Music is a unique mixture of a practical artistic subject and an established academic discipline. The first music degree was awarded by Cambridge University in 1464 and the subject is still highly regarded by the leading Russell Group universities. As such it compliments any other choice of subjects or, indeed, any future career ambitions.

GCSE Music is open to pupils who can sing or play an instrument of any kind. It is best to be at least Grade 3 standard (or equivalent level) at the start of the course and to have private lessons from a specialist teacher. As well as performing, pupils develop individual skills in composing and also understanding a variety of music from many different times and places.

We follow the Edexcel/Pearson specification which divides into three main areas:

Performing (30%)

Students submit two performances on any instrument (or voice) and in any style. In total they submit:

  • One solo performance: this must be of at least one minute in duration, and may comprise one or more pieces;
  • One ensemble performance: this must be of at least one minute in duration, and may comprise one or more pieces.

Total time across both solo and ensemble performances must be a minimum of four minutes of music. These performances are recorded and marked (for accuracy and expression) in school and then moderated by the examination board.

Composing (30%)

Students must submit two compositions, of a combined duration of at least three minutes:

  • One in response to a brief set by the exam board, of at least one minute in duration;
  • One free composition devised by the student, of at least one minute in duration.

Students do not have to perform the music that they have composed; usually scores and virtual performances are prepared using Sibelius software. The course begins with some sessions which develop pupils’ ability to compose good melodies and chord patterns.

Listening and Appraising (40%)

Eight set works are studied in detail under four headings:

  • Instrumental Music 1700–1820 (music by J.S.Bach and Beethoven)
  • Vocal Music (music by Purcell and Queen)
  • Music for Stage and Screen (music from Wicked and Star Wars)
  • Fusions (music from Africa and South America)

The exam has six listening questions on the set works, with one general aural test and one question on an unfamiliar piece of music. It also includes a short essay question in which pupils compare an unfamiliar piece with one of their set works.

All pupils taking GCSE Music should be a member of the Senior Choir and, if they play an orchestral instrument, the Senior Orchestra. Taking part in extra-curricular music in school is a vital way to improve performing and aural skills and to broaden musical horizons