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Music GCSE

Music GCSE gives students the opportunity to acquire skills which are highly regarded by colleges, universities and employers, including team work, problem solving, leadership skills and discipline. Throughout the course, students will be encouraged to develop their own musical interests; however, they will also be introduced to new styles of music.


It is expected and essential that students have a genuine passion for music, an open ear to accept a wide range of repertoire and a willingness to explore music from different historical periods and cultures. Students should have the ability to perform to a good standard on an instrument or voice and have a determination to succeed.


There are three components to the assessment: 
Performing: 30% - coursework
Composing: 30% - coursework
Listening and appraising: 40% - written paper


Students are assessed on one solo and one ensemble performance – each counting for 15% of the total marks. These performances can be in any musical style however, it is important that the pieces are suitable, in order to demonstrate the student’s ability. Both performances need a combined time of at least 4 minutes.


For students to succeed, it is vital that they receive instrumental tuition to enhance their performance skills and ensure they employ the correct technical skill.


Composition 1: (15%): You will compose a piece of music which fits a brief created by the exam board.

Composition 2: (15%): This is a free composition meaning you can compose a piece in any genre of music you want.

Whilst the composition aspect of the Music GCSE can appear to be challenging, it is important for prospective students to understand that they will be supported throughout the compositional process with additional 1:1 sessions, to ensure that they achieve to the best of their ability.


Listening and appraising 
The exam consists of two sections, which assess the students’ knowledge of a wide range of musical genres.


Section 1:
• Students will be asked six questions on the set works studied throughout the course.
• There will be a short music dictation task
• There will be one question about an unheard piece of music where students will be asked to describe the musical elements.


The set works studied are:

Instrumental Music
• J S Bach: 3rd Movement from Brandenburg Concerto no. 5 in D major 
• Beethoven: 1st Movement from Piano Sonata no. 8 in C minor ‘Pathétique

Vocal Music
• H Purcell: Music for a While
• Queen: Killer Queen (from the album ‘Sheer Heart Attack’)

Music from stage and screen
• S Schwartz: Defying Gravity (from the album of the cast recording of Wicked)
• J Williams: Main title/rebel blockade runner (from the soundtrack to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope)

• Afro Celt Sound System: Release (from the album ‘Volume 2: Release’) 
• Esperanza Spalding: Samba Em Preludio (from the album ‘Esperanza’)


Section 2:
Students will write an extended response comparing one of the set works to an unheard piece of music.