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.

What to do next?

  • If you’re a subscriber to Music Teacher+, you can get free access to the last 12 months’ materials by logging in and adding your subscription number to your profile.
  • If you are not yet a subscriber, you can subscribe here
  • If your subscription includes the print magazine only, you can upgrade by contacting our customer services team on subscriptions@markallengroup.com or +44 (0) 1722 716997

To download the content below, you need to login and add your subscription number to your profile.

Your subscription number is an 5-digit number which is displayed on any written communication from us. If you can’t find your subscription number then please contact us on +44 (0) 1722 716997 or email subscriptions@markallengroup.com and we’ll let you know what it is.

Please note, some schemes of work come with additional resources. In these cases, the file you download will be a ZIP file ending in .zip . You will need to use third party software to unzip the folder and extract the resources.

September 2019

VMT

Teaching a beginners’ brass group

Group teaching is often thought of as the poor relation to individual music tuition. And that can certainly be the case if you try to teach groups in exactly the same way as you teach individuals. If approached properly, however, group teaching can give students an excellent start to their musical journeys.

There are many practical reasons why we teach in groups. Your teaching may be part of a Whole Class Ensemble Teaching (WCET) programme, also known as Wider Opportunities, which might have been organised by a music hub or service. Group teaching is generally a cheaper option than individual
lessons, so it’s attractive to those on tighter budgets.

Benefits of individual teaching
Of course, there are many joys to be experienced when teaching one to one. You have an opportunity to tailor your teaching to each student. You spend time searching for what makes each student tick, and how you can help them improve, and when they make a breakthrough or suddenly grow in self confidence – not just in their playing, perhaps, but also in other facets of their life – the payoff is truly worthwhile. When teaching in a group, while remembering that each student has their own personality, we inevitably have to be a little more formulaic and systematic in our teaching methods.

Benefits of group teaching
Many children prefer sharing the experience of instrumental learning with their friends. Confidence can be built as students work as a team, and as they get used to playing in front of others in an unpressurised environment. Most importantly, however, group lessons can be great fun. Young learners in particular find it much easier to relax and have fun with their peers than they do with a teacher, one to one – which can lead to really spirited lessons. As a result, students can immediately associate music with something joyful, rather than as a chore.

Making group teaching work
It’s imperative that group lessons are both fun and engaging. To achieve this, it’s crucial that you keep the focus of the whole group for the entire lesson.

You’ll generally need a higher level of energy to teach groups than to teach individuals, and there is certainly no opportunity to ‘rest your eyes’ while a student plays a piece. You therefore need to be armed with a selection of exercises, drills, games and pieces (more on which later), and be able to move quickly between them to maintain a seamless lesson.

This needs practice and, most importantly, preparation. However, with the correct tools, and the confidence to use them, you should be happy working with any size group, from two to 32.

Why first lessons are so important
When teaching individually, you have the opportunity to tweak elements of a student’s playing as they go along, as all students find certain aspects of playing easier than others. As the size of your teaching group increases, however, you have less time to give students individual help.

If, for example, in week five of lessons, you’re having to spend time giving one student help to form his embouchure, another help holding her instrument correctly, and a third student constant reminders to breathe in before they play, all other members of the group will quickly lose their focus. That’s when group teaching becomes more challenging.

It’s vital that you spend time in the first few lessons setting students up correctly, in terms of breathing, embouchure, playing positions, and so on. If it’s really necessary, set aside specific lesson time – maybe call it your ‘five-minute clinic’ – to deal with individual issues.

Problems with learning brass
The main problem with learning a brass instrument is that a lot of the work we do is unseen. Students find it easy to make a pitch change when it’s initiated by pressing a valve or moving a slide, because they can clearly see what’s being done. They find it much more difficult, however, to make changes when they can’t see the work – such as with a change of airspeed or tongue level. This is where the teacher needs to be creative in using imagery, games and kinaesthetic and aural awareness to help their students.

Benefits of learning brass
Brass instruments are generally very easy to hold. (Plastic instruments, particularly trombones, should be considered for smaller beginners.) The finger work required is fairly straightforward, so students can generally manage a simple tune relatively quickly.

Personally, I find the greatest benefit in teaching beginner brass players is that even the youngest students can make a great sound very quickly if they have a good setup.

Author: Richard Steggall

Log in to download file

KS3

Curriculum design

‘Curriculum’ is a real buzzword in today’s educational landscape. Ofsted’s new framework makes a big deal of it; school leaders are making a big thing of it; and many teachers are being forced to do some serious thinking about ‘curriculum’.

But isn’t our curriculum just ‘what we teach the kids’? Well, yes, but of course it is a little more complicated that that. This resource is an attempt to navigate the ‘white noise’ of curriculum currently dominating the educational narrative, and offer music teachers some insight into curriculum planning, and how to ensure you are designing the best possible offer for your students. Naturally, since KS4 and 5 are dominated by exam content, the focus here is on KS3 curriculum design.

Setting the scene
Middle leaders in my school are fortunate to be trusted with their own curriculum. We are empowered as subject specialists, encouraged to make ambitious yet informed decisions about what we teach. We are currently in the middle of a long-term re-evaluation of our whole-school curriculum, and are being ably guided through the process by one of our deputy heads. Personally, I’m carefully interrogating my music curriculum, looking at the value and effectiveness its content. It’s a challenging yet important journey, and what follows is an attempt to distil my thinking on this huge issue.

Author: David Guinane

Log in to download file

KS4

AQA AoS4: Orchestral music of Copland

Picture the following Hollywood scene: a hero has fallen, and a faded Stars and Stripes flutters in the breeze as we remember their act of sacrifice for their country. What underscore do you hear? Most probably a muted trumpet sounding a distant fanfare accompanied by lean-scored strings and transparent wind, something that connotes noble acts and a vast, open landscape. This iconic ‘American sound’ has its roots in Copland’s orchestral works and ballet scores, in particular from his populist phase in the late 1930s and 40s. Together with his contemporaries Virgil Thomson, William Schuman and Roy Harris, he set out to find a classical sound that encapsulated the traditions and aspirations of his country as the new century broke. They succeeded, to the point of being typecast. That sound has since been enshrined in film scores and orchestral works ever since as a symbol of American identity.

This is the sound that AQA has chosen to explore as part of its GCSE Area of Study 4 (Western classical tradition since 1910). Copland’s music offers an accessible introduction to the world of 20th century orchestral music, whatever the specification. A previous resource (Music Teacher, June 2017) set the context for Copland’s style and looked at the ballets in particular, with an analysis of some of the dances from the set work Rodeo. This resource throws the net wider to place those ballets in the context of his other popular orchestral works, including:

  • El salón México
  • Appalachian Spring
  • Fanfare for the Common Man
  • Third Symphony

Author: Jonathan James

Log in to download file

IB

Haydn’s Symphony No. 94 ‘Surprise’

Haydn’s ‘Surprise’ Symphony is one of the International Baccalaureate’s prescribed works for 2020-2021 and will feature in the listening paper. Students will have to answer questions about the Symphony in terms of analysis, and if they are students doing music Higher level, they will need to compare elements from this work with the other prescribed work, Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. This resource will give a detailed analysis of the work by movement, including the notable features of each of the elements.

Author: Hanh Doan

Log in to download file

If you wish to enjoy even more Music Teacher Online Resources, why not visit our online shop and have a look through our archive? Click here find out more!

August 2019

KS3/4/5

Active listening

‘Active listening’ is a skill that has been pursued in various different guises over many fields, from counselling, policing and healthcare through to business, mentoring and music. Over the last decade, the skill has become even more ‘on trend’ through the increased popularity of mindfulness, where listening attentively to the immediate environment is a key tactic to centring the focus on the present moment.

As musicians we may well feel, rather smugly, that we got there first and that others have jumped on the bandwagon. Developing the inner ear has always been fundamental to building musicianship in any genre, and we might argue that active listening is just the latest terminology to describe what has been a core practice in our training since the Middle Ages.

And yet, the literature on aural skills within music education is unanimous in finding that we are, if anything, spending less and less time in the classroom honing the ability to listen attentively and analytically. And with that comes a drop-off in those activities and skills directly allied to active listening, such as playing by ear, sightsinging and improvisation.

This resource translates the wisdom on active listening from its original therapeutic setting to a musical one, asking how processes in the first might be applied to the second. It then surveys attendant concepts within music, such as aurality, audiation and playing by ear, before addressing common barriers to their adoption, both as a student and as a teacher.

To demonstrate some of the main ideas, two worksheets are given to show how students across Key Stages 3 to 5 might be facilitated to listen actively and respond to Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

Author: Jonathan James

Log in to download file

KS4

GCSE music: theory tips and tricks

This resource focuses on the key areas of music theory that are common across all exam boards. I’ll also share some ideas and strategies that have worked in my own lessons, with the aim of providing practical ways of teaching theory as well as ideas on how to approach the topic.

Author: James Manwaring

Log in to download file

KS4

AQA AoS1: The Requiem of the late‑Romantic period

The Requiem of the late-Romantic period is one of four styles/genres that fall in AQA’s GCSE AoS1, the Western Classical Tradition 1650-1910. This is one of four Areas of Study for which students will be required to answer unfamiliar listening questions in their summer exam. Students will be expected to identify and accurately describe musical elements, musical contexts and use musical language (including staff notation) when responding to a potential question about the Requiem.

This resource will give a brief overview of the context of the late-Romantic Requiem, followed by detailed analysis of some extracts from three key works.

Author: Hanh Doan

Log in to download file

If you wish to enjoy even more Music Teacher Online Resources, why not visit our online shop and have a look through our archive? Click here find out more!

July 2019

KS5

OCR A level AoS5: Programme music

Teaching programme music should be the fun bit. It’s where music is at its most descriptive and vivid, with an obvious narrative that offers an ideal launch point into the exploration of so many core elements, from form and compositional devices through to instrumentation and ideology. Area of Study 5 in the OCR A Level specification looks at the main flowering of programme music in the Romantic period (1820-1910).

This resource builds on Jane Werry’s excellent earlier resource (Music Teacher, December 2017) by placing Romantic developments in a wider historical context, before suggesting some deductive techniques and games to approach three pieces from OCR’s list B of suggested repertoire:

  • Schumann’s Kinderszenen
  • Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet
  • Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune

Author: Jonathan James

Log in to download file

KS3/4/5

Working with visiting music teachers

The place of peripatetic music staff (or visiting music teachers, as they’re now more commonly known) is a notoriously grey area for schools and heads of music. Who is responsible for them? Are they school staff, or not? Who does the admin? What support should they have? How can they contribute to the work of the music department?

This resource aims to dig deep into these questions, and provide some answers and guidance as to how to work with your VMTs in a way that’s productive for everyone.

Author: Jane Werry

Log in to download file

KS3/4/5

Activities for the summer holidays

Over the summer holidays, students often have the opportunity to hear, play and access summer musical activities. Whether that involves going to a festival, listening to music on the streets, hearing music at a local event or going to a concert or summer activity camp, they don’t always think to mention it when they get back to school in September. More importantly, they don’t always connect it with what they do in their classroom music lessons or exams courses at school.

However, if students are about to start their KS3 music experience from primary school, are moving from KS3 into GCSE, or from GCSE to A Level or are in the middle of any of these, that time across the summer can be a great opportunity to prepare them for the year ahead.

Some schools encourage teachers to set holiday work. This presents a need to find tasks for students to do that capitalise on what they might already have access to, or that can feed into the first topic they’ll be learning when they get back.

But in addition to the more serious study that may be desirable, it’s good to aim to build an understanding of how music is threaded through everyday life, and to make these tasks relevant, fun and engaging for students, rather than just another piece of holiday homework. It’s a balance worth searching for. so that they come back to lessons in September enthusiastic and ready to get going with their music lessons for the new year!

This resource is a collection of ideas for holiday activities for students at KS3, 4 and 5. Some of these are based on the Listings Resource that can be found in the second half of the article. This is a starter list of summer activities, concerts and events from across the UK. It should support some of the activities suggested here, as well as providing a guide to some actual music taking place. It can be shared with students and parents, in case students are able to get along to hear some live music during the holidays!

Although the activities have been divided by Key Stage, they can be selected and differentiated for any age group. For that reason, I’ve left descriptions open so that teachers can pin their own learning objectives to the ideas, or tweak them as required.

Author: Anna Gower

Log in to download file

If you wish to enjoy even more Music Teacher Online Resources, why not visit our online shop and have a look through our archive? Click here find out more!

June 2019

Creativity at Key Stage 3

KS3

‘Music is a universal language that embodies one of the highest forms of creativity. A high-quality music education should engage and inspire pupils to develop a love of music and their talent as musicians, and so increase their self-confidence, creativity and sense of achievement.’

DFE, England, Programmes of Study for music at KS3

Creativity and the music classroom

Recent discussions about a model curriculum for music in England have thrown up an interesting perspective on the purpose and aims of a classroom music education. There is already a tried and tested approach to music education outside the classroom, one that is firmly rooted in learning to play a musical instrument, with associated music theory, aural skills and assessment embedded into the process through graded music exams.

With graded instrumental repertoire widely available, and three out of four GCSE exam boards linking standards to an equivalent grade, there can be a bias towards performing at KS3 as the means to present and asses outcomes, meaning less emphasis on tasks that require a creative response from students.

But what place does creativity – both in creative approaches to undertaking tasks, and in demonstrating creative and musical outcomes – play in classroom approaches to music learning at KS3?

Author: Anna Gower

Log in to download file

KS3/4/5

Maintaining classroom instruments

Music departments tend to be full of ‘stuff’ – chances are, the more music there is happening in the school, the more equipment there is. Looking after all of this equipment is likely to fall to teachers, unless you are in the enviable position of having a technician. You are probably operating on a tight budget, so will want to make the absolute most of what you already have.

The more tips and tricks you have for looking after your instruments, the better. In terms of getting the maximum number of notes for your buck, it pays to invest some time and effort in maintenance and effective storage of equipment. None of the things described in this resource requires a huge amount of technical or engineering skill – there may be some techniques to learn, but nothing that’s beyond the potential of the average determined music teacher.

Don’t feel that the buck necessarily stops with you, however. Help may be at hand from a number of sources, and there are people who actually like working on instrument repairs. If you have someone like this on hand, they are worth their weight in gold. Otherwise, you may have older students who you can train up to do repairs, or parents or caretaking staff who are capable and willing to help out.

As soon as something gets broken, it’s a good idea to remove it from student view as soon as possible. Seeing broken equipment brings out the destructive element in some students, and gives them ideas.

Author: Jane Werry

Log in to download file

KS5

OCR AoS1: Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23

By 1786, the 30-year-old Mozart was at the peak of his form. With his ‘Wunderkind’ years well behind him, he was performing with less showiness and more beauty than ever, and his operas and symphonic works were breaking exciting new ground. This was the year in which he wrote three piano concertos, including No. 23 in A, K488. In picking this as a prescribed work for its A Level Area of Study 1, OCR is representing Mozart at his most peerless and inspiring.

The aim of this resource is to cover both the usual areas required for examination, as well as offering some more context that might provoke wider exploration beyond the prescribed work and enhance higher-level responses and comparative thinking in the listening exam. We will examine:

  • Context: the Classical concerto and period practice; Mozart’s early influences and his 27 piano concertos; his playing style on the fortepiano.
  • The three piano concertos of 1786 and their performance context.
  • Instrumentation and orchestral technique in K488.
  • Structure and approach to form, including a brief review of first two movements.
  • Analysis of the finale in detail, including observations on thematic development, harmonic interest, dynamic and timbral concerns.

Author: Jonathan James

Log in to download file

If you wish to enjoy even more Music Teacher Online Resources, why not visit our online shop and have a look through our archive? Click here find out more!

May 2019

KS5

Revising for AS and A level music exams

This is the third of three resources designed to help students revise effectively and positively for this summer’s written music exams. The first (March 2019) was a general resource, filled with tips about making revision effective, productive and – most importantly – positive and stress-free. The second resource (April 2019) was aimed at GCSE students but contained plenty of information that would also be relevant and helpful to those preparing for AS or A level exams this summer.

In this resource we look specifically at how students doing AS or A level music exams this summer can prepare with confidence. Key to this will be two important facets of effective revision:

Activity: keeping the passive revision (reading and re-reading) to an absolute minimum.

Positivity: ensuring that every revision session leaves the student with a sense of continuing progress.

Author: Simon Rushby

Log in to download file

KS3

Approaches to classical music

If you’re the kind of music teacher who sees it as part of their mission to open students’ minds and ears to different kinds of music, you may well be thinking about ways in which you can introduce a bit more classical music into your KS3 plans.

There are likely, however, to be some questions that might be troubling you:

  • My students might be resistant to classical music. How can I get them on side?
  • I want to keep things practical, and don’t want to turn my lessons into a music history lecture or old-fashioned music appreciation class. How can I do this?
  • One music lesson per week is not enough to achieve the kind of fluency in notation-reading to tackle classical music. How can I use classical music in my lessons without using notation as a starting point?

This resource aims to give you some ideas as to how you can tackle these questions. It will also help you to pinpoint specific learning objectives that go further than just focusing on ‘doing’ some classical music.

Author: Jane Werry

Log in to download file

KS3

Activities for the summer term

As well as some warmer weather and hopefully some sunshine too, the summer term brings with it public exams, numerous trips and activities, unexpected disruption, events and concerts – all of which can affect learning at KS3.

Sometimes lessons have to be moved to avoid disrupting exams taking place nearby, or students may be missing from class as they are needed elsewhere. But it can also be a great opportunity to introduce some new units and ideas that:

  • build on previous musical learning and look ahead to what comes next
  • continue to make progress towards an assessment point and end-of-year reports
  • make the most of an opportunity to try some new activities, instruments, singing, technology, or something else that hasn’t yet happened during the year
  • keep students engaged and interested in coming to music as the end of term gets nearer.
  • celebrate and demonstrate what they have learnt so far
  • prepare them for the following year, whether that’s for GCSE or a vocational award at KS4 or for the next year of KS3
  • ensure that students have the opportunity to continue to make the most of their music lessons, when every lesson counts in a squeezed timetable, with a wealth of exciting and distracting things happening in the summer term!

Author: Anna Gower

Log in to download file

If you wish to enjoy even more Music Teacher Online Resources, why not visit our online shop and have a look through our archive? Click here find out more!

April 2019

Blues

KS3

Teaching blues at KS3 has become something of an old chestnut. However, there is a lot of value to be had from including it in your KS3 plans. After all, it can cover all of the following:

  • Context: it’s a great example of history influencing music, and music being tied to identity
  • Chords: just how far one chord progression can go, and how this has been done in different decades
  • Chords: different ways of playing them, on different instruments
  • Chords: inversions, 7ths, substitutions
  • Key: why transpose, and how to do it
  • Improvising: how to do it, and with style
  • Texture: how to vary it, using stop time, solos, and call and response
  • Songwriting: lyric writing, structure and creating a sense of style.

To do all of this takes time – perhaps a whole term of one lesson a week. However, it’s easy to create a shorter project simply by cherry-picking the bits you want to include. Because it’s such a big topic, there are, of course, a million different ways of teaching it, and it’s one of those projects that every music teacher uses at some point.

This resource does not intend to provide a definitive blues project: this is just one way of covering various aspects of the blues. Hopefully there will be some ideas here to give you some variety, or to add to what you already do.

Author: Jane Werry

Log in to download file

KS4

Revising for GCSE music exams

This resource is intended to provide activities and ideas for students that will help them to revise effectively for the summer GCSE music exam, and it follows a resource on general strategies for making revision effective and manageable (Music Teacher, March 2019). The bulk of it is written so that teachers can pass it on in print or electronic form directly to students, and allow them to devise their own revision activities.

Students differ in their learning styles, of course, and need to know what kinds of activities work well for them. As a result, this resource is fairly broad, and it’s important to choose carefully from the ideas within it. There is also no exam board-specific content here, for obvious reasons, though for illustrations I have sometimes picked topics, set works or marking criteria from one or two of the four main boards. It should be easy to adapt and alter ideas to suit the board you are doing.

Many students taking music GCSE this summer will perhaps be anxious about revision, especially as there may still be a lot of class-time focus on getting coursework completed. Each student will be at a different stage in this process, with varying amounts of spare time on their hands during music lessons and homework slots.

Therefore, the more equipped they are to be able to find effective revision activities on their own, the better.

Author: Simon Rushby

Log in to download file

KS4/5

The story of the symphony, part 3: from Mahler to the moderns

In 1849, Wagner pompously declared that ‘the last symphony had already been written’, referring to Beethoven’s Ninth. He was wrong.

In part two to this three-part resource (Music Teacher, March 2019, with part one February 2019), we saw how Romantic composers of all creative persuasions, whether nationalist or individualist, took up the challenge of extending Beethoven’s legacy. Some, like Schumann and Brahms, innovated within the constraints and conventions of the form; others such as Tchaikovsky and Dvorˇák, used it to explore issues of nationhood and cultural identity; while others still, such as Liszt and Berlioz, reimagined both its structure and scope, blurring the boundaries between the symphony and tone poem.

The third and final part of this resource picks up the story at the turn of the 20th century, at that point where late Romanticism brushed up against early modernism. Although some were happy to stick by the symphony, others questioned its role and purpose, claiming it had already outstayed its welcome. We will look at the divergence within the symphony’s history by selecting some benchmark works as case studies:

  • Mahler ‘Symphony No. 1’ (1888)
  • Sibelius ‘Symphony No. 5’ (1919)
  • Debussy ‘La mer’ (1905)
  • Shostakovich ‘Symphony No. 5’ (1937)

These will be put into the context of the musical aesthetics of their day, before we finish with a quick survey of developments since Shostakovich, asking whether the symphony can still be used by contemporary composers to innovate and express themselves in an orchestral format.

As before, the aim of this resource is to use the story of the symphony to give a context for analysing instrumental writing in the wider listening questions at GCSE and beyond. It gives a historical framework for set works, and outlines the creative principles of key composers, questioning the choices they made as they crafted their symphonies and, in so doing, giving inspiration for the students’ own compositional thinking.

Taken as a three-part survey, the resource should develop the vocabulary and analytical thinking required for the higher-scoring evaluative answers in the listening papers in both Key Stage 4 and 5. A Spotify playlist accompanies each part to use in illustrations and listening exercises.

Author: Jonathan James

Log in to download file

If you wish to enjoy even more Music Teacher Online Resources, why not visit our online shop and have a look through our archive? Click here find out more!

March 2019

KS3/4/5

Mentoring a trainee or newly qualified teacher

Mentoring a trainee music teacher or newly qualified teacher can be hard work and time-consuming. But it is also incredibly rewarding, and is guaranteed to make you reflect on your own practice. With recruitment and retention in a dire state nationwide, creating a new generation of effective and happy music teachers needs to be a priority.

A mentor can play a tremendous part in the success – or otherwise – of a new teacher’s training. It’s not productive to play this fact down: mentoring is crucial at a make-or-break level, and the responsibility cannot be taken lightly.

This resource will give you some ideas as to how to make the whole process as productive and stress-free as possible. Ethos and attitudes will be considered, alongside practical ideas for helping with planning, evidence gathering, classroom management, musical skills and administration.

Author: Jane Werry

Log in to download file

Making revision effective and manageable

KS4/5

Revision can be a word with largely negative connotations. For teachers, it can mean producing ‘packs’ and summary resources, going back over old ground with students, and finding innovative ways to help them remember content and hone exam skills. For students, it can represent a mountain to be climbed, one that’s fraught with insecurities about facts forgotten, questions not clearly understood and huge amounts of content to be digested. For parents, it’s a carpet of broken glass, brought up at home at their peril, with the potential to spark arguments and misunderstandings with their stressed offspring.

Let’s face it, the most talented PR people would struggle to make the concept of revision attractive. There will always be thousands of things that students would prefer to do. It is likely that any attempt to make revision ‘fun’ and ‘positive’ is going to fail, or at the very least be treated with cynicism. But revision is necessary, and it is important to look at ways in which it can be made effective and manageable. ‘Normalising’ revision for GCSE and A Level music exams is essential if students are to feel prepared, engaged and supported during the exam season.

The word ‘revision’ does not strictly mean ‘re-visiting’ in the sense of going over things again. Its root is in the Latin word for seeing, and so ‘revision’ in its literal sense means re-imagining, re-thinking or re-visualising a concept. Revisions of books, plans or even political speeches usually involve updating, changing, adapting and improving them, rather than simply repeating them.

So, the first thing to reject when it comes to revision is that it is a tedious process of going over old ground, re-reading notes and trying to remember things learnt some time ago. The content to be revised – such as the analysis of a set work, for example – remains the same, but the process of revising it needs to be as much of an engaging, interesting learning experience the second time round as it was the first time. To this end, the key piece of kit in a student’s revision armoury has got to be their method: they need to know exactly how they are going to approach each topic, so that their first steps in revising it are positive and active.

In this resource we’ll look at the ‘hows’ of revision, starting more generally and gradually homing in on more specific activities useful in preparing for written music exams. Over the coming months, there will be further, more specific resources where we look at different aspects of the GCSE and A level music exams, and investigate the most effective ways to revise for them.

Author: Simon Rushby

Log in to download file

KS4/5

The story of the symphony, part 2: Beethoven and his legacy

In the second of this three-part resource (for part one, see Music Teacher, February 2019), we will be joining the story of the symphony at its heyday in the 19th century, where the form expanded and evolved at dizzying speed. By the end of the century, symphony orchestras were up to ten times the size of their 18th-century predecessors, playing works of double the length to much larger, more discerning audiences.

As before, the aim of this resource is to use the story of the symphony to give a context for analysing instrumental writing in the wider listening questions at GCSE and beyond. It gives a historical framework for set works and outlines the creative principles of key composers, questioning the choices they made as they crafted their symphonies and, in so doing, giving inspiration for the students’ own compositional thinking. The resources should broaden the vocabulary and analytical thinking required for the higher-scoring evaluative answers in the listening papers in Key Stages 4 and 5. A Spotify playlist accompanies each resource, to use for musical illustrations and listening exercises.

This second part takes us from the symphonic revolutions of Beethoven in the early 1800s through the diverse response to that impressive legacy by some of the main symphonists of the Romantic era, including Berlioz, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Dvořák. It will take into account the massive growth of the orchestra in this time, and the creative potential that that growth unlocked in terms of instrumentation and form. It will show how the symphony became the perfect vehicle for expressing Romantic ideals, and will give an account of the split between abstract and programmatic music as the ‘programme symphony’ and symphonic poem gained popularity under Berlioz and Liszt. Works covered include:

  • Beethoven’s symphonies Nos. 1 to 9 in overview.
  • Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique.
  • Brahms’s Symphony No. 4 vs Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 (typifying the ‘war of the Romantics’).
  • Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7.

Author: Jonathan James

Log in to download file

If you wish to enjoy even more Music Teacher Online Resources, why not visit our online shop and have a look through our archive? Click here find out more!

February 2019

KS3

Salsa

Salsa has immediate appeal. Its rhythms and riffs are irresistibly catchy. Its combination of syncopated rhythms with simple harmonies and structures give it just the right level of challenge for KS3 classes. A few simple layers, done well, can create a performance or arrangement that will sound effective, even impressive. This resource starts with a percussion groove and a group performance of ‘Toca bonito’, and from there moves into the creation of salsa-style cover versions, which could be performed live or using ICT. Listening to salsa examples and models of salsa covers is integrated with practical exploration of salsa characteristics along the way. It’s possible, too, just to do the performing part of the project without the cover versions section if you need it to take less time.

Author: Jane Werry

Log in to download file

KS4/5

The story of the symphony, part 1

The symphony has long represented a rite of passage for any composer trying to make their mark. Ask Brahms. He waited 40 years before daring to write his first. Even Beethoven essayed the form in various different guises before he launched what was to be one of the defining canons in the repertoire. A symphony tests the mettle of any composer, demanding stamina, imaginative orchestration and a mastery of the long form. This is the first in a three-part resource that uses the development of the symphony as a guide for charting the evolution of large-ensemble instrumental writing in Western classical music. As such, it covers principles that are essential for answers in any wider listening component, helping to contextualise set works both historically and in terms of the musical ideas they express, with supporting playlists to use as illustration. By looking at ‘symphonic thinking’ in detail, this resource takes the time to ask why the composers settled on different forms and structures, and how they did so with the resources available to them. It therefore adds ballast to any student trying to broaden their vocabulary and referential framework for the higher-scoring evaluative answers, as well as underpinning compositional principles and giving inspiration for composing briefs. Aside from offering historical context and compositional precepts, the story of the symphony carries the sub-plot of the expansion of the orchestra and its instruments, from the goat-skin tambours of Orfeo to the contrabassoons of Beethoven’s Fifth and ophicleides of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique. And with that come the questions of instrumentation, orchestration and how to manipulate the ensemble’s material in ways that will captivate the listener over longer stretches of time. This three-part resource can be used to lay the ground or give a summary view of the evolution of musical thought and practice.

  • Part one tells the less-recounted story of how the symphony rose from its humble beginnings as incidental music and a ragtag dance medley to being one of the most defining forms in Western classical music, tracing its slow rise in the Baroque and pre-Classical periods up to its heyday of the 1750s to 80s under Haydn and Mozart.
  • Part two looks at the revolution of Beethoven’s symphonies and how they influenced the Romantic composers.
  • Part three brings the story up to date with an analysis of the role of the symphony in the 20th and 21st centuries.

A Spotify playlist accompanies each resource, allowing you to demonstrate innovations in instrumental thinking at each stage.

Author: Jonathan James

Log in to download file

KS5

Edexcel AoS6 New directions: John Cage

What is music? What is composition? What is a ‘new direction’ in music? Who is John Cage? These are the topics I’ll cover in this resource on John Cage’s Three Dances for two prepared pianos, one of the AoS6 set works from the Edexcel Anthology of Music. I will not only look at the piece itself, but also suggest some wider listening options, as well as ways of bringing the piece to life for your students. The Edexcel specification and Anthology offers three great examples of music that take the listener in new directions:

  • Cage: Three Dances for two prepared pianos (No. 1)
  • Saariaho: Petals for cello and live electronics (see Music Teacher, August 2018)
  • Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (Introduction, The Augurs of Spring and Ritual of Abduction) (see Music Teacher, December 2016)

The specification points out a number of skills that students will be required to demonstrate:

  • Formulate critical judgements, achieved through attentive listening (rather than just hearing) and aural perception, and could also be achieved by informed discussion (in writing and/or through speech), analysis, evaluation, contextualisation and reflection.
  • Comment on music heard, showing understanding through the genres, styles and traditions studied.
  • Comment in detail on music heard, showing critical understanding across the genres, styles and traditions studied.
  • Use acute aural perception and discrimination skills.
  • Use appropriate technical musical vocabulary to communicate sophisticated judgements.
  • Show understanding of the complex interdependencies between musical elements.
  • Show understanding of the sophisticated connections between music and its context.

It is crucial that, when beginning their studies of the work, students understand what they are aiming for and why they are studying this piece. But let’s start with that very first question from the top: what is music?

Author: James Manwaring

Log in to download file

If you wish to enjoy even more Music Teacher Online Resources, why not visit our online shop and have a look through our archive? Click here find out more!

January 2019

KS4

Computer gaming music: composition

One of the key emerging genres of music over the last 35 years has been computer game music. Since the first playable version of Tetris in 1984, music in this genre has grown. We now see key orchestral and cinema composers turning their hands to computer game soundtracks. If we’re going to prepare our students for future work in the music industry, it’s crucial for them to embrace all styles and genres. Following an earlier resource on gaming music (AQA AoS2: Computer gaming music, Music Teacher, November 2018), here I’m going to consider ways of teaching computer game music using composition. This will include some compositional ideas that can easily be adapted for other genres.

Author: James Manwaring

Log in to download file

KS3

Introduction: Why teach variations at KS3?

The short answer is that it gives a lot of bang for your buck: you can explore many musical concepts through a unit on variations in a relatively short space of time. These include meaty compositional techniques that can feed into all sorts of projects later on in KS3 and at GCSE. Ultimately, learning how variations work provides an understanding of different ways in which a musical idea can be developed, which has been a preoccupation of composers in all styles since the Renaissance. Here’s a rundown of the ideas covered by this resource:

  • Playing ‘Frère Jacques’ by ear, including exploration of melodic shape and structure.
  • Melodic variation: adding notes, inversion, sequence, retrograde.
  • Harmonic variation: adding chords, major and minor.
  • Rhythmic variation: changing rhythms and metre.
  • Textural variation: parallel motion, contrary motion, countermelody, round, call and response.

Author: Jane Werry

Log in to download file

KS3/4

Graphic scores

From the early decades of the 20th century onwards, many emerging composers found that the established system of standard notation was becoming an increasing constraint on allowing them to fully express their musical ideas. As early as the 1930s, US composer Henry Cowell was experimenting with new notation ideas, but it was during the 1950s that really significant developments were made. Composers such as John Cage, Earle Browne and Morton Feldman experimented with musical forms that included chance procedures and opportunities for improvisation. They were looking for ways to allow creative input from performers, including interpretation of written scores. The use of an extended graphic notation enabled them to realise these aims. During the 1960s in the UK and elsewhere, these approaches were explored and further developed by composers and musicians working in the emerging post-war jazz and experimental music scenes, including Michael Nyman, Howard Skempton, David Bedford and Gavin Bryars. Scores and recordings by these musicians make for fascinating study, but most are probably going to be too demanding for classroom use at KS3/4. Some of our more enlightened music educators, however, such as John Paynter, R Murray Schafer and George Self, realised the potential and musical benefits of bringing these new notation forms into schools. It is well worth seeking out their publications, which can easily be adapted and modified to make them suitable for music making in contemporary classrooms.

Author: David Ashworth

Log in to download file

If you wish to enjoy even more Music Teacher Online Resources, why not visit our online shop and have a look through our archive? Click here find out more!

December 2018

KS3/4

Christmas around the world

It’s that time of year again. The end of a really long term, one often filled with the need for cover work or room changes as concert rehearsals and mock exams take place. But how can you keep classes engaged right to the end of term, linking the festivals and holiday celebrations that take place in December with musical learning, at the same time ensuring that they continue to make some musical progress, especially with exam groups? It’s hard to imagine Christmas without music. Music is an integral part of Christmas celebrations, and has always formed a huge part of the traditions that most will be familiar with, such as carol concerts, nativity plays and endless Christmas songs on the radio and in shops, often for months beforehand. Historically, the place of music as part of festivals – whether religious, cultural or traditional – has been an important one across the world. Whether the music spread through the aural tradition of popular and secular festivals, taking on a local flavour as minstrels travelled, or whether it took a more formal place in religious celebrations, in some cases eventually going on to be notated and reproduced, music remains central to the celebration of festivals and in the UK – none more so than at Christmas. Although the traditional Christmas carols that most of us are familiar with only really date from Victorian times, the singing of carols dates back to pagan celebrations such as the winter solstice or harvest. These songs were then adopted as a tradition by the church as the spread of Christianity replaced the winter solstice celebrations with what we now know as Christmas. Nativity plays that tell the Christmas story were foreshadowed in the 1200s by St Francis of Assisi and his followers, who acted out plays and sang carols to tell the Christmas story. This tradition became popular as a form of entertainment across Europe, with audiences joining in with the carol singing to accompany the acting and storytelling. The integration of singing, dancing, acting, food, games and more into any kind of celebration has added to the preservation of generations of tradition associated with festivals, and has influenced much of the music we hear today. Of course, now we also have a new kind of festival, one where people go specifically to hear music performed live. This resource is a series of ideas and projects designed to be flexible enough to take place in any classroom space. Where possible, cross-curricular links are also suggested. Each of the ideas have been inspired by a Christmas tradition from somewhere around the world, with an extended project to finish that brings it all together. Throughout, there’s an understanding that music at Christmas is more than a fun lesson to end the term. It has its roots in a deeper tradition of celebration associated with festivals both religious and secular.

Author: Anna Gower

Log in to download file

KS3/4/5

A Christmas Miscellany

Christmas-themed Music Teacher resources have become something of an annual tradition, much like advent calendars or leaving out mince pies for Santa. In previous years, there have been some fantastic, in-depth resources. Our resource, however, takes a slightly different tack, and comprises a collection of shorter ideas for the Christmas period. We’ve tried to avoid the obvious, age-old suggestions, focusing instead on parts of a music department that might miss out on the fun that happens over Christmas. Part one of the resource will give you a range of ideas for adding some Christmas cheer to your exam classes, covering ideas for KS4 and KS5 (with a focus on GCSE and/or A level students). Part two moves away from the classroom and into your extra-curricular groups, with tips for managing your public commitments at Christmas (ie your Carol Service/concert/celebration), as well as ideas for your ‘non-flagship’ musical ensembles. We hope you find something useful in this resource.

Author: Hanh Doan and David Guinane

Log in to download file

KS5

A cross-curricular Christmas

If there’s one department at Christmas that doesn’t stop, it’s the music department. Concerts, carol singing and rehearsals dominate most of late November and December. In a number of schools, music teachers will need cover in order to meet the demands of the festive season. When cover is required, a teacher from another department will inevitably end up in your room teaching your class. The least we can do is to leave them a task that they might enjoy, and one that’s linked to the subject they themselves teach. The tasks included in this resource are therefore designed to appeal to other departments. They might be left for cover work, given to other staff to use during the festive season, or even used by you the music teacher at a time of year when you need fresh ideas. Use these ideas as you see fit – and hopefully they will make the festive season just that bit easier.

Author: James Manwaring

Log in to download file

If you wish to enjoy even more Music Teacher Online Resources, why not visit our online shop and have a look through our archive? Click here find out more!

November 2018

KS3

The elements of music

The elements of music. DR P SMITH or MAD T SHIRT; posters on the walls of your classroom; a handy checklist for writing a model answer to a GCSE question; or a guide to development in an A level composition. The elements of music have long been an important component of KS3 music, whether they’re taught as a standalone unit or topic, or threaded through performing, composing or listening activities in a topic-based curriculum. However, the elements of music are really just a set of labels and concepts under which sits a wealth of musical understanding, and a heap of vocabulary and musical language that can help to hone student responses to music that they hear, play, sing or compose from the very start of their music education. It’s that further layer beneath the label and concept that’s much harder to measure, and which weaves through all good music learning and teaching. It’s about crafting an understanding of what makes music a medium through which to be expressive, to make sense of sound, and to arrange it into meaningful musical experiences that allow students to demonstrate their learning in ways other than a listening test or performance assessment. Then there’s the reality of the need to prepare students for the requirements of GCSE or vocational courses while inspiring them to want to opt for the subject in the first place. Regardless of the values that sit behind your KS3 curriculum and at the heart of your music department, the elements of music remain firmly embedded into all aspects of music education. So what does this mean in context? This resource falls into two parts:

  • The first part contains a detailed overview of the many different variations of the elements of music that are designed to help teachers choose the labels and concepts that define the elements in a way that can ensure a continuity of learning between KS3 and KS4. These provide some background on how and where the musical elements appear in documents such as the GCSE specifications or National Curriculum Programmes of Study to help to inform choices over how they can be used at KS3.
  • The second part suggests approaches for threading the elements through the KS3 experience to ensure that students not only know the label and concept, but are able to recognise changes in music that they hear, and apply their understanding of what the elements of music can do to enhance a performance, or form the building blocks and support the development of musical ideas in a composition.

Author: Anna Gower

Log in to download file

KS3-4

Getting the most out of your rehearsals

The roots of the verb ‘to rehearse’ come from the medieval world of farming, and has to do with ‘re-harrowing’ the ground, in other words raking it repeatedly until it’s free of stones and snares, ready for the plough. From time to time, our rehearsals can have a little too much of the ‘harrowing’, or even of the ‘hearse’ to them. This resource is about revitalising our approach within a school context. It looks at the principles of effective rehearsal technique across all stages of learning, whether in a choir, orchestra or band. There are three main aspects covered:

  • Preparation of the rehearsal cycle.
  • The anatomy of the rehearsal.
  • How to lead your musicians.

All three place learning at the centre. How do we conduct a rehearsal that goes beyond ‘re-harrowing’ the piece in hand and improves general musicianship, both in terms of ensemble skills and individual technique? Within the context of teaching, this broader premise for the rehearsal needs to be held in mind throughout each portion of the session. The pressure will always be there just to teach the notes and hone a piece for a concert. This is a learning experience in itself, true, but the constant challenge is somehow to eke out more learning on more levels. That is the main concern of this resource.

Author: Jonathan James

Log in to download file

KS4

AQA AoS2: Computer gaming music

In the AQA GCSE specification, students are asked to study music from four areas of study:

  • Area of Study 1: Western Classical tradition 1650-1910
  • Area of Study 2: popular music
  • Area of Study 3: traditional music
  • Area of Study 4: Western Classical tradition since 1910

This resource looks at AQA’s Area of Study 2, specifically computer gaming music since 1990. It will help with the study of computer gaming music, but will also consider some of the ways in which we study and appraise music. There are some questions related to Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, and also some analysis of the music from Assassin’s Creed. The more students can listen to music from the genre, the more they will understand it. It would be good to find out if they play any games at home, since a key part of understanding any genre of music is to consider its target audience and context. Although it might not be possible to play games in school, there are several videos on YouTube that show games in action. You may like to show one such video to help students picture the music during gameplay.

Author: James Manwaring

Log in to download file

If you wish to enjoy even more Music Teacher Online Resources, why not visit our online shop and have a look through our archive? Click here find out more!

October 2018

KS5

AQA AoS1: The operas of Mozart

The AQA A-level exam requires candidates to have a good understanding of the context and musical features of Mozart’s operas, with special focus on specific numbers from Act 1 of The Marriage of Figaro. The exam questions encompass identification of features in recordings of unfamiliar Mozart operas, some simple dictation using music from the area of study, description of musical features from a score excerpt from Figaro, and describing how a chosen excerpt relates to the opera as a whole. There are excellent bar-by-bar analyses of all of the set numbers from Figaro in both the Rhinegold study guide and the teaching guide published on the AQA website. I do not intend to duplicate these here. Rather, this resource aims to provide resources and strategies for how to approach the area of study with your classes. These will include ideas for where to start with tackling the context of Classical opera, performing excerpts from Figaro in class, and teaching the musical features of the Figaro set numbers.

Author: Jane Werry

Log in to download file

KS5

AQA AoS3: Music for Media part 2 – Michael Giacchino and Nobuo Uematsu

In the first part of this resource (Music Teacher, August 2018) we looked at music by three of the five composers named by AQA in Area of Study 3: Music for Media – Bernard Herrmann, Hans Zimmer and Thomas Newman.   In this second part, we’ll be looking at the other two names on AQA’s list. For both Michael Giacchino and Nobuo Uematsu, we’ll look at their careers and focus on some key music composed by them, mostly in the realms of video game music, though Giacchino is now very prolific in the film genre.

Author: Simon Rushby

Log in to download file

KS5

Edexcel A-level: Wider listening

A key component of the new Edexcel A-level specification is wider listening. In this resource, I will consider what ‘wider listening’ means, and how we can approach it in our teaching.   There are some barriers that can easily be broken down, and some misconceptions that can hopefully be sorted out. Wider listening is here to stay, and when we start to embrace it, we’ll see our students’ love of music increase – and their results following the same path.

Author: James Manwaring

Log in to download file

If you wish to enjoy even more Music Teacher Online Resources, why not visit our online shop and have a look through our archive? Click here find out more!

September 2018

KS3/4/5

Musical creativity in the classroom: part 2

In the first part to this two-part resource (Music Teacher, July 2018), we tried to pin definitions on what it means to be musically creative, finding that the more you try to corner the concept, the more it slips beyond grasp. We discussed the implications of ‘thinking in sound’, alongside multiple expressions of creative musicianship and the theories that underpin them. This second part asks: so what? We’ll look at the application of the theory across the following core areas, with ideas that are relevant to both GCSE and A-level:

  • Listening
  • Analysing set works
  • Performance
  • Composing

Creativity is a very personal subject. The following tips, exercises and suggestions may well have you muttering in dissent at the page or the screen. Good! The aim is not to give fail-proof recipes but to provoke a reaction. Even if the specific ideas don’t quite fit with your current practice, the hope is that you’ll be inspired to adapt them to your own teaching situation.

Author: Jonathan James

Log in to download file

KS4

Performing at KS4

At KS4, students make their choices about which subjects to choose to study further. In the case of music, schools can offer GCSE music with specifications offered by four main exam boards in England, and some variations available elsewhere such as National 5 in Scotland, and IB or iGCSE internationally. There are also various vocational qualifications available to students who opt to take music beyond KS3. As you would expect, most options include performing as a key part of the specification, and a performance forms some part of the expected assessment outcomes from the courses. The key difference between GCSE and equivalent and vocational qualifications is that the focus for GCSE is on the student as performer, whereas the vocational options dig a little deeper into the performance and all the things that come together in the planning and delivery of a performance or event. The aim is to make links to the music and creative industries, and to open up pathways to further study of music for students who may not have followed a more traditional route through music learning, which may have been via instrumental study and knowledge of associated theory and theoretical language, a key part of the GCSE music subject conditions as required by Ofqual.

Author: Anna Gower

Log in to download file

KS5

AQA AoS2: Pop music

This wide-ranging area of study is likely to have massive appeal to teachers and students alike, since it contains a generous range of very accessible and enjoyable music. The featured artists are likely to be a mixture of familiar names and less familiar musicians, providing an easy way in as well as somewhere to go. This resource aims to provide a structure for tackling the AoS, with advice on ways of presenting information to students and some ideas as to where to find useful teaching materials.

Author: Jane Werry

Log in to download file

If you wish to enjoy even more Music Teacher Online Resources, why not visit our online shop and have a look through our archive? Click here find out more!

August 2018

KS3

KS3 as preparation for GCSE music

The KS3 programme of study is an age-related phase of learning that most commonly happens at the start of secondary or high school education in England. The GCSE is a stand-alone qualification governed by a framework laid out by Ofqual that has been used by examination boards to develop their own specifications and assessments against defined learning objectives.

Author: Anna Gower

Log in to download file

KS5

AQA AoS3: Music for Media – Bernard Herrmann, Hans Zimmer and Thomas Newman

In this resource, we will look at music by three of the five composers named by AQA in AoS3: Music for Media. For each composer, I provide an in-depth examination of an example of their music, a little context and some ideas for further study of other music that you can undertake with your students.

Author: Simon Rushby

Log in to download file

KS5

Edexcel AoS6: Saariaho’s Petals

Of all the ‘New Directions’ works in the Edexcel A-level Anthology, Saariaho’s Petals is the only one written by a living composer (at the time of writing). It is, without doubt, one of the most fascinating pieces in the Anthology, but also one of the most challenging to study.

Author: David Guinane

Log in to download file

If you wish to enjoy even more Music Teacher Online Resources, why not visit our online shop and have a look through our archive? Click here find out more!