Music

The Key Stage 3 Music curriculum is designed to engage and inspire pupils to develop their love of music. It also aims to develop previously acquired knowledge and skills, nurturing each pupil’s musical talent to increase self-confidence, creativity and a sense of achievement. 

Pupils develop their vocal and/or instrumental fluency, accuracy and expressiveness in a variety of group, duet and solo activities. They learn to listen to a range of music with increasing discrimination and awareness. ICT is used to enable solo composition work to complement other practical and theoretical work. Pupils also learn about music from different cultures and historical periods. Study includes reference to the work of pivotal figures in musical history such as Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner and Stravinsky. Each Key Stage 3 pupil gives a performance (of their own choice) to the class during the year which is assessed and forms part of their final mark.

All pupils have the opportunity to have singing/instrumental private lessons in school. There are a number of extracurricular musical activities and all pupils are encouraged to join at least one. In Key Stage 3 pupils may join: Year 7 Choir, African Drumming Group, Wind Band, String Orchestra, Guitar Group, Cantamus (Chamber Choir) and the Collegiate Chorus Year 8 and above). More able pupils may be invited to form a chamber ensemble (e.g. a string quartet) for which specialist tuition is provided. Pupils in Years 7 to 9 have three fifty-minute class music lessons each fortnight.

Year 7
In Year 7 the main topic areas are:

  • The elements of music – including how to describe/   compose music with reference to texture, sonority, rhythm, melody, harmony, etc.; 
  • Notation: traditional and extended styles (e.g. graphic scores);
  • Rhythm and pulse: tempo, beats, rests, note durations,   syncopation, time signatures, performing rhythms from   traditional notation, improvising and composing group rhythm pieces;
  • Composing a piece of tribal music and a rap;
  • Improvising and composing using pentatonic scales;
  • Reading and writing traditionally notated pitch;
  • Composing using Sibelius software;
  • Presentation on one of the great composers (post-exam project).


All pupils in Year 7 are expected to sing in the Year 7 Choir for at least the first term. This choir sings music ranging from simple, well-known modern pop songs in unison through to more complex music in two or more parts. It aims to give a practical experience of music-making which is enjoyable whilst developing practical ability. The Year 7 Choir often performs at Christmas and at the Spring Concert (usually at Hull City Hall).


Year 8
In Year 8 pupils use the skills learned in Year 7 to produce more refined compositions incorporating more sophisticated musical form and harmony. Through a mixture of performing, listening and composing pupils will develop a deeper understanding of how music works in specific contexts. Pupils produce individual compositions using ICT which reinforces the theoretical understanding gained in Year 7.
The main topics areas are:

  • Composing a melody for a Christmas Carol – culminating in a composition from each pupil;
  • Composing harmony and chords;
  • Form and structure: playing and performing music using   ternary and rondo forms;
  • Song structure (verse, chorus, middle 8, intro, outro);
  • Music for different special occasions and its specific characteristics;
  • Fanfare performance and composition: including imitation, the harmonic series, brass instruments – culminating in an original fanfare composition from each pupil;
  • Chromatic music - music using unusual scales (e.g. Debussy’s   Prélude à l’après midi) ; raga: music and musical instruments of India;
  • Arranging a traditional folk song (post-exam project).


Year 9
There is slightly more of an emphasis in Year 9 upon solo composition work, often using ICT. Practical skills gained in Years 7 and 8 (e.g. composing melodies, understanding harmonic progressions, etc.) are developed in Year 9 through the production of  more complex compositions in specific styles. Theoretical understanding (e.g. of notation) is reinforced and developed through a variety of topics. Performance skills are developed through differentiated solo and group exercises in the first three modules. Some modules allow pupils to study topics from the GCSE syllabus, giving them a flavour of that course and, should they choose to continue to study Music in Year 10, a head start with the composition coursework element. 
The main topics covered in Year 9 are:

  • Ground Bass (including a composition in Ground Bass style, and a group performance of Pachelbel’s ‘Canon’);
  • Minimalism – involving study of the music of Steve Reich, a group performance of Clapping Music (Reich) and music from Tubular Bells (Oldfield), culminating in a portfolio of three individual minimalist compositions (using ICT);
  • The Blues – including study of seminal early blues singers, and a group performance of an original blues song;
  • Variations – including study of Mozart’s variations upon ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’ and a composition project in which a well-known melody is developed systematically;
  • Film Music – including study of the history and theory of film music, culminating in an individual composition of a piece of film music for a given short scene (using ICT).

Key Stage 4

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

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

Performing (30%)

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

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

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

Composing (30%)

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

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

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

Listening and Appraising (40%)

Eight set works are studied in detail under four headings:

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

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

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

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