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Canta Con Mi Son Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #: AELP-MUS0221
Submitted by: David Demnitz
Email: ddemnitz@workingfamilies.com
School/University/Affiliation: Greenburgh Eleven UFSD, Dobbs Ferry, NY
Date: October 29, 2003

Grade Level: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10


  • Arts/Music

Duration: 45 minutes

Description: An arrangement of Cuban Son which instrumental musicians can play and sing.

National Standards of Music Education published by the Music Educators National Conference (MENC)
1. Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
2. Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
9. Understanding music in relation to history and culture.

New York State Standards for the Arts :
Standard 1: Creating, Performing and Participating in the Arts (Perform music written by others. They will understand and use the basic elements of music in their performances and compositions. Students will engage in individual and group musical and music-related tasks).

Standard 2: Knowing and Using Arts Materials and Resources (Students will use traditional instruments, electronic instruments, and a variety of nontraditional sound sources to create and perform music. They will use various resources to expand their knowledge of listening experiences, performance opportunities, and/or information about music.)

Standard 4: Understanding the Cultural Dimensions and Contributions of the Arts (Develop a performing and listening repertoire of music of various genres, styles, and cultures that represent the peoples of the world and their manifestations in the United States. Students will recognize the cultural features of a variety of musical compositions and performances and understand the functions of music within the culture.)

Objectives: Students will sing an example of Cuban Son and will play instruments to accompany their singing.


  • musical instruments (they can be diatonic, containing just the white notes of the piano, ABCDEFG)
  • percussion instruments
  • Canta Con Mi Son Teaching Guide with Score
  • Canta Con Mi Son Teaching Guide with Score in .pdf format; requires free Adobe Acrobat Reader.

    Click the icon to obtain the free Reader.


  • Son – A style of Cuban music.
  • Tres – A Cuban stringed instrument similar to a guitar.
  • Clave – The heartbeat rhythm of Afro-Cuban music, often played with two sticks.
  • Cinquillo – A rhythm associated with Latin music.
  • Bass – Made of low notes.
  • Melody – A series of single notes which seem connected.
  • Chords – Three or more notes meant to be heard as a combination.
  • Arpeggio – A chord played one note at a time, also called a ‘broken chord.’
  • Guiro – An instrument associated with Latin music, played by scraping ridges with a stick.
  • Maracas – An instrument associated with Latin music, played by shaking containers with dried beans or pebbles inside.
  • Montuno – A repeated figure played on keyboard in Latin music.
  • Procedure:
    Play and sing the song for students. Ask them if they’ve ever heard music like this, if so, where and when. Discuss Son and Cuban music. Compare the Son with other Afro-Cuban and Latin styles your students are familiar with, like Salsa and Merengue (for examples of Salsa and Merengue, please see Me Gusta Salsa and We Dance Merengue ). Tell students that Cuban music, like the music of other Caribbean nations, demonstrates the combined influences of Native music, African and European (in this case Spanish) music, and that in this example, the three influences are readily apparent. The harmonies and melody show the influence of Spanish music, the instruments show the influence of Native music, and the rhythms are of African origin. Translate the lyric for students. The lyric means, ‘sing with the Son that I’m playing, sing with the Son.’ Point out that the melody changes, but the lyrics are simply repeated. Define melody and accompaniment, bass, and chords. The melody is what is sung; the bass is played using low notes, and, like the melody is played one note at a time. Chords are three or more notes which can be played at the same time but in this case they are played as an ‘arpeggio’, a ‘broken’ chord, one note at a time. Demonstrate by playing each element by itself.

    Discuss clave (for more on clave, please see Me Gusta Salsa ). The clave on which this song is based is called Son clave, and in this case it’s 3/2 Son clave since the first group in the clave is the group of three (please see attached score). Have the students clap 3/2 Son clave.

    Teach the students the guiro rhythm, then the maraca rhythm and have them play each rhythm for awhile (please see attached score). Point out that the rhythms are closely related. These simple instruments, like the claves, are easily fashioned from basic materials. Claves are two resonant sticks, a guiro can be made from a gourd with grooves cut into the side, scraped with a stick, and maracas are simply shakers with dried beans or pebbles inside. Certainly maracas, and probably guiro and claves, are of indigenous Latin American origin. If you don’t have claves and maracas, you can easily make them if you set aside time for it. You can make maracas out of paper plates stapled together with pebbles or dried beans inside, or empty cans, filled with beans or pebbles, and taped closed. Guiros are a bit more sophisticated, although found objects work nicely, and you can scrape an empty plastic water bottle with grooves on the side with a pencil, or use an old flashlight or Thermos with ridges on the side. Empty metal cans with ridges on the side work nicely as well (you might tape two end to end).

    Break the class into three groups, and have each group play one of the rhythms. If you have instruments for everyone, use them, and, if not, students can clap the rhythms. You can rub your hands together to simulate a guiro, although it’s kind of quiet. Switch the assigned rhythms around, so each group gets to play each rhythm. I like to tell students at this point that once a musician learns to play something, the next skill is to be able to play what he or she has learned while others are playing different things at the same time. This is not easy and is similar to learning to sing a round. Play and sing the song as students play the rhythms.

    Now for the pitched instruments. Assign students to play keyboards. They can share them, since all they need is one octave. Review keyboard organization (which way’s up, which way’s down, what a jump is, what a step is, the pattern of black notes, how to find C, and so forth). Have them locate B by looking at the black note pattern or by stepping down from C, and then have them locate D and F by holding down every other white note up from B. You should review what a chord is and what a bass pattern is (a chord is three or more notes meant to be heard at the same time, and a bass pattern is made of low notes, usually played one at a time). This is an opportunity to use closed keyboard position, but if your students haven’t advanced to that level of technique, they can use two hands.

    To play the bass pattern, students need to find the lowest and highest notes of the three they’ve identified. Ask them to play the B first, then the F, out of time (conduct each note). Then have them play B, then F as whole notes, stopping before repeating (please see attached score). Then whole notes in time, then in the rhythm as written. Show the students the bass pattern as it’s written, and point out to them that the second measure is the same as the first measure except that each of the bass notes descends by a step (see attached score). Have them find the notes, and have them move from B and F played as an interval to A and E, first out of time, then as whole notes pausing after every two measures, then whole notes repeated.

    Now play the bass notes one at a time, and move from the first interval to the second, step by step as before. Play and sing the song with students playing the bass pattern. For the chords, define ‘montuno’, which is a word used by Latin musicians to describe, among other things, a repeated piano figure like the one they’re about to learn. Have them place their fingers over the notes they’ll need to play the first chord, and tell them to play the lowest, the highest, then the one in the middle (sort of like an Alberti bass). Again, first conducted notes, then whole notes, then in time.

    Now have them move the chord down a step, as they move the bass notes down. Use the process above get them to play the montuno as written. If you’re running out of time at this point, move along so you can perform the song before the class period is over. Assign students to play percussion, sing, play the bass pattern and the chords (if there’s anyone who can do it). Rehearse and perform the song. Allow each student to play each part if there’s time.

    Assessment: Teacher observation of students’ participation and involvement in singing and playing.

    Useful Internet Resources:
    * National Standards for Music Education – MENC

    * New York State Standards for the Arts