Music Teacher online teaching materials (MT Plus Subscribers)

Welcome to the Music Teacher online teaching materials. Every month Music Teacher publishes materials for KS3, 4 and 5, offering complete units of work, GCSE and A level set-work info and activities, and practical ideas across all levels. All materials are written by experienced teachers and examiners and provide indispensable content for your classroom teaching.

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July 2017

Key Stage 3

Practical starters and warm-ups for the classroom

Three-part lessons exist in many different areas of education. In Montessori teaching, very young children are encouraged to learn through introduction, then association and recognition, then recall. John A Van de Walle, a mathematician at Virginia Commonwealth University, developed an inquiry-led approach to ‘student-centred mathematics’ with three phases, complete with timings for each:

  • Getting started phase (10 to 15 minutes)
  • Work phase (30 to 40 minutes)
  • Consolidation and practice phase (10 to 15 minutes)

Then there are music activities that have often followed these same structures by the very nature of what is involved. A warm-up, designed to get everyone sounding and functioning musically together. Playing, exploring, refining through rehearsal, unpicking the detail to take it apart and then put it back together for a final performance at the end. Within this refinement stage, ‘mini-plenaries’ just happen as the music is rehearsed then played section by section, then knitted together again for a final play-through.

In the UK in 2001, the KS3 National Strategy brought recommendations for teaching strategies including the three-part lesson. This was straight-jacketed into a model of starter, activity, plenary, linked to clear lesson objectives to be identified and shared with students from the start of the lesson and embedded throughout.

So began the culture of tick-box lesson observations, and the challenge many teachers faced of shoehorning their lessons into the required structures, regardless of how learning was unfolding in front of them, because they thought that was what was required of them by their school leadership.

Beginning with Literacy and Numeracy, then expanding out into other subjects (including what were known as the Foundation Subjects), this model became the focus for staff training that included the sharing of ideas for ‘starter’ activities designed to engage students from the very start of the lesson. Practical warm-ups such as singing, icebreakers and pulse games were replaced by word searches, hangman or card sort activities laid out ready on the desks in the music classroom.

The three-part lesson structure quickly took hold. Then came four- and even seven-part lessons, mini plenaries, peer testing, quizzes and keywords, and a minefield of obstacles for music teachers to navigate around when delivering what has always been embedded into musical practice so beautifully.

Author: Anna Gower

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Key Stage 4

AQA GCSE AoS4: Copland’s Rodeo

It’s quite a soft touch to use Copland’s Rodeo as an example of AoS4’s Western classical tradition since 1910 in the new AQA GCSE specification. Certainly softer than, say, a Maxwell Davies or Bartók score, both of which feature in the unfamiliar music for that Area of Study. Copland’s writing, though, gives an excellent introduction to the use of a larger orchestra for those new to the genre, not least because of its relative economy and clearcut textures. There are plenty of intricacies for the more advanced learner to enjoy as well. It’s a canny choice for ensuring good levels of differentiation.

This resource is about providing context for Rodeo’s runaway success in 1942, and appreciating the suite as part of Copland’s other orchestral output and overall development in style. It will comprise:

  • an overview of Copland’s main compositional styles.
  • insights into how he uses the orchestra.
  • ‘Americanism’ and how to identify it.
  • Copland’s music for dance, and why his style suits ballet so well.
  • the three populist ballets.
  • the commission, story and structure of Rodeo.
  • detailed analysis of ‘Saturday Night Waltz’ and ‘Hoe-Down’.

Author: Jonathan James

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Key Stage 4

Edexcel GCSE AoS4: Fusions

With Year 10 students, teachers are now nearly halfway through teaching the new GCSE music courses, and here I provide some support for Area of Study 4 of the Edexcel specification, which is simply entitled ‘Fusions’. There are two set pieces of music for study here:

  • ‘Release’ by Afro Celt Sound System
  • ‘Samba em Prelúdio’ by Esperanza Spalding

It might be helpful to look back to an earlier, more general Music Teacher resource (September 2016) on teaching the appraising component of Edexcel’s course, which focuses on the importance of teaching the skills of aural analysis, given that students will have to answer questions in the exam about unfamiliar music as well as about set works.

In the specification, the wider listening suggested includes music by Celtic band Capercaillie, Turkish singer Demet Akalin, Cuban collective Buena Vista Social Club and jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie. It is essential to study unfamiliar music alongside the set works so that students get used to finding key characteristics and features for themselves, rather than simply ‘learning’ the features of their set works, so I will take that approach with this resource.

Author: Simon Rushby

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June 2017

Key Stage 3

Planning a KS3 programme with the new GCSEs in mind

The new 9-1 GCSEs are supposedly more rigorous than their predecessors. In practice, however, this looks like a slight increase in the amount of music theory knowledge expected for the exam, and an expectation that previously unknown music will form part of the listening. So to what extent should we be planning our KS3 programmes with that in mind?

To answer this question, you need to have a good idea of what the purpose of KS3 music actually is. Your views on this may vary considerably depending on the context of your school and your students, but it is unlikely that you see KS3 music purely as a preparation for KS4, given that not everyone chooses it as an option. You will have your own philosophy about using time with KS3 students to ‘sell’ music, hook students in, and give them knowledge and skills that will enable them to pursue their own musical interests in an active way for life.

However, achieving these aims while at the same time setting up a solid foundation for subsequent study is not at all impossible to achieve. This is not, though, a case of starting to think about GCSE content from Year 7. Rather, it is about building musical competencies and a sense of mastery, so that students are equipped with relevant knowledge and skills, and the confidence to use them.

Author: Jane Werry

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Key Stage 3

Getting started with songwriting

Songwriting. An ageless craft of storytelling, sharing our deepest feelings, emotions and experiences, communicating messages of love, sadness, resistance, protest? An accessible form or structure for composing for students and teachers alike? A nice synergy of musical elements, and familiar to most of us with thousands of songs available at the push of a button on our smartphones or when we turn on the radio or TV, or walk into a shop? Or a relevant hook into the music that engages and drives students who may have been writing their own songs for years and never shared them, or who feel an affiliation with the genre through their own commitment to the music they enjoy and are passionate about, often in very personal ways?

Whatever our motivation for setting our students off with a songwriting task, there’s always a danger that with familiarity comes an assumption that it’s something they’ll be able to ‘just go off and do’. This resource is designed to be a series of starting points, tasks and activities that can scaffold the process for students in order to make it a valuable and engaging experience for all.

Dip in and out as appropriate across your KS3 curriculum to start to build confidence and familiarity with lyrics, grooves or chord progressions. Or cherry-pick your way through to designing a songwriting scheme of work that’s relevant to your students and resources, and fits within your departmental and personal musical values.

The key to success with songwriting is building confidence within each student to try out their ideas, whether that’s in terms of lyrics, a rhythm, a melody, a chord sequence.

We live in a world where if it doesn’t sound perfect first time, students can be reluctant to risk giving it another go in case it takes them out of their confidence zone in front of their peers. Bite-size, achievable tasks can form the stepping stones for building that confidence, and thereby open a new world of expression for students. They often have a lot that they’d like to be able to share if we’re able to give them access to the musical language, forms and structures that allow them to be heard.

Author: Anna Gower

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Key Stage 4

Edexcel GCSE AoS3: Music for stage and screen – context, analysis and creative approaches

Edexcel’s GCSE specification for examination in 2018 includes a new Area of Study, AoS3: Music for Stage and Screen, which features two big hits from Hollywood and Broadway. Feedback so far from teachers is that they appreciate being able to use the ‘Main Title’ from Star Wars or ‘Defying Gravity’ from Wicked to ease students into the new set works, or as a ‘respite’ from the less well-known works. However, the music’s familiarity can also present a challenge, as students resist going beyond the big tunes and into the elements of the score.

This resource gives a context for both set works before analysing their key features and suggesting practical ways for communicating them in the classroom. It includes:

  • a brief history of the genre and performance style.
  • an overview of the composer’s work and approach.
  • an in-depth analysis of key elements.
  • ideas for creative responses.

Author: Jonathan James

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May 2017

Key Stage 4

Creative responses to the new Edexcel GCSE set works

How do we ‘animate’ the new Edexcel GCSE set works (for first examination in 2018), bringing them alive and off the page in the classroom? This is at the centre of good practice around the Appraising component: using the set works as a springboard into practical exercises that deepen musicianship and knowledge, crossing over into the other components of composing and performing.

This resource draws on the techniques of an ‘animateur’ (workshop leader) and puts them in the context of the curriculum, considering practical ways to approach features in all eight of the set works from Year 9 onwards. For each set work, a creative response is suggested that draws together those key features into a simple structure, boosting creative confidence and helping to embed core knowledge.

Author: Jonathan James

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Key Stage 5

AQA & OCR: John Adams

Many music departments include modules on minimalism in their KS3 and KS4 schemes of work. A contemporary musical style that uses simple repetitive diatonic phrases with catchy rhythms and engaging harmonies has considerable appeal for young students, who can themselves use computer sequencers to devise and develop effective-sounding music in this style.

But what next? For many students and indeed older composers, minimalism can become something of a prescriptive musical cul de sac with limited opportunity for further musical development.

The music of John Adams (and indeed the later music of the older minimalist composers such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass) shows how a post-minimalist style can emerge from these foundations, which gives greater scope for a more diverse musical expression.

John Adams first became attracted to this musical style when, as a young student, he was rejecting the rule-based serialist techniques of his professors in music college, which he described as ‘a mausoleum where we would sit and count tone-rows in Webern’.

The writings of John Cage provided him with a stimulus for alternative lines of musical enquiry, which, in turn, led to an interest in exploring ways of working with minimalist techniques. At the same time, he was making considerable use of pioneering synthesizer technology in his work, which continues through to the present day.

His ‘post-minimalist’ style uses many of the hallmarks of minimalism. A steady pulse coupled with repeated diatonic phrases, combined in intricate interlocking rhythms, underpin much of his work, But this is combined with elements we perhaps associate more with Romanticism. So within the course of a single movement, there is often a great deal of development and variety, light and dark, serenity and turbulence, all of which he achieves with judicious use of instrumental colour – orchestral and electronic – and big contrasts in texture, dynamics and tempos.

Another interesting feature of Adams’s music is the way in which he draws on an eclectic range of nonclassical musical styles, which he feeds directly into his work. Charles Ives is a major influence, and Adams uses the same techniques of musical collage and unusual stylistic juxtapositions in many of his works. His parents were both jazz musicians, and as a youngster Adams listened to a lot of 1960s and 1970s pop and rock music, and aspects of all of these styles can be found in several of his compositions. Indeed, it is these elements that serve to broaden the appeal of his music in reaching a wide and diverse audience of enthusiasts.

Finally, the importance of education. Adams has worked with young musicians from institutes such as New York’s Juilliard School and London’s Royal Academy of Music, and he has recently taken a post as visiting professor at the Royal Academy. Coupled with the fact that this year we celebrate John Adams’s 70th birthday, this means that there should be an increased opportunity to hear his music being played live across the UK over the coming months.

Author: David Ashworth

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Key Stage 5

AQA, Edexcel & OCR: Olivier Messiaen

Olivier Messiaen was quite simply one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. As a teacher, he taught many of the figures who became giants in the post-war avant-garde – among them Boulez, Stockhausen and Xenakis. And as a composer, he sits on a line from Debussy to Boulez and beyond, creating music of such sensuality and religious devotion that we’re still coming to terms with it today.

Perhaps that’s why his music inspires fervid devotion in some – and downright incredulity in others. In any case, encountering the works of Messiaen as part of a school course can have a transformative effect on students’ understanding of music’s power, can capture their imagination, and can provide entirely new ways of looking at music in terms of symbolism, colour, time and spirituality.

Messiaen is included in three of the current KS5 specifications (detailed below), and his music can provide countless starting points for composing activites, a few ideas for which are also included in this resource. We’ll look at four key works from across Messiaen’s career – Le banquet céleste, the Quartet for the End of Time, the Turangalîla Symphony and Des canyons aux étoiles… – and examine key elements of Messiaen’s style that are apparent in each of them.

AQA
Messiaen is one of four named composers specified for study in AQA’s AoS7: Art music since 1910. The board also details specific music elements relevant to Messiaen’s music, which are covered throughout this resource:

  • Melody: modes of limited transposition
  • Harmony: chord extensions, eg added 6th
  • Structure: cyclical structures
  • Sonority (Timbre): organ stops
  • Sonority (Timbre): unusual instruments, eg ondes Martenot
  • Texture: layering
  • Tempo, metre and rhythm: additive rhythms
  • Tempo, metre and rhythm: palindromic rhythms

EDEXCEL
Messiaen is one of the composers mentioned in the wider listening examples for Edexcel’s AoS6: New Directions, specifically movements 8 and 10 from his 1974 Des canyons aux étoiles…, which are covered in detail in the final section of this resource.

OCR
Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time is one of the specific works listed as suggested repertoire for OCR’s AoS6: Innovations in Music 1900 to the present day (covered in two previous Music Teacher resources, December 2016 and January 2017). We’ll look in detail at Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time in the second section of this resource.

Author: David Kettle

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April 2017

Key Stage 4

Unfamiliar listening in the new GCSE specifications

The new GCSE music specifications have ensured that all four boards now expect students to be confident listening to and appraising unfamiliar music. With three of the boards providing students with set works to study, this new expectation runs the risk of being perceived as the more challenging element of the examination.

Despite the lack of certainty that comes from having studied pieces in depth, candidates should still be confident when approaching unfamiliar listening. Across all exam boards, the goal of the unfamiliar listening is always to assess pupils’ understanding of core musical vocabulary and the areas of study.

While all four boards expect students to enter the listening and appraising examination prepared to analyse unfamiliar music, there are subtle differences between their specific methods of assessment:

  • AQA dedicates the first section of the exam to unfamiliar music.
  • Edexcel emphasises students’ ability to compare unfamiliar music to the set works.
  • Eduqas asks six questions relating to unfamiliar music.
  • OCR reserves the entire listening exam for previously unheard extracts.

A more comprehensive overview can be found below.

Author: John Kelleher

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Key Stage 5

OCR AoS4: Religious music of the Baroque period

The Baroque period in music was long and eventful, and covers the development of both the orchestra and the diatonic tonal system. This makes this AoS the perfect complement to the Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven of AoS1, and together with AoS5 (Programme music 1820-1910) or AoS6 (Innovations in music 1900 to the present day, covered in two earlier Music Teacher resources, December 2016 and January 2017) would give students a thorough overview of musical history that would be ideal preparation for a music degree.

If students are thinking of doing the Composing A option, which includes technical exercises, or if you’re keen for your students to study Bach chorales, then this AoS also gives all the background to Baroque approaches to harmony and tonality. There is no compulsion, however, to do AoS4 questions in the exam just because students have done Bach chorales for their Composing A technical exercises.

The other, more direct, reason for choosing AoS4 is that it simply covers a wealth of great music. If it is the sort of repertoire that you find exciting, and you think you will be able to enthuse your students with it, then that in itself is reason enough to choose it.

In this resource, I give advice on how to tackle the background to the topic, recommend some online resources, and provide a ‘way in’ to the music itself, including specific works that could be studied in each sub-genre required by the specification. Where longer pieces such as oratorios are concerned, I pick out some of the most useful sections to study.

Author: Jane Werry

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Key Stage 5

AQA, OCR, Edexcel & Eduqas: a Jazz Primer, Part 2

In part one of this two-part jazz resource (Music Teacher, March 2017), we traced how jazz evolved from humble beginnings as a folk music into being the mainstream popular music of its day. By 1945, where we left off, the Glenn Miller Orchestra had become the sound of America, rallying record-breaking crowds and symbolising free-world values.

The jazz community had never had it so good. Bandleaders such as Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Count Basie were musical idols. And yet there was a growing sentiment that the highly organised, impressively arranged swing bands were no longer true to the spirit of jazz. The genre had, after all, always thrived as a counterculture, giving a voice to the oppressed. Could this music really belong to the white-dominated establishment? What had happened to its founding identity?

New factions inevitably appeared. Bebop, cool and hard bop all kicked back against the mainstream. And this fascinating reboot in the history of jazz is where we pick up in the second part of this primer.

Author: Jonathan James

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March 2017

Key Stage 4

OCR AoS5: Conventions of Pop

Of all the Areas of Study for the 9-1 OCR GCSE, AoS5 on Conventions of Pop is likely to be the one where students already have at least some familiarity with the music.

However, although they may think they know a lot about it, chances are they will need to be provided with activities that will allow them to build a picture of the chronology and evolution of pop styles. Some of the older styles and artists may be unfamiliar to the millennials in our classes. After all, the 1950s and 1960s probably seem like ancient history to most students.

As well as being given an overview of the historical and cultural background to the conventions of pop, students will need to be trained to identify the constituent parts of a pop song, and use the correct terminology to describe what’s happening in the music.

As ever, the most efficiently musical way of getting acquainted with any style is by experiencing it from the inside, in other words by performing examples of the music itself. If students do this as a class, the process will necessarily involve having to talk about what they are doing, which is where the teacher can provide examples of relevant terminology, so that students are describing what they are doing accurately from the outset.

This process will make doing exam-style listening questions a whole lot easier later on, as not only will they be better at identifying the layers and structures of the song in question, but they will also be able to correctly use the musical terms that will gain them marks.

Author: Jane Werry

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Key Stage 5

Edexcel AS and A level AoS5: Debussy’s Estampes

Students are studying Debussy’s Estampes and the other set works in preparation for a summer Edexcel exam paper either at AS or A-level. A previous Music Teacher resource (January 2017) has already given an overview of the appraising paper, including which questions will be asked in the exam papers; details of what students need to learn in terms of musical elements, context and language; and advice on how to break down the areas of study. Some specific sample questions are also suggested at the end of this article.

A suggested strategy for approaching each set work is also set out in this article, and it covers not only how to plan the study of works such as Debussy’s Estampes, but also how to incorporate wider listening into the scheme of work. In section B of both the AS and A-level papers there will be a question that requires students to be able to draw links from their set works to a piece of unfamiliar music, so it is essential to include practice at picking out features from music less familiar to them as part of the set work study.

Author: Simon Rushby

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Key Stage 5

AQA, OCR, Edexcel & Eduqas: a Jazz Primer, part 1

Jazz is an important area of study for A-level across several of the boards. Like most musical styles, its evolution doesn’t fall into a neat timeline. Instead, it is better thought of as a delta, where different stylistic streams merge and separate. This two-part resource gives a bird’s-eye view of that delta for those new to the genre, and for those who want to present helpful through-lines for A-level learners.

This first part traces jazz history from its ‘raggedy’ beginnings in the 1890s through to the gloss and sophistication of swing bands up until 1945. The second part picks up from the rise of bebop and ends with a survey of today’s artists.

A Spotify playlist is also available for each resource, with benchmark recordings of the prescribed artists and ideas for wider listening.

In each part, a brief outline of the main stylistic developments will be given, together with their key musical
features and the artists who exemplified them.

Author: Jonathan James

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February 2017

Key Stage 4

AQA GCSE AoS2: The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

‘It was 20 years ago today…’ sang the Beatles on the opening track of their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. And it is now actually 50 years ago that they first sang these words.

So it’s a good time to take a closer look at this extraordinary collection of songs, and figure out how we can use ideas from them in the classroom. All the songs have musical features of interest, and we draw freely from across the range, with special attention being given to the three songs featured on the refreshed AQA GCSE course:

  • ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’
  • ‘Within You Without You’
  • ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’

We’ll go beyond mere analysis of the songs, however, by providing a range of suggestions for practical activities – working with the musical ideas, and playing the songs. The intention is that this will help give students a deeper understanding and appreciation of the music on the album.

The aims of this resource are:

  1. To perform, listen to, review and evaluate the music from one of the key popular music recordings of the 20th century.
  2. For students to create and compose music on their own and with others, using conventional instruments and music technology applications.
  3. To explore and understand how this music was created, through a consideration of its key musical features.

Author: David Ashworth

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Key Stage 5

Edexcel AS & A level Music AoS4: Courtney Pine’s Back in the Day

Courtney Pine’s album Back in the Day was released in 2000, and is one of the set works that both AS and A-level students have to study as part of Edexcel’s Area of Study 4: Popular Music and Jazz.

Author: Simon Rushby

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Key Stage 5

IB SL/HL 2017-19: Kodály’s Dances of Galánta

It’s an odd pairing at first glance: Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 (covered in its own Music Teacher resource, February 2016) with Kodály’s Dances of Galánta. And yet these prescribed works for IB’s music diploma (for first examination in June 2017, through to 2019) invite some cunning comparison.

Both works involve dance music that draws on elements of national styles, and both rely on ingenious scoring for effect. They also offer a useful wormhole into each composer’s mind. The Galánta dances epitomise Kodály’s nationalist principles and are a brilliant example of his absorption of Hungarian folk style and particular brand of classicism.

This investigation into Kodály’s masterpiece starts by setting some context:

  • Who was Kodály and why is he so interesting?
  • What did nationalism mean for Hungarian composers?
  • What are the key features of the Hungarian folk style?
  • How are these features reflected in the Dances of Galánta?

This is followed by a detailed analysis of each section of the Dances of Galánta, where possible addressing the objectives given by IB in their specification for both Higher and Standard levels of the diploma. In the listening paper on music perception and analysis, students are expected to demonstrate:
„„

  • knowledge, understanding and perception of music in relation to time, place and cultures,
  • appropriate musical terminology to describe and reflect their critical understanding of music,
  • comparative analysis of music in relation to time, place and cultures,
  • critical-thinking skills through reflective thought.

Author: Jonathan James

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January 2017

Key Stage 4

Radiohead in the classroom

Delicacy – calm, gentle sonorities, lush textures. Highly contrasting passages with loud, violent, harsh sounds … underpinned with a feeling of restlessness and unease generated by clashing and ambiguity in harmonic and rhythmic elements…

This is the music of Radiohead.

And it is this highly distinctive collection of musical features that make the study of this music a treasure trove for music teachers. In this resource, we take a closer look at some of the musical devices used by Radiohead and consider ways in which we can use them in teaching and learning in the classroom.

Many of the activities here look at an innovative use of rhythm as a key element in effective composition – an element that is often ignored when students focus far more on melodic and harmonic elements. We consider ways in which Radiohead extend the use of harmony beyond the usual confines of rock music, drawing on a range of jazz and classical influences. The importance of technology and electronica are also covered with some realistic, practical music making activities. We give consideration to the diverse musical influences that contribute to their highly original and distinctive output. By listening closely to some of the key works, followed up by relevant practical activity, students should find they are now able to broaden their perspectives compositionally in creating more interesting and more varied music.

Why Radiohead?

Teachers will find much of interest in this resource for use across all key stages in a secondary school. However, this Radiohead-themed resource is particularly relevant for KS4 classes preparing for:

  • AQA GCSE AoS 1-5: with particular emphasis on AoS 1 Rhythm and Metre, and AoS 2 Harmony and tonality.
  • OCR GCSE AoS5 Conventions of Pop: focusing on how Radiohead use and develop musical elements and compositional devices from a wide range of styles and genres.

Author: David Ashworth

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Key Stage 5

Edexcel AS and A level Music: Appraising – an introduction

The new AS and A level qualifications from Edexcel are set up in a very similar structure to the legacy course – which many of us are still teaching to our Year 13 students. We still have three components with the same weighting, and the Appraising component is the only one that is examined by means of a written paper at the end of the course.

There are some big differences, however. The key difference is that in all new A levels, the AS and A level specifications have been ‘decoupled’. So teachers and students are now faced with the dilemma that if they take the AS exam at the end of Year 12 and then do the full, new, linear A level, their AS result will not count towards it.

This new set-up has led to a bit of a mixed reaction in schools and colleges: some still encourage students to do the AS first and then move on to the full A level in Year 13, while others are focusing entirely on the A level specification and doing it over two years.

Thankfully, the Edexcel AS and A level appraising requirements share a lot of common content, which allows for either approach, and also means that Year 12 students and their teachers can choose one of three possible paths:

  1. Take the AS exam at the end of Year 12, and progress on to A level in Year 13.
  2. Take the AS exam over two years.
  3. Take the full A level over two years.

Author: Simon Rushby

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Key Stage 5

OCR AoS6: Innovations of the 20th Century, part 2

Having covered late-Romantic symphonic styles, Impressionism, Expressionism, atonality and serialism in Part 1 of this resource (Music Teacher, December 2016), we resume our exploration of this vast topic by taking a look at the following styles:

  • Neo-classicism
  • National styles
  • Post-1945 avant-garde, including electronic and post-modern music
  • Minimalism
  • Contemporary approaches to composition

For each style, we’ll examine two works here. Although it’s only strictly necessary to be able to write about one piece in detail for each style in the exam, students will gain a much deeper understanding of a style if they have two pieces to contrast. After all, composers rarely pigeonhole their own music neatly into a particular style, and stylistic distinctions are, at best, something of a generalisation. Added to which, there are so many amazing pieces from the 20th century that it seems a shame to be stingy with its riches.

Author: Jane Werry

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December 2016

Key Stage 4

OCR AoS2: The Concerto Through Time – the Romantic concerto

The Concerto Through Time, one of OCR’s new areas of study, covers the Baroque, Classical and Romantic eras and expects students to be able to identify stylistic features in a range of concertos from 1650 to 1910. This includes solo concertos and concerti grossi from the Baroque period, and concertos from the Classical period, covered in a recent Music Teacher resource (October 2016).

This month we will focus on the Romantic concerto. Specifically, students need to understand how the concerto developed through the 19th century, and how the role and instruments of the orchestra and the soloist have also developed. They should also understand and be able to identify the characteristics of the Romantic style through the concertos they study, be able to name some concertos and their composers, and know something of the context behind their creation.

As ever, the core of this study should be the elements of music: melody, harmony, tonality, rhythm, texture, instrumentation and structure. Romantic concertos suggested in the appendix of OCR’s specification are by Brahms and Rachmaninov, but these are only suggestions and in this resource we will consider music from a range of composers.

Author: Simon Rushby

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Key Stage 5

OCR AoS6: Innovations of the 20th Century, part 1

OCR’s Area of Study 6 is a dauntingly vast topic, and filled with such fascinating music that it’s easy to be discombobulated by its possibilities. It makes sense to start off by making some plans for exactly which pieces of music to study.

The OCR specification gives us eight broad stylistic categories:

  • Late Romantic, large-scale symphonic style
  • Impressionism
  • Expressionism, atonality and serialism
  • Neo-classicism
  • National styles
  • Post-1945 avant-garde, including electronic and post-modern music
  • Minimalism
  • Contemporary approaches to composition

The lists of suggested listening in the specification each have roughly one piece per style, which gives us some idea of the depth of knowledge that the exam will require. However, to reduce the whole 20th century to eight pieces feels like barely dipping a toe into the rich waters of the music that the century produced. What I suggest here is a pattern of having a ‘main’ work in each style, with a ‘supporting’ work for the purposes of contrast.

In contrast to the Areas of Study relating to music from earlier periods, the availability of scores is a real issue, since many works are still in copyright. Unless you have a bottomless budget for buying scores, you will need to adopt something of a canny approach.

I have used Volume 3 of the Norton Anthology of Western Music here, as a source of scores that represents extremely good value for money. Combined with what is available online from the Petrucci Music Library (IMSLP), this should cover everything that you need.

If you have any old copies of the Edexcel New Anthology of Music (used for specifications between 2001 and 2016), they could be extremely useful for sourcing comparative extracts, but I have not focused on the contents of this here, as there are already so many resources in existence relating to this anthology.

This is the first of two Music Teacher resources covering OCR’s AoS6. Here, we’ll look at Late Romantic, largescale symphonic works; Impressionism; and Expressionism, atonality and serialism. We’ll continue with OCR’s remaining stylistic categories in part two of this resource.

Author: Jane Werry

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Key Stage 5

Edexcel A level: Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring

Fired up from his runaway success with the Ballets Russes’s production of The Firebird, the young Stravinsky had a startling vision for his next work:

‘I saw in imagination a solemn pagan rite: wise elders, seated in a circle, watching a young girl dance herself to death. They were sacrificing her to propitiate the god of spring.’

What followed was one of the 20th century’s most celebrated musical scandals. Stravinsky assaulted bourgeois ears with his ‘modern primevalism’, music that was abrasively new and yet atavistic, somehow linked to a distant past. Conductor Leonard Bernstein famously called it ‘prehistoric jazz’.

But there is so much more to The Rite of Spring than the famous riot at its premiere. One of the main challenges of getting students from Level 2 to Level 3 thinking comes with expanding their wider listening and ability to reference comparative works. This resource therefore focuses initially on the context for Stravinsky’s breakthrough, situating it among other musical innovations at the turn of the century. Stravinsky’s early career and writing style are then explored, before looking at the story of how the iconoclastic ballet came about, as well as discussing its legacy.

A full analysis is given at the end of the first three dances featured in Edexcel’s new A level set works. Ideas for creative responses to Stravinsky’s work are also offered, together with ways of demonstrating key principles in the classroom.

Author: Jonathan James

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November 2016

Key Stage 4

Edexcel GCSE music: AoS2 – Vocal Music

This article provides some teaching ideas and suggestions for Area of Study 2 of the Appraising component of the new Edexcel GCSE music course, which we will be starting with our Year 10s this term. In a previous Music Teacher resource (September 2016), I offered some ideas for how to approach the teaching of this component, which is the only non coursework component of the GCSE and is examined by a listening paper in the summer of Year 11.

The content is divided into four Areas of Study, the second of which is given the broad title of Vocal Music. Edexcel have set two songs as set works for this Area of Study:

  • Purcell’s ‘Music for a While’
  • Queen’s ‘Killer Queen’

Additionally, students will be expected to answer questions on unfamiliar music related to these set works, and the specification suggests examples such as arias by Bach and Handel, and songs by the Beach Boys and Alicia Keys.

Author: Simon Rushby

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Key Stage 4

Edexcel GCSE: Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata

The first movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 is the longest and potentially most challenging of all the new Edexcel GCSE set works for teaching from 2016. This resource is about how to open it up in an exciting way for GCSE learners and to prepare them to excel at the main criteria of Edexcel’s Appraising component.

Accordingly, the following core areas from the component will be covered in order to help students form the critical judgment and opinions required, particularly in the long-form answers in Section B:

  • Context and conventions for the classical piano sonata and Beethoven’s style.
  • Musical elements, including sonata form and a detailed analysis.
  • Use of appropriate musical terminology throughout.

The score used is the one printed in Pearson’s anthology of the set works, a reproduction of the Peters edition.

That said, given the level of analysis, any edition with bar numbers will serve the purpose.

Author: Jonathan James

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Key Stage 4

OCR AoS4: Film Music

OCR’s Film Music Area of Study covers some of the parts of the exam that students tend to struggle with the most: using a wide range of musical vocabulary to describe accurately what they hear, and identifying instrumental timbres. Students who do not have experience of playing an orchestral instrument, in particular, may need to be given strategies and guided practice in aural identification of orchestral sounds. Added to this, the required vocabulary is wide, and to use it effectively students not only need to understand the precise meaning of the question, but also to be able to pick out the detail of the music aurally.

In order to tackle this systematically, we will break it down into three distinct phases:

  • First, acquiring knowledge concerning terminology and instruments.
  • Second, becoming familiar with the sound of musical techniques through practical experience.
  • Third, practising the type of written answers that are required in the exam.

Author: Jane Werry

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October 2016

Key Stage 3/4

Planning for better music technology provision

‘Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating. The sound of a truck at 50 mph. Static between the stations. Rain. We want to capture and control these sounds, to use them, not as sound effects, but as musical instruments.’

This quotation from John Cage’s 1937 essay The Future of Music: Credo is a useful starting point for looking at how technology plays a part in contemporary music making. The approach Cage describes was the basis for the pioneering work of composers such as Pierre Schaeffer and Delia Derbyshire. Ideas were developed further by the likes of Brian Eno and Frank Zappa, and connected classroom activity was encouraged by educators such as John Paynter and R Murray Schafer. Indeed, Paynter makes the point in the introduction to his book Hear and Now that today’s music is not so different to what was composed before – we just use a wider palette of sounds.

This is evident in many classic landmark recordings from the 1960s to present day. From the echoplex of Miles Davis to Pink Floyd’s Farfisa organ sounds, from the studio explorations of the Beatles and the Beach Boys through to today’s innovations from musicians as diverse as Björk, Radiohead and Tiga, technology has played a crucial part in the development of music.

However, despite key educational figures such as Paynter championing the use of music technology in schools, these musical developments and innovations have, to a large extent, been ignored. In many ways, this is entirely understandable. The reel to-reel tape recorder technology, advocated by Paynter et al, was always going to be difficult to work with in larger classes.

And the early days of working with computers in music classrooms were fraught with problems. Typically a music department would start with just a few low spec machines that could handle MIDI data but were hopelessly inadequate for manipulating and storing much larger audio files. Limited processing power, limits on computer memory and unreliable networking had a constraining effect on how music departments could use computers in their curriculum, so schools took the more pragmatic option of just using these machines for notation and MIDI sequencer programs – and with a smaller exam groups at KS4/5. The advantage was that these machines could help students produce more impressive looking, ‘exam ready’ coursework, and so a model was set that remains in place in many schools today.

However, the world has moved on, and technology has developed to a point where there is now an opportunity for us to fundamentally overhaul the ways in which we use technology for the greater benefit of students and their music education. Ten years ago, I was commissioned by Musical Futures to write a pamphlet on how we can best make use of technology in music education. You can download a copy of it here.

The recommendations I made back in that earlier publication are now even easier to achieve, as technology has become cheaper and more reliable, more powerful and more portable.

For this resource, I have revisited that publication and completely updated the recommendations I was making then – in the hope of providing some up-to-date guidance for teachers that adequately reflects how we can and should be using technology more appropriately to support music teaching and learning.

Use this new resource to dip into for ideas you might want to explore straight away – or adapt it to use as a model for how you might overhaul your departmental strategy for making use of technology.

The content is organised into four areas:

  • With a Little Help from My Friends: how we can learn more about using technology, and sources of
    support.
  • Another Time, Another Place: exploring opportunities for working beyond the classroom.
  • Bring It On Home to Me: exploring the potential of using resources from external providers.
  • Come Together: using and integrating technology into live performance.

Author: David Ashworth

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Key Stage 4

AQA GCSE Area of Study 3: Traditional music – wider listening

‘Wider listening’ is such a strange term. Wider than what?

Do the new music GCSEs expect students to listen to a wider range of music than they normally would? Perhaps it means ‘a wider range of musical styles than teachers have traditionally taught to students’? Or perhaps simply ‘wider than the set works in the board’s specification’?

In reality, it’s probably a bit of all three. The first is often cited by teachers as one of their goals – there’s a perceived nobility in taking responsibility for expanding children’s musical tastes. The second would seem to be entirely consistent with the political rhetoric of ‘academic rigour’ that surrounded the development of the new specifications. Sadly, however, I imagine that it’s the third definition that is mostly at play.

While AQA has included a number of set works, all of the exam boards must now include ‘unfamiliar listening’ in the exam – in other words, music that the students cannot be certain will play over the speakers when they’re sat in the fate-determining exam hall. As a result, teachers will need to work with students to develop not only an intricate knowledge of the set works, but also the analytical skills necessary to quickly understand the musical features of a brand new piece of music.

Whatever your thoughts on the new specifications, the development of this skill is surely a good thing for young people – a genuinely useful skill for their future musical careers (or hobbies), and one that just so happens to make it easier to analyse the set works too!

This resource will give you eight specific teaching ideas (two for each topic in Area of Study 3) that you can use to help students prepare for the wider listening element of the course.

Author: John Kelleher

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Key Stage 4

OCR AoS2: The concerto through time

The Concerto Through Time is arguably the meatiest, content wise, of all OCR’s new areas of study. It covers the development of the orchestra and changing compositional approaches from the Baroque period right up to the end of the Romantic era. Not only do students need to get to grips with a range of music that may be
unfamiliar to them, but they also need to learn a sizeable collection of musical terms in order to be able to describe the music accurately in the exam.

As with all preparation for the GCSE exam, you could see it as being divided into two parts:

  • First, knowing the right things.
  • Second, being able to answer exam-style questions.

In order to be able to answer the questions, students need to be able to identify features of the music aurally, and then be able to describe them accurately. Having first-hand experience of the music itself will help enormously with this.

This resource provides ideas for getting to know the music ‘from the inside’ – that is, by playing it – and also strategies for teaching the sheer volume of facts and terms that students need to know.

Author: Jane Werry

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September 2016

Key Stage 4

AQA GCSE AoS2: Popular Music – wider listening

One of the ways in which the new GCSE specifications retain a sense of continuity with the outgoing courses is that they feature areas of study – broad groupings of music by theme, genre, style, function or time. Not only does this lend the specification some structure, but it can also be a great help to the teacher during the planning period.

For their new GCSE in music, AQA has divided the course into four areas of study:

  • AoS1: Western classical tradition 1650-1910
  • AoS2: Popular music
  • AoS3: Traditional music
  • AoS4: Western classical music since 1910

This resource focuses on providing ideas for both repertoire and teaching for Area of Study 2 (popular music). When AQA launched the first draft of its new specification, it also issued a press release that placed a great deal of emphasis on its inclusion of popular music. A variety of newspapers and online publications reported on the fact that the course includes the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as three of the set works, and the use of DJing as a performance option.

Author: John Kelleher

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Key Stage 4

Edexcel GCSE music: ideas for teaching the new Appraising component

Edexcel’s new GCSE music specification, to be first examined in summer 2018, has a familiar structure to it if you have taught Edexcel GCSE music before. There remain three components – Performing, Composing and Appraising – and the Performing and Composing components are internally marked and externally moderated. These comprise 60% of the GCSE in total, and the remaining 40% is examined in a single Appraising paper taken in June at the end of the course.

The structure of the Appraising component itself has been changed quite a lot, however. Gone are the 12 set works, divided equally among four areas of study, familiar to those who have taught (and are still teaching to their Year 11s!) the ‘legacy’ course.

The new Appraising component has four new areas of study (AoS), and each AoS includes two set works, making eight in total. Although this might seem like less content, there is a lot more focus now on unfamiliar music, and both sections A and B of the exam paper will ask students to answer questions on extracts they will not have heard before. They will be expected to make judgements on the use of musical elements, contexts and language in these unfamiliar extracts, as well as, in section B, comparing a piece of unfamiliar music to one of the set works they have studied.

Online resources in the coming months will include detailed looks at the individual areas of study, but in this resource I offer an oversight of the Appraising component as a whole, and hopefully some useful ideas and strategies as teachers begin the course with Year 10 students.

First of all, we will look at what students will be expected to know, including an idea of the depth of study required of the set works themselves, and the breadth of knowledge of other, related music that students will need in order to be successful in the paper.

Then we consider some ideas for how to approach the teaching of this component. The danger of studying set works is that the experience can be quite dry and passive for learners, and every teacher’s holy grail is to be able to ‘deliver the content’ in a way that is active and student-led rather than didactic. My intention here is to set the ball rolling on the road to this grail by looking at connections, not only between the three components of the course but also to students’ existing knowledge, and to share some ideas of approaches that have a common thread, whatever the music being studied. If students learn how to study music, rather than simply digesting the content of the music itself, this will help them hugely when faced with unfamiliar extracts.

Author: Simon Rushby

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Key Stage 4/5

Planning a career in music

How do you start that all-important conversation about a career in music? It’s a vast topic. This resource offers some tried and trusted pathways into exploring the music industry, giving ideas on how to shape the discussion with KS4 and KS5 learners, making it relevant to their current learning.

Although context is given for a range of roles within the music industry, the focus is mainly on the world of a freelance musician and their so-called ‘portfolio career’. The issues around managing such a career and the professionalism involved will, however, be relevant to all.

The resource will cover:

  • Ways to discern principal motivations for a career in music
  • The teacher’s role in assessing talent
  • Widening the picture to consider non-performing roles
  • General principles on preparing for a performing career
  • Mind-mapping a musical identity
  • Tips on managing a portfolio career
  • Understanding professionalism and what it means in practice
  • The financial and business-related requirements of being a freelancer
  • Sustaining a passion for music

Author: Jonathan James

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August 2016

Key Stage 4/5

Holiday resource: Jazz thinking

Holidays can be a time to step away from the constraints of the curriculum and recharge the creative batteries. The prompts and ideas that follow are inspired by how improvising musicians think and create music. The processes derive from jazz pedagogy in particular, but are common to many styles, from classical through to world music. Jazz techniques are used as a pathway rather than a destination.

This resource is aimed at learners of around Grade 4 and above on any instrument, voice included, either working alone or together. No prior knowledge of jazz theory is required, nor is any proficiency or experience in improvisation expected. All that is really needed is curiosity and the openness to experiment.

The creative ideas outlined in this resource would therefore be ideal for students new to jazz, or perhaps pupils who haven’t ventured much further than the blues or simple grooves. The aim is to provide some practical starting points that you can use to encourage playing and improvising during the holidays, as well as to give some wider listening suggestions around jazz.

The objectives are:

  • to build confidence in listening and improvising skills.
  • to join the dots between theory and practice in new ways.
  • to open up new ways of thinking about musical composition.
  • to introduce the uninitiated to the wonderful world of jazz.

Author: Jonathan James

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Key Stage 3

Building an opera

Why build an opera with your KS3 class? Opera is perhaps one of the styles that students find most off putting, and about which they probably have the most preconceived ideas – mainly that it’s boring, posh, and most definitely not for them. Busting these myths is one of the biggest reasons for doing this project: showing students that opera can be exciting and accessible, and perhaps sparking a lifelong interest in it, is surely an irresistible prospect for any music teacher with an evangelical streak.

This project also keeps singing right at the forefront of what is happening in the classroom, exploring different types of voices, and how they can be used in conjunction with instruments to tell a story. Along the way, students will learn about different compositional techniques, and work together as a class and in smaller groups.

Author: Jane Werry

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Key Stage 4

Context in the new GCSEs - part 2

In July 2016’s Music Teacher resources, we looked at the new change of assessment objectives between the outgoing and the new GCSEs. We found that the new Assessment Objective 4 has given the qualification an added emphasis on the context in which a piece is composed and performed/recorded. From there, we went on to explore examination questions that relate to AO4 and some general ideas for how you could approach teaching this new objective.

In this month’s resource, we’ll continue to explore context and how it can be delivered robustly in your new schemes of work.

Author: John Kelleher

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