Four measures

5:14   B section repeated

5:22   AA BB repeated with addition of bowed strings, possibly rebec

5:46 AA BB repeated with entire ensemble Last B recorder embellishes melody

Medium includes the loud, outdoor instruments including the crumhorn (capped double reed that has the buzzy sound), tambourine, and several recorders in the key of d minor.

Using this simple form, introduce students to umbrella maps and have them rewrite their vertical timeline into a horizontal timeline using an umbrella map. Here’s an example with form  and location only:



Here is another example using Greensleeves Below is the melody to Greensleeves to help students who need notation to assist the listening process. This time ask students to use cookies to map the form of this piece using an umbrella map.


Below is a beginning attempt of a vertical timeline transformed into an umbrella map in “cookie” fashion:



As students become more comfortable with form, the detail of the umbrella map is expanded to include details of the musical elements.   In a later blog, there will be examples of the types of detail umbrella maps can show for the IB Music Listening Exam. All in all, who knew music theory could taste this good?