The Key Stage 3 Music curriculum is designed to engage and inspire pupils to develop their love of music. It also aims to develop previously acquired knowledge and skills, nurturing each pupil’s musical talent to increase self-confidence, creativity and a sense of achievement.
Pupils develop their vocal and/or instrumental fluency, accuracy and expressiveness in a variety of group, duet and solo activities. They learn to listen to a range of music with increasing discrimination and awareness. ICT is used to enable solo composition work to complement other practical and theoretical work. Pupils also learn about music from different cultures and historical periods. Study includes reference to the work of pivotal figures in musical history such as Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner and Stravinsky. Each Key Stage 3 pupil gives a performance (of their own choice) to the class during the year which is assessed and forms part of their final mark.
All pupils have the opportunity to have singing/instrumental private lessons in school. There are a number of extracurricular musical activities and all pupils are encouraged to join at least one. In Key Stage 3 pupils may join: Year 7 Choir, Wind Band, String Orchestra, Guitar Group, and the Collegiate Chorus. Other ensembles also run from time to time throughout the year, e.g. African Drumming, Percussion Ensemble, Brass Group and Ukulele Group. More able pupils may be invited to form a chamber ensemble (e.g. a string quartet) for which specialist tuition is provided. Pupils in Years 7 to 9 have class music lessons as part of their timetable.
In Year 7 the main topic areas are:
- The elements of music – including how to describe/ compose music with reference to texture, sonority, rhythm, melody, harmony, etc.;
- Reading and writing musical notation: traditional and extended styles (e.g. graphic scores);
- Rhythm and pulse: tempo, beats, rests, note durations, syncopation, time signatures, performing rhythms from traditional notation, improvising and composing group rhythm pieces;
- Improvising and composing using pentatonic scales;
- Composing using Sibelius software.
All pupils in Year 7 are expected to sing in the Year 7 Choir for at least the first term. This choir sings music ranging from simple, well-known modern pop songs in unison through to more complex music in two or more parts. It aims to give a practical experience of music-making which is enjoyable whilst developing practical ability. The Year 7 Choir usually performs publically at the Autumn Concert in November.
In Year 8 pupils use the skills learned in Year 7 to produce more refined compositions incorporating more sophisticated musical form and harmony. Through a mixture of performing, listening and composing pupils develop a deeper understanding of how music works in specific contexts. The main topics areas are:
- Composing a Christmas Carol melody to given words;
- Composing using harmony and chords;
- Form and structure: playing and performing music using ternary and rondo forms;
- Popular song structure (verse, chorus, middle 8, intro, outro);
- Fanfare performance and composition: including imitation, the harmonic series, brass instruments – culminating in an original fanfare composition from each pupil;
- Chromatic music - music using unusual scales (e.g. Debussy’s Prélude à l’après midi) ; Indian music and raga.
There is slightly more of an emphasis in Year 9 upon solo composition work, often using ICT. Practical skills gained in Years 7 and 8 (e.g. composing melodies, understanding harmonic progressions, etc.) are developed in Year 9 through the production of more complex compositions in specific styles. Theoretical understanding (e.g. of notation) is reinforced and developed through a variety of topics. Performance skills are developed through differentiated solo and group. Some modules incorporate topics from the GCSE syllabus, giving pupils a flavour of that course and, should they choose to continue to study Music in Year 10, a head start with the composition coursework element.
The main topics covered in Year 9 are:
- Ground Bass (including a composition in Ground Bass style, and a group performance of Pachelbel’s ‘Canon’);
- Minimalism – involving study of the music of Steve Reich, a group performance of Clapping Music (Reich) and music from Tubular Bells (Oldfield), culminating in a portfolio of three individual minimalist compositions (using ICT);
- The Blues – including study of seminal early blues singers, and a group performance of an original blues song;
- Variations – including study of Mozart’s variations upon ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’ and a composition project in which a well-known melody is developed systematically;
- Film Music – including study of the history and theory of film music, culminating in an individual composition of a piece of film music for a given short scene (using ICT).
Key Stage 4
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:
Pupils 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.
Pupils 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.
Pupils 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 Collegiate Chorus and, if they play an orchestral instrument, one of the instrumental ensembles. Taking part in extra-curricular music in school is a vital way to improve performing and aural skills and to broaden musical horizons.