Subject content

Musical Language/Content

Musical Language/Content

The musical references made below form the basis for the exploration of all Areas of Study within AS and A2. The whole musical experience of the course – both teaching and learning – should be centred on them. Not all elements will apply universally and their selection and coverage will depend on the composers, contexts, traditions and works being studied. 

The organisation of sounds 

Form 

  •  binary, ternary, fugue, passacaglia, ritornello 
  •  rondo, arch-form, variations, minuet and trio 
  •  sonata, sonata-rondo, scherzo and trio 
  •  da capo aria, strophic, through-composed, cyclic 

Harmony 

  • diatonic, chromatic, functional, non-functional, harmonic rhythm 
  • consonant, dissonant 
  • essential/unessential notes, passing notes, auxiliary notes, acciaccaturas, appoggiaturas
  • suspensions, false relation, pedal, drone 
  • cadences, tierce da Picardie
  • identification of chords using Roman numerals (I, IVb, etc) or chord symbols, inversions, seventh chords, added note chords, diatonic and chromatic discords, note clusters, circle of fifths 

Instrumentation and Timbre

  • instruments singly and in combinations, as found in concertos, symphonies, chamber groups, in jazz and pop music
  • timbre, including the use of technology, synthesised and computer-generated sounds, sampling 
  • dynamics
  • instrumental techniques including pizzicato, con arco, con sordino, staccato, spiccato, col legno, double-stopping

Melody 

  • intervals, conjunct, disjunct, triadic, blue notes 
  • diatonic, chromatic, pentatonic, whole tone, note row 
  • augmentation, diminution, fragmentation, inversion, retrograde, sequence, motivic development
  • slide/glissando/portamento, ornamentation 
  • ostinato, riff
  • phrasing and articulation

Rhythm and Metre 

  • pulse 
  • regular, irregular, additive, free rhythm, isorhythm, polyrhythms 
  • augmentation, diminution, hemiola, cross-rhythm, dotted rhythm 
  • tempo, rubato, accentuation 

Texture 

  • harmonic/homophonic, contrapuntal, polyphonic, heterophonic 
  • imitative, fugal, canonic, layered 
  • unison, octaves, single melody line, melody with accompaniment, antiphonal 

Tonality 

  • tonal, atonal, bitonal 
  • major, minor, modal, use and identification of key 
  • modulation 

The context of music

Composer, Performer and Audience 

  • intention, use, purpose, stimulus 
  • patronage, commission 
  • technical/emotional demands 
  • amateur/professional, performance practice, interactive media 
  • interpretation, improvisation 

Occasion, Time and Place 

  • sacred/secular 
  • private/public, media, concert, live/recorded, internet 
  • performing conventions and resources 
  • opportunities for hearing the music then and now, why is this piece a product of its time? 

Musical styles and genres 

Styles 

  • for example Baroque, Classical, Early and Late Romantic, Nationalism, Impressionism, Neo-classicism, Serialism 

Genres 

  • for example oratorio, concerto grosso, opera, aria, chorus, concerto, symphony, chamber groupings, lied

Unit 1 - Influences on Music

Influences on music

Candidates should acquire, explore and apply musical language and context by the consideration of two Areas of Study (AoS) from:

  • AoS1 The Western Classical Tradition (compulsory) 
  • AoS2a Choral Music in the Baroque Period 
  • AoS2b Music Theatre: a study of the Musical from 1940 to 1980 
  • AoS2c British Popular Music from 1960 to the present day. 

These AoS will be set by AQA. The focus of AoS1, and AoS 2a–c, may change every three years. Through their exploration of two AoS and a set work, candidates will develop an understanding of: 

  • the organisation of sounds (form, harmony, instrumentation and timbre, melody, rhythm and metre, texture and tonality) 
  • the context of music (composer, performer and audience, occasion, time and place) 
  • musical styles and genres. 

Study will involve listening to music from within the two AoS, study of scores and gaining an awareness of the context in which the music was composed. Assessment will be by written paper with some questions using a CD of musical excerpts. The examination paper will last 1 hour 45 minutes and be marked by AQA examiners. 

The question paper will have three sections. 

Section A: Listening – approximately 30 minutes

This section will consist of structured listening questions with or without a score and will require responses covering some of the following: 

  • cadences – perfect, plagal, imperfect, interrupted 
  • chord identification – tonic, dominant, subdominant, dominant seventh in root position and 1st/2nd inversions, cadential 6/4 
  • compositional techniques, e.g. sequence, pedal, imitation, canon, ostinato, riff 
  • technical terms, e.g. appoggiatura, passing note, note of anticipation 
  • completion of a diatonic melody 
  • tonality – modulations to the dominant, subdominant, relative minor 
  • instrumentation – those found in the standard symphony orchestra and in jazz and pop music, instrumental techniques including pizzicato, arco 
  • texture – harmonic/homophonic, contrapuntal/ polyphonic, imitative, unison, single melody line 
  • ornamentation – trill, turn, mordent
  • time signatures
  • intervals – major, minor and perfect 
  • melodic/rhythmic devices – sequence, ostinato pattern, riff, passing note. 

The music used in this section can be drawn from any period of musical history and will be used to assess listening skills rather than historical knowledge. 

Section B: Historical Study: The Western Classical Tradition – compulsory Area of Study (AoS1)

 The AoS 'The Western Classical Tradition' is the compulsory AoS for this specification. Both the focus and the set work may change every three years.

 Set work for 2015 and until further notice: Haydn, Symphony No. 104 in D major 'London', 1st and 3rd movements. 

Study will focus on these two movements from the set work. Candidates will be able to take an unmarked copy of the set work score into the examination room. Candidates answer one essay question from a choice of two. AoS1 The Western Classical Tradition will be carried forward to A2, Unit 4.

Section C: Historical Study – Areas of Study 2a–c 

Centres will choose a second AoS from three set by AQA as follows: 

AoS2a Choral Music in the Baroque Period 

AoS2b Music Theatre: a study of the Musical from 1940 to 1980 

AoS2c British Popular Music from 1960 to the present day.

Two essay questions will be set on each of the AoS 2a–c. Candidates will answer one question on the selected AoS.

In each AoS 2a–c, the list of Composers of the genre is intended as a guide, not as an indication that all composers listed must be studied or that this list excludes study of other composers within the period and genre specified. 

EITHER

 AoS2a Choral Music in the Baroque Period

Candidates study settings for choir and soloists: *

  • the cantata  
  • the oratorio 
  • anthems and masses. 

 Composers of the genre might include: J S Bach, Charpentier, Handel, Vivaldi. 

OR

 AoS2b Music Theatre: a study of the Musical from 1940 to 1980 

Candidates should look at significant musicals from within this period, with reference to: 

  • solo songs 
  • ensembles 
  • music for the chorus 
  • music for dance.

Composers of the genre might include: Rodgers and Hammerstein, Bernstein, Lloyd Webber. 

OR

AoS2c British Popular Music from 1960 to the present day 

Candidates study the development of British Popular Music within these dates including consideration of the: 

  • use of voices and instruments 
  • use of melody, harmony and texture
  • move from a traditional instrumental backing group (i.e. lead, rhythm and bass guitars plus drum kit) to the use of synthesised sounds and other instrumental effects 
  • increase in the use of popular music for social comment 
  • use of multi-tracking, mixing and other studio techniques to enhance recording. 

Singers/groups of the genre might include: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Oasis, Blur.

Unit 2 - Creating Musical Ideas

Creating musical ideas

Candidates demonstrate their ability to create and develop musical ideas with technical control and expressive understanding, making creative use of musical devices, conventions and resources in response to one of three briefs as follows: 

Brief A Compositional techniques 

Brief B Free composition or pastiche in response to a given genre 

Brief C Arranging. 

The briefs will be released on 1 November in the examination year and compositions will be externally assessed by AQA. Candidates should be offered a maximum of 20 hours, supervised in the centre, in which to complete their compositions.

For supervision of the controlled time in MUSC2 see section 6.1

Either MUS2A

Brief A: Compositional techniques Candidates must respond to both questions in this brief.

Question 1

Harmonisation of a 16 bar diatonic melody

Candidates are given a traditional 16 bar diatonic melody in a major or minor key and will harmonise this using four-part harmony. Candidates may compose for a group of any four melodic instruments/ voices.

Candidates will show understanding of and the ability to handle:

  • perfect, plagal, imperfect and interrupted cadences
  • root position, 1st and 2nd inversion chords
  • passing notes
  • modulation to the dominant, subdominant and relative minor/major
  • conventional progressions such as cadential 6/4
  • use of the dominant 7th.

Question 2

Controlling Texture

Candidates are given up to 24 bars of keyboard accompaniment and should show their ability to control texture by creating a piece of music using the given chords in two parts in a style of the candidate's choice for two melodic instruments/voices.

Any instrument or group of instruments or selection of electronic sound sources may be used.

Candidates should demonstrate understanding of and the ability to handle techniques such as:

  • melodic writing
  • use of counterpoint
  • imitation.

Submissions must be made as a score in staff notation with a recording on either CD or mini-disc. Recordings can be made using acoustic instruments/ voices and/or ICT technology.

OR MUS2B 

Brief B: Free composition or pastiche in response to a given genre

 Candidates will respond to one of four given musical genres:

  • Vocal music
  • Small ensemble
  • Electronic music
  • Keyboard music

These four genres will remain the same each year. The composition should last 3–6 minutes. Within each genre, candidates can choose to compose in an appropriate diatonic style.

Candidates should demonstrate understanding of and the ability to handle:

  • structure and development
  • appropriate tonality
  • use of melody
  • harmony and rhythm
  • texture, timbre and expression.

The composition will also demonstrate the ability to handle:

  • perfect, plagal, imperfect and interrupted cadences
  • harmony in root position, 1st and 2nd inversion chords
  • modulation to an appropriate related key including dominant, sub-dominant, relative minor/major
  • use of the dominant 7th chord.

1 Vocal Music

This can include music for unaccompanied voices or can include a piece for voice(s) with any appropriate instrumental backing. Where unaccompanied voices are used, there is no upper limit to the number but the minimum number must be two.

2 Small Ensemble

Any small ensemble of instruments is permissible. This can include traditional ensembles such as string/ wind/brass quartet or mixed ensembles. The minimum number of instruments in the ensemble must be two. 

3 Electronic Music

This can include any electronic sound source including loops and samples. Where samples are used, it is expected that there will also be a significant amount of original material composed by the candidate.

4 Keyboard Music

This can include music for a single keyboard or up to four keyboards of the same or different types. In this context, tuned percussion instruments such as xylophone, vibraphone or marimba can also be included, and also electronically produced keyboard sounds through the use of ICT.

Submissions must be made as a recording on either CD or mini-disc and include an appropriate score and/or chart and/or annotation

 An annotation is defined as a substantial piece of writing which may include diagrams and/or sections of notation that will accurately describe the process of composition referring to elements such as:

  • form and structure
  • tonality
  • rhythm
  • melody and harmony
  • timbre and texture
  • performance detail
  • the process of realisation.

Recordings can be made using acoustic instruments/ voices and/or ICT technology

OR MUS2C

Brief C: Arranging

Candidates show their ability to arrange music in response to a brief.

Candidates will be given a folk song melody and text, consisting of verse and chorus which may be arranged vocally and/or instrumentally for any appropriate group of voices and/or instruments and/or ICT sound sources. The arrangement will last 3–6 minutes and the folk song may consist of more than one verse. The arrangement may be done in any musical style appropriate to the setting.

Candidates should demonstrate understanding of and the ability to handle:

  • harmony appropriate to the melody
  • harmony appropriate to the melody
  • use of countermelody
  • control of texture
  • appropriate use of vocal and/or instrumental timbres and/or ICT sound sources.

The composition will also demonstrate the ability to handle:

  • perfect, plagal, imperfect and interrupted cadences
  • harmony in root position, first and second inversion chords
  • modulation to an appropriate related key including dominant, sub-dominant, relative minor/major
  • use of the dominant 7th chord.

Submissions must be made as a recording on either CD or mini-disc and must include an appropriate score and/or chart and/or annotation.

An annotation is defined as a substantial piece of writing which may include diagrams and/or sections of notation that will accurately describe the process of composition referring to elements such as:

  • form and structure
  • tonality
  • rhythm
  • melody and harmony
  • timbre and texture
  • performance detail
  • the process of realisation.

Recordings can be made using acoustic instruments/voices and/or ICT technology.

Brief A (for each question)

The marks for compositional techniques will be awarded according to the following criteria. There are 30 marks for each question. 

30–26 marks:  

  • The piece will be stimulating, inventive and imaginative.
  • The candidate will demonstrate a firm grasp of, and secure handling of, compositional techniques with a clear understanding of the chosen style.  
  • The writing for the chosen instruments/voices/ electronic sound sources will be highly idiomatic.  
  • The expressive features of the music will be immediately apparent to the listener.  
  • Notation will be accurate in relation to pitch and rhythm and contain detailed performance directions appropriate to the music. 

25–21 marks:

  • The piece will be musically interesting and satisfying.  
  • The candidate will demonstrate an understanding of most of the compositional techniques within the context of the style of the music.  
  • The writing for instruments/voices/electronic sound sources will be appropriate in relation to the expressive qualities of the music.  
  • Notation will be mostly accurate in relation to pitch and rhythm and contain performance directions appropriate to the music. 

20–16 marks:  

  • The piece will be effective.  
  • The candidate will demonstrate an understanding of some of the compositional techniques in relation to the selected task.  
  • The writing for instruments/voices/electronic sound sources will be mostly competent and there will be an attempt to convey some of the expressive features of the music.  
  • There may be some inaccuracies in the notation in relation to pitch and rhythm, but the intentions will be largely clear with some attempt to include appropriate performance detail. 

15–11 marks:  

  • The piece will be partially effective and complete but will demonstrate limited understanding in relation to the compositional techniques.  
  • The writing for instruments/voices/electronic sound sources will be partially successful and the expressive qualities of the music will be unconvincing and tend to be contrived.  
  • There will be some inaccuracies in the notation in relation to pitch and rhythm, and performance detail, though present, may not be wholly appropriate. 

10–6 marks:  

  • The piece will lack effectiveness and will demonstrate a basic understanding of some of the more rudimentary aspects of the compositional techniques leading to sections of incoherence.
  • There will be some areas that are incomplete and the writing for instruments/voices/electronic sound sources will demonstrate a lack of understanding in relation to the expressive qualities of the music. 
  • Frequent miscalculations in notation will be evident in relation to pitch and rhythm and performance detail will be sparse and often inappropriate to the music. 

5–1 marks:  

  • The piece will demonstrate a very limited and rudimentary understanding of the compositional techniques.  
  • There will be significant areas that are incomplete and much of the piece will lack coherence.
  • The writing for instruments/voices and electronic sound sources will demonstrate significant weaknesses that will inhibit the expressive qualities of the music.  
  • Substantial miscalculations in notation will be evident in relation to pitch and rhythm and performance detail will be lacking, or if present, wholly inappropriate to the music.

Briefs B and C

60–51 marks:  

  • The piece will be stimulating, inventive and imaginative.  
  • The candidate will demonstrate a firm grasp of, and secure handling of, structure, development, tonality, use of melody, harmony and rhythm, texture, timbre, and a clear understanding of the chosen style.
  • The writing for the chosen instrument(s)/voices/ electronic sound sources will be highly idiomatic.  
  • The expressive features of the music will be immediately apparent to the listener.  
  • The score/chart/annotation will be accurate and detailed, accurately reflecting the music in the recording in relation to pitch, rhythm, form and structure, timbre, texture and performance detail.

50–41 marks:  

  • The piece will be musically interesting and satisfying.  
  • The candidate will demonstrate an understanding of structure, development, tonality, use of melody, harmony and rhythm, texture and timbre, within the context of the style of the music.  
  • The writing for instrument(s)/voices/electronic sound sources will be appropriate in relation to the expressive qualities of the music.  
  • The score/chart/annotation will be largely accurate and detailed bearing a close resemblance to the music in the recording in relation to pitch, rhythm, form and structure, timbre, texture and performance detail. 

40–31 marks:  

  • The piece will be effective.  
  • The candidate will demonstrate an understanding of some aspects of structure, development, tonality, use of melody, harmony and rhythm, texture and timbre, in relation to the selected task.  
  • The writing for instrument(s)/voices/electronic sound sources will be mostly competent and there will be an attempt to convey some of the expressive features of the music.  
  • The score/chart/annotation will contain some detail relating to the music in the recording in relation to pitch, rhythm, form and structure, timbre, texture and performance detail. 

30–21 marks:  

  • The piece will be partially effective and complete but will demonstrate limited understanding in relation to structure, development, tonality, use of melody, harmony and rhythm, texture and timbre.  
  • The writing for instrument(s)/voices/electronic sound sources will be partially successful and the expressive qualities of the music will be unconvincing and tend to be contrived.  
  • The score/chart/annotation will contain limited detail relating to the music in the recording in relation to pitch, rhythm, form and structure, timbre, texture and performance detail. 

20–11 marks:  

  • The piece will lack effectiveness and will demonstrate a basic understanding of structure, development, tonality, use of melody, harmony and rhythm, texture and timbre leading to sections of incoherence.  
  • There will be some areas that are incomplete and the writing for instrument(s)/voices/ electronic sound sources will demonstrate a lack of understanding in relation to the expressive qualities of the music.  
  • The score/chart/annotation will contain inaccuracies and/or inconsistencies relating to the music in the recording in relation to pitch, rhythm, form and structure, timbre, texture and performance detail. 

10–1 marks:

  • The piece will demonstrate a very limited and rudimentary understanding of structure, development, tonality, use of melody, harmony and rhythm, texture and timbre.  
  • There will be significant areas that are incomplete and much of the piece will lack coherence.  
  • The writing for instrument(s)/voices/electronic sound sources will demonstrate significant weaknesses that will inhibit the expressive qualities of the music.
  • The score/chart/annotation will be largely inaccurate and will contain only rudimentary detail relating to the music in the recording in relation to pitch, rhythm, form and structure, timbre, texture and performance detail.

Candidates demonstrate their ability to create and develop musical ideas with technical control and expressive understanding, making creative use of musical devices, conventions and resources in response to one of three briefs as follows: 

Brief A Compositional techniques 

Brief B Free composition or pastiche in response to a given genre 

Brief C Arranging. 

The briefs will be released on 1 November in the examination year and compositions will be externally assessed by AQA. Candidates should be offered a maximum of 20 hours, supervised in the centre, in which to complete their compositions.

For supervision of the controlled time in MUSC2 see section 6.1

Unit 3 - Interpreting Musical Ideas

Interpreting musical ideas

Candidates offer two performances chosen from the following: 

(a) a solo performance on an instrument 

(b) a solo performance on voice

(c) a solo performance on a second instrument 

(d) an ensemble performance 

(e) a technology-based performance 1 – Sequencing 

(f) a technology-based performance 2 – Multi-track/close microphone recording. 

Each acoustic performance should last 5–8 minutes. This unit will be internally assessed and externally moderated. For each performance, candidates may submit a single piece or a programme of shorter pieces. 

Candidates may perform their own composition if this makes sufficient technical and expressive demands on the candidate. Candidates must submit a score or lead sheet/ detailed guide or recording of the original work with the recording of their performance and a Candidate Record Form (CRF). 

A solo is defined as a performance where the candidate's part is: 

  • a single unaccompanied part 
  • a part which is accompanied by piano, guitar (or similar), a backing track or a small unit of other players.

The accompaniment must not detract from the candidate's performance or double the part to be assessed. 

The solo performances should enable the candidate to demonstrate technical, expressive, interpretative and communicative skills appropriate to solo performance. The solo performance may include improvisation. In such cases, the candidate must make clear the basis of the improvisation e.g. a melodic fragment, a scale, a chord progression, a rhythmic idea. 

An ensemble is defined as a performance where the candidate will normally play within a group of three or more performers where the demands of the parts are of roughly equal difficulty. It is accepted that duets at an appropriate standard for, e.g. pianists, will enable them to demonstrate the necessary ensemble skills if the part chosen contains passages where the candidate fulfils the roles of both melody player and accompanist in the course of the piece. Additionally, the candidate may demonstrate ensemble skills by accompanying one or more other performers.

The candidate's part must not be doubled. An ensemble performance will enable the candidate to demonstrate technical, expressive, interpretative and communicative skills appropriate to ensemble performance.

The ensemble performance may include improvisation. In such cases, the candidate must make clear the basis of the improvisation: e.g. a melodic fragment, a scale, a chord progression, a rhythmic idea.

Other members of the ensemble need not be examination candidates.

Technology 1: Sequencing 

Candidates will use a combination of sequencing and multi-tracking/close microphone recording to create one or more pieces of music. The music can be in any style but must include at least four vocal/ instrumental parts. Candidates will submit a combination of recorded audio and MIDI sequenced tracks, the number of each track being at the discretion of the candidate.

The minimum requirement is for four independent parts, the piece must be 32 bars or more in length, some tempo control for 'classical' music or some use of drum kit for pop and jazz plus a moderate level of dynamic variation.

Candidates must provide a recording on CD/minidisc and details of the equipment used, including the use made of the various facilities available within the hardware and software, should be provided. 

Credit will be given for: 

  • accuracy of pitch and rhythm 
  • a well-balanced recording 
  • evidence of close attention to performing and expressive detail 
  • awareness of style required 
  • ability to make use of the various facilities available within the hardware and software to produce a valid result. 

Technology 2: multi-track/close microphone recording 

Candidates will submit a multi-tracked/close microphone recording based on an initial recording of four or more independent vocal and/or instrumental parts. The candidate may be one of the performers or may perform all the vocal/instrumental parts. The submission must include the candidate's initial recording and the final mix.

The minimum requirement is for four independent parts, the piece must be 32 bars or more in length, and candidates must demonstrate some appropriate use of effects and some use of the stereo field/panning at mixdown. Candidates must provide a recording on CD/minidisc and details about the equipment used and the recording process should be provided. 

Credit will be given for evidence of: 

  • care taken to ensure good balance  
  • use of an appropriate dynamic range  
  • use of panning to obtain a clear recording and, where necessary, to separate sounds that utilise similar frequency ranges 
  • use of effects where appropriate, such as reverb, delay. 
  • quality of recording across a wide range of frequencies.

Assessment Criteria for Unit 3 (max 80 marks) 

The Solo Performance is assessed on:

  • Level of Demand 
  • Accuracy of pitch and rhythm plus observance of expressive and performance directions as indicated on the score/lead sheet
  • Communication and projection of the performance 
  • Interpretation of the music, showing awareness of its style and character. 

Level of Demand 

4 marks:

The chosen programme will make high demands of the candidate. The standard expected will equate to Grade 5 or its equivalent. 

3 marks:

The chosen programme will make a substantial range of technical demands upon the candidate though these will be within more limited parameters than those expected for the top mark. The standard expected will combine elements of both Grade 5 and Grade 4 or their equivalent.

2 marks:

The chosen programme will make a narrower range of demands upon the candidate while still requiring a degree of technical expertise and command of the instrument/voice across a variety of performance techniques. The standard expected will equate to Grade 4 or its equivalent. 

1 mark:

The chosen programme will make few demands of the candidate. The part(s) will be technically straightforward. The standard expected will combine the elements of Grade 4 or its equivalent and just below.

Accuracy 

12–10 marks:

At the top of the band, there will be no discernible flaws. Otherwise, inaccuracies will be limited to a very occasional slip; at the lower end, there may be occasional slips but these will not affect the overall fluency of the performance. Intonation will be virtually secure. The candidate will have observed the composer's expressive and performance directions. 

9–7 marks:

At the top of this band, the performance should be largely accurate and slips or inaccuracies will not affect the overall fluency. At the lower end, there may be more slips and intonation, rhythm and/or tempo may become more problematic, leading to the occasional hesitation or loss of fluency. The majority of the composer's expressive and performance directions will have been observed. 

6–4 marks:

A performance which achieves consistency in most elements but which may lack variety, technical competence or fluency. There may be more frequent slips and/or more consistent misreading of the notation or performance detail. The basic outline of the music should be appreciable to the listener. In general, the composer's expressive and performance directions will have been observed. 

3–1 marks:

A performance which attempts to convey some features of the music accurately but achieves only limited consistency and fluency. There will be little or no application of the composer's directions for expression or performance detail. At the lower marks, the music may be scarcely recognisable. 

Communication

12–10 marks:

A committed, assured, convincing and well-projected performance. The candidate will demonstrate total involvement in the music. 

9–7 marks:

The candidate will demonstrate some level of commitment and the performance will be generally assured. There will still be an overall sense of conviction in the performance and the candidate will show awareness of the occasion and the audience.

 6–4 marks:

The performance will lack conviction and commitment on occasions and, towards the lower end of this band, the candidate may show little awareness of occasion or audience. 

3–1 marks:

The performance will have only limited conviction and the candidate may fail to impose him/herself upon the performance, leading to an anxious experience for performer and listener. 

Interpretation

 12–10 marks:

The candidate will show a mature understanding of both period and style. The tempo will be appropriate and mastery of the techniques demanded by the music will be evident. 

9–7 marks:

The performance will have style and tempo appropriate to the music. At the lower end of the band, the performance will retain a sense of the character of the music. In general, the techniques demanded by the music will be met though with some loss of integrity at times. 

6–4 marks:

At the upper end of this band, the candidate will show a general understanding of the style and character of the music. Towards the lower end, there will be limited sensitivity to the interpretative demands of the music. Technical demands may compromise the tempo. 

3–1 marks:

There will be only a rudimentary sensitivity to the interpretative demands of the music.

The Ensemble Performance is assessed on:

  • Level of Demand 
  • Sense of Ensemble 
  • Accuracy of pitch and rhythm plus observance of expressive and performance directions as indicated on the score/lead sheet 
  • Communication and projection of the performance 
  • Interpretation of the music, showing awareness of its style and character.

Level of Demand 

4 marks:

The chosen programme will make high demands of the candidate. This will result partly from the technical difficulty of the part(s) the candidate plays and partly from the role(s) of the part(s) within the ensemble. The standard expected will equate to Grade 5 or its equivalent. 

3 marks:

The candidate is likely to play a more consistent role within the ensemble. The chosen programme will still make a substantial range of technical demands upon the candidate though these will be within more limited parameters than those expected for the top mark. The standard expected will combine elements of both Grade 5 and Grade 4 or their equivalent. 

2 marks:

The chosen programme will make a narrower range of demands upon the candidate while still requiring a degree of technical expertise and command of the instrument/voice across a variety of performance techniques. Overall, the candidate's role within the ensemble will be more straightforward. The standard expected will equate to Grade 4 or its equivalent. 

1 mark:

The chosen programme will make few demands of the candidate. The part(s) will be technically straightforward and the candidate's role within the ensemble will present few challenges. The standard expected will combine the elements of Grade 4 standard or its equivalent and just below. 

Sense of Ensemble

 9–7 marks:

A performance showing complete unity of purpose in all aspects of ensemble playing, including balance, timing, intonation and responsiveness to others, including, if necessary, the ability to react positively to any difficulties which may occur. Marks towards the bottom of this band will reflect success in most of these areas. 

6–5 marks:

A performance showing a generally high level of responsiveness to the other performers, showing a good understanding of the nature of ensemble playing, demonstrated in timing, intonation, dynamics and responsiveness to other performers. 

4–3 marks:

A performance showing a good level of responsiveness to the other performers and generally achieving good ensemble in timing, intonation and dynamics for the majority of the performance. For the lower mark, the level of responsiveness will be present inconsistently. 

2–1 marks:

A performance showing some awareness of other performers but where the response to the ensemble demands is uneven and where responsiveness is generally less secure. For the lower mark, the performance will show little or no responsiveness to the other performers and demonstrate limited understanding of ensemble playing. Performances at this level will include those where the candidate tends to concentrate on his/her own part to the exclusion of other ensemble considerations. 

Accuracy

 9–7 marks:

At the top of the band, there will be no discernible flaws. Otherwise, inaccuracies will be limited to a very occasional slip; at the lower end, there may be occasional slips but these will not affect the overall fluency of the performance. Intonation will be virtually secure. The candidate will have observed the composer's expressive and performance directions. 

6–5 marks:

At the top of this band, the performance should be largely accurate and slips or inaccuracies will not affect the overall fluency. At the lower mark, there may be more slips and intonation, rhythm and/or tempo may become more problematic, leading to the occasional hesitation or loss of fluency. The majority of the composer's expressive and performance directions will have been observed. 

4–3 marks:

A performance which achieves consistency in most elements but which may lack variety, technical competence or fluency. There may be more frequent slips and/or more consistent misreading of the notation or performance detail. The basic outline of the music should be appreciable to the listener. In general, the composer's expressive and performance directions will have been observed. 

2–1 marks:

A performance which attempts to convey some features of the music accurately but achieves only limited consistency and fluency. There will be little or no application of the composer's directions for expression or performance detail. At the lower mark, the music may be scarcely recognisable.

Communication 

9–7 marks: A committed, assured, convincing and well-projected performance. The candidate will demonstrate total involvement in the music.

6–5 marks: The candidate will demonstrate some level of commitment and the performance will be generally assured. There will still be an overall sense of conviction in the performance and the candidate will show awareness of the occasion and the audience. 

4–3 marks: The performance will lack conviction and commitment on occasions and, for the lower mark, the candidate may show little awareness of occasion or audience. 

2–1 marks: The performance will have only limited conviction and the candidate may fail to impose him/herself upon the performance, leading to an anxious experience for performer and listener. 

Interpretation

 9–7 marks:

The candidate will show a mature understanding of both period and style. The tempo will be appropriate and mastery of the techniques demanded by the music will be evident. 

6–5 marks:

The performance will have style and tempo appropriate to the music. For the lower mark, the performance will retain a sense of the character of the music. In general, the techniques demanded by the music will be met though with some loss of integrity at times. 

4–3 marks:

For the upper mark, the candidate will show a general understanding of the style and character of the music. For the lower mark, there will be limited sensitivity to the interpretative demands of the music. Technical demands may compromise the tempo.

2–1 marks:

There will be only a rudimentary sensitivity to the interpretative demands of the music.

The Technology-based performance 1 - Sequencing is assessed on: 

  • Accuracy of pitch and rhythm 
  • Use of timbres, balance and panning techniques 
  • Evidence of close attention to performing and expressive detail 
  • Awareness of style required 
  • Ability to use the facilities available within the software and hardware to produce a valid result. 

Candidates will be expected to give details of equipment used during the sequencing process and the facilities available within the hardware and software. 

Accuracy of pitch and rhythm 

8–7 marks:

Excellent accuracy of pitch and control of all rhythmic elements to produce a musically satisfying recording.

6–5 marks:

A few minor slips which do not inhibit the overall musicality or fluency of the recording. 

4–3 marks:

More significant errors, affecting the overall sense of ensemble. 

2–1 marks:

Significant lapses, resulting in an unmusical performance. 

Use of timbre, balance and panning techniques 

8–7 marks:

Judiciously chosen timbres set within a well-balanced and effective recording. 

6–5 marks:

Appropriate timbres, mostly well-balanced and with some evidence of use of panning. 

4–3 marks:

A recording where most timbres are well-chosen but where there are inconsistencies in the balance and only limited use of panning. 

2–1 marks:

Mostly inappropriate choice of timbres and little sense of balance or evidence of use of panning.

Evidence of close attention to performing and expressive detail 

8–7 marks:

Comprehensive evidence of close attention to all aspects of performing and expressive detail to create a musical performance. 

6–5 marks:

Effective use of performing and expressive detail, with broadly successful articulation, phrasing and use of shading. 

4–3 marks:

Some attempts, not always successful, to use performing and expressive detail to produce a musical performance. There may be inconsistencies in the application of dynamics, articulation, phrasing and tempo.

 2–1 marks:

Limited or no attention to performing and expressive detail, resulting in a recording characterised by a lack of dynamic contrast and inconsistencies in articulation, phrasing, shading and tempo.

Awareness of style required 

8–7 marks:

Complete awareness of the stylistic requirements of the music and the ability to achieve this through the careful editing of data. 

6–5 marks:

Broadly successful creation of required style.

4–3 marks:

Some sense of the required style but achieved inconsistently. 

2–1 marks:

A basic transcription of the music with limited or no sense of the required style.

Ability to use the facilities available within the software and hardware to produce a valid result 

8–7 marks:

Complete understanding of measures needed to use the facilities available within the software and/or hardware to produce an authentic recording. 

6–5 marks:

Broad understanding of the measures needed to use the facilities available within the software and/ or hardware to produce an authentic recording and mostly successful application of these facilities. 

4–3 marks:

Some understanding of the measures needed to use the facilities available within the software and/or hardware to produce an authentic recording but only partial success in their implementation. 

2–1 marks:

Limited understanding of the measures needed to use the facilities available within the software and/or hardware to produce an authentic recording and little or no evidence of success in their implementation.

The Technology-based performance 2 – multi-track/close microphone recording is assessed on: 

  • Balance  
  • Dynamic range, including use of compression  
  • Manipulation of mixing desk  
  • Use of effects, such as reverb, delay, etc.  
  • Quality of recording across a wide range of frequencies. 

Candidates will be expected to give details of the equipment used and the recording process. 

Balance

8–7 marks:

Excellent sense of balance throughout the recording. 

6–5 marks:

Occasional miscalculations as to balance, increasing where a mark of 5 is awarded. 

4–3 marks:

Sections of poor balance; areas where important features are unclear. 

2–1 marks:

Generally poorly balanced; much of the detail of the music is obscured. 

Dynamic Range, including use of compression 

8–7 marks:

Excellent management of dynamics in ways completely appropriate to the music. 

6–5 marks:

Occasional miscalculations of dynamic and/or a more limited dynamic range. 

4–3 marks:

Sections where the dynamic range is miscalculated and/or very limited. 

2–1 marks:

Mostly inappropriate choice/use of dynamics/ dynamics which adversely affect the impact of large sections of the performance. 

Manipulation of mixing desk

8–7 marks:

Excellent use of mixing desk which enables all aspects of the recording to be appreciated. 

6–5 marks:

Occasional miscalculations in the use of the mixing desk, to the extent that there are restrictions on its effectiveness in separating parts. 

4–3 marks:

Sections where the use of the mixing desk is misjudged, inappropriate or very limited. 

2–1 marks:

Generally little use of the mixing desk with little or no alterations from the original mix achieved. 

Use of effects such as reverb, delay, etc

 8–7 marks:

Judicious and appropriate use of effects throughout the piece.

6–5 marks:

Occasional miscalculations as to the use of effects. 

4–3 marks:

Sections where effects are misjudged or lacking. 

2–1 marks:

Little or inappropriate use of effects. 

Quality of the recording across a wide range of frequencies 

8–7 marks:

An excellent recording with clear use of a wide range of frequencies. 

6–5 marks:

Occasional miscalculations as to the use of a wide frequency range. 

4–3 marks:

Sections where the level of care and attention to matters of equalisation are misjudged or lacking. 

2–1 marks:

Little or inappropriate use of equalisation for significant sections of the recording.

Unit 4 - Music in Context

Music in context

Candidates should acquire, explore and apply musical language and context by the consideration of two Areas of Study (AoS) from: 

AoS1 The Western Classical Tradition (compulsory) 

AoS3a English Choral Music in the 20th century 

AoS3b Chamber Music from Mendelssohn to Debussy 

AoS3c Four decades of Jazz and Blues 1910–1950. 

These AoS will be set by AQA. The focus of AoS1, and AoS 3a–c, may change every three years. Through their exploration of two AoS and a set work, candidates will develop an understanding of:  

  • the organisation of sounds (form, harmony, instrumentation and timbre, melody, rhythm and metre, texture and tonality) 
  • the context of music (composer, performer and audience, occasion, time and place) 
  • musical styles and genres. 

Study will involve listening to music from within the two AoS, study of scores and gaining an awareness of the context in which the music was composed. Assessment will be by written paper with some questions using a CD of musical excerpts. The examination paper will last 2 hours 15 minutes and be marked by AQA examiners. The question paper will have three sections. 

Section A: Listening – approximately 45 minutes 

This section will consist of structured listening questions with or without a score and will require responses covering some of the following:  

  • cadences – perfect, plagal, imperfect, interrupted in the tonic and related keys  
  • chord identification – tonic, dominant, subdominant, dominant seventh in root position and 1st/2nd inversions, cadential 6/4, diminished 7th, augmented 6th, secondary 7ths, dominant 7th in 3rd inversion
  • compositional techniques, e.g. sequence, pedal, imitation, canon, ostinato, riff  
  • technical terms, e.g. appoggiatura, passing note, note of anticipation  
  • completion of a melody containing some chromatic notes  
  • tonality – modulations to the dominant major, dominant minor, subdominant, relative minor, major of the relative minor, tonic minor, modality, atonal and 12-note music, whole tone scale, bitonality  
  • instrumentation – those found in the standard symphony orchestra and in jazz and pop music, instrumental techniques including pizzicato, arco, con sordino, double stopping  
  • texture – harmonic/homophonic, contrapuntal/ polyphonic, imitative, unison, single melody line, octaves
  • ornamentation – trill, turn, mordent, portamento  
  • harmonic devices – tonic and dominant pedals, cycle of fifths, suspension, sequence  
  • time signatures, including compound time and 5/7 beats in a bar  
  • intervals – major, minor, perfect, augmented, diminished
  • melodic/rhythmic devices – sequence, ostinato, riff, passing note, accented passing note, appoggiatura, chromatic appoggiatura, augmentation, diminution, polyrhythms, portamento, hemiola, suspension. 

Section B: Historical Study: The Western Classical Tradition – compulsory Area of Study (AoS1) 

The AoS 'The Western Classical Tradition' is the compulsory AoS for this specification. Both the focus and the set works may change every three years. 

Set works 2014:  

  • Elgar – Symphony No. 1  
  • Shostakovich – Symphony No. 5 S

Study will focus on one of the two set works.

Candidates will be able to take an unmarked copy of their chosen set work score into the examination room.

Candidates answer one essay question from a choice of two. 

Section C: Historical Study – Areas of Study 3a–c 

Centres will choose a second AoS from three set by AQA as follows: 

AoS3a English Choral Music in the 20th century 

AoS3b Chamber Music from Mendelssohn to Debussy 

AoS3c Four decades of Jazz and Blues 1910 –1950.

Two essay questions will be set on each of the AoS 3a–c. Candidates will answer one question on the selected AoS.

In each AoS 3a–c, the list of Composers of the genre is intended as a guide, not as an indication that all composers listed must be studied or that this list excludes study of other composers within the period and genre specified. 

EITHER

AoS3a English Choral Music in the 20th century

Candidates study the development of English choral music in the 20th century with reference to:

  • anthems and mass settings  
  • oratorios and other orchestral settings of words. 

Composers of the genre might include: Elgar, Walton, Britten, Howells, Vaughan Williams. 

OR 

AoS3b Chamber Music from Mendelssohn to Debussy Candidates study a range of Chamber Music written in this period. This includes:  

  • trios, quartets, quintets, etc  
  • timbre and texture  
  • structure  
  • melody and harmony. 

Composers of the genre might include: Mendelssohn, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Dvor v ák, Debussy

OR

AoS3c Four decades of Jazz and Blues 1910 to 1950 From Dixieland to the culmination of the Swing era:

  • twelve-bar blues  
  • 'Swing'  
  • 'Bebop'  
  • music for Big Band  
  • orchestral/instrumental music drawing on Jazz and Blues influences. 

Composers/artists of the genre might include: Jelly-Roll Morton, Ravel, Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong.

Unit 5 - Developing Musical Ideas

Unit 5: Developing Musical Ideas

Candidates demonstrate their ability to create and develop musical ideas with technical control and expressive understanding, making creative use of musical devices, conventions and resources in response to one of three briefs as follows: 

Brief A Compositional techniques 

Brief B Free composition or pastiche in response to a chosen brief 

Brief C Arranging. 

The briefs will be released on 1 November in the examination year and compositions will be externally assessed by AQA. Candidates should be offered a maximum of 20 hours, supervised in the centre, in which to complete their compositions.

For supervision of the controlled time in MUSC5 see section 6.1. 

EITHER MUS5A 

Brief A: Compositional techniques 

Candidates must respond to both questions in this brief. 

Question 1 Harmonisation of a Bach chorale melody

Candidates will be given a Bach chorale melody to harmonise stylistically. In addition to the techniques studied for Unit 2, the melody should allow candidates to show understanding of and the ability to handle as appropriate:

  • accented passing notes and suspensions 
  • notes of anticipation 
  • chromatic harmony 
  • diminished 7th 
  • major and minor 7th 
  • 3rd inversion chords 
  • characteristic treatment of cadences. 

Question 2 The Classical String Quartet

Candidates are expected to complete part of a movement of a string quartet. This will allow candidates to demonstrate their understanding of, and the ability to handle as appropriate: 

  • the development of thematic ideas through the use of sequence, imitation, inversion, augmentation and diminution 
  • modulation 
  • variety in texture. 

Submissions must be made as a score in staff notation with an accompanying review and a recording on either CD or mini-disc. Recordings can be made using acoustic instruments/voices and/or ICT technology.

The review (500 words max) should be an evaluation of the success of the final submission in relation to the brief and to appropriate stylistic conventions and contextual influences of the period.

OR MUS5B 

Brief B: Free Composition or pastiche

Candidates compose a substantial, single, piece in any style or genre, for any voice/instrument or combination of voices and/or instruments using acoustic and/or electronic sound sources. The piece should last 5–8 minutes. It can consist of a single movement or may consist of up to three separate, related sections, but the total playing time should not exceed 8 minutes. The candidate's intention should be made clear.

Candidates should show their understanding of and ability to handle, as appropriate: 

  • structure and development 
  • modulation 
  • tonality 
  • melody, harmony and rhythm
  • texture, timbre and expression 
  • characteristics of the chosen style/genre. 

Within the composition there will be evidence of: 

  • accented passing notes and/or suspensions 
  • chromatic harmony 
  • diminished 7th 
  • major and minor 7th 
  • 3rd inversion chords 
  • appropriate treatment of cadences. 

Submissions must be made as a recording on either CD or mini-disc and include an appropriate score and/or chart and/or annotation and a review. Recordings can be made using traditional instruments/voices and/or ICT technology.

An annotation is defined as a substantial piece of writing which may include diagrams and/or sections of notation that will accurately describe the process of composition referring to elements such as:

  • form and structure 
  • tonality  
  • rhythm 
  • melody and harmony
  • timbre and texture 
  • performance detail 
  • the process of realisation. 

The review (500 words max) should be an evaluation of the success of the final submission in relation to the brief and with reference to the contextual aspect of the composition. 

OR MUS5C 

Brief C: Arranging 

Candidates demonstrate their arranging skills in response to a brief given by AQA.

The brief will consist of arranging a piece of popular 'classical' music selected by AQA from any musical period from the baroque onwards. The arrangement should be in a recognised pop, rock or jazz style and should last 5–8 minutes. The arrangement can be for any group of instruments and may include voices, but must include parts for a rhythm section consisting of drum kit and/or percussion, double bass or bass guitar and guitar and/or keyboard. These can be either acoustic instruments or electronic sound sources or a combination of both. 

Candidates should demonstrate their ability to handle: 

  • rhythmic development of the original thematic ideas including metre change 
  • development of melodic and harmonic ideas within the structure 
  • solo passages and improvisation 
  • appropriate use of vocal and/or instrumental timbres and/or ICT sound sources. 

Within the arrangement, there should be evidence of: 

  • accented passing notes and/or suspensions 
  • chromatic harmony
  • diminished 7th
  • major and minor 7th 
  • 3rd inversion chords
  • appropriate treatment of cadences. 

Submissions must be made as a recording on either CD or mini-disc and include an appropriate score and/or chart and/or annotation and a review. Recordings can be made using traditional instruments/voices and/or ICT technology.

An annotation is defined as a substantial piece of writing which may include diagrams and/or sections of notation that will accurately describe the process of composition referring to elements such as:  

  • form and structure  
  • tonality 
  • rhythm 
  • melody and harmony 
  • timbre and texture
  • performance detail 
  • the process of realisation.

The review (500 words max) should be an evaluation of the success of the final submission in relation to the brief and with reference to the contextual aspect of the composition. 

Examples of study works: 

Brahms: Symphony No 3 in F. 3rd Movement, Poco Allegretto 

Santana: Love of my Life from the album Supernatural, Arista Records, 1999 

Bach: Prelude no. 1 from The Well Tempered Clavier

Jacques Loussier: Prelude no. 1. Focus on Jacques Loussier, Decca FOS – R 5/6, 1967 

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition

Emerson Lake and Palmer: Pictures at an Exhibition, Island Records, 1971 

Johann Pachelbel: Canon in D major

The Farm: Altogether Now, 1990

Assessment Criteria for Unit 5 (max 60 marks) 

Brief A (for each question)

The marks for compositional techniques for Unit 5 will be awarded to show achievement in a more complex task than is required by the same mark band of Unit 2 assessment criteria. There are 30 marks for each question. 

30–26 marks:  

  • The piece will be stimulating, inventive and imaginative.  
  • The candidate will demonstrate a firm grasp of, and secure handling of, compositional techniques with a clear understanding of the chosen style.  
  • The writing for the chosen instruments/voices/ electronic sound sources will be highly idiomatic.  
  • The expressive features of the music will be immediately apparent to the listener.  
  • Notation will be accurate in relation to pitch and rhythm and contain detailed performance directions appropriate to the music.  
  • The review provides a detailed and accurate evaluation of the process with an extensive use of technical language. 

25–21 marks:  

  • The piece will be musically interesting and satisfying.  
  • The candidate will demonstrate an understanding of most of the compositional techniques within the context of the style of the music.  
  • The writing for instruments/voices/electronic sound sources will be appropriate in relation to the expressive qualities of the music.
  • Notation will be mostly accurate in relation to pitch and rhythm and contain performance directions appropriate to the music.  
  • The review provides an evaluation of the process which is mostly detailed and accurate with a good use of technical language.

20–16 marks:  

  • The piece will be effective.  
  • The candidate will demonstrate an understanding of some of the compositional techniques in relation to the selected task.  
  • The writing for instruments/voices/electronic sound sources will be mostly competent, and there will be an attempt to convey some of the expressive features of the music.  
  • There may be some inaccuracies in the notation in relation to pitch and rhythm, but the intentions will be largely clear with some attempt to include appropriate performance detail.
  • The review provides an evaluation of the process with some detail and accuracy, with a sound use of technical language. 

15–11 marks:  

  • The piece will be partially effective and complete but will demonstrate limited understanding in relation to the compositional techniques.
  • The writing for instruments/voices/electronic sound sources will be partially successful and the expressive qualities of the music will be unconvincing and tend to be contrived.
  • There will be some inaccuracies in the notation in relation to pitch and rhythm, and performance detail, though present, may not be wholly appropriate.  
  • The review provides an evaluation of the process which lacks detail and is not always accurate, with some use of technical language. 

10–6 marks:  

  • The piece will lack effectiveness and will demonstrate a basic understanding of some of the more rudimentary aspects of the compositional techniques leading to sections of incoherence.
  • There will be some areas that are incomplete and the writing for instruments/voices/electronic sound sources will demonstrate a lack of understanding in relation to the expressive qualities of the music.  
  • Frequent miscalculations in notation will be evident in relation to pitch and rhythm, and performance detail will be sparse and often inappropriate to the music.  
  • The review provides a limited evaluation of the process which is mainly descriptive, with some use of technical language. 

5–1 marks:

  • The piece will demonstrate a very limited and rudimentary understanding of the compositional techniques.  
  • There will be significant areas that are incomplete and much of the piece will lack coherence.
  • The writing for instruments/voices/electronic sound sources will demonstrate significant weaknesses that will inhibit the expressive qualities of the music.  
  • Substantial miscalculations in notation will be evident in relation to pitch and rhythm and performance detail will be lacking, or, if present, wholly inappropriate to the music.  
  • The review is a description of the process with a limited use of technical language.

Briefs B and C

The marks for the composition/arrangement for Unit 5 will be awarded to show achievement in a more complex task than is required by the same mark band of Unit 2 assessment criteria: 

60–51 marks:  

  • The piece will be stimulating, inventive and imaginative.  
  • The candidate will demonstrate a firm grasp of, and secure handling of, structure, development, tonality, use of melody, harmony and rhythm, texture, timbre, and a clear understanding of the chosen style.  
  • The writing for the chosen instrument(s)/voice(s)/ electronic sound source(s) will be highly idiomatic. 
  • The expressive features of the music will be immediately apparent to the listener.
  • The score/chart/annotation will be accurate and detailed, accurately reflecting the music in the recording in relation to pitch, rhythm, form and structure, timbre, texture and performance detail.  
  • The review provides a detailed and accurate evaluation of the process with an extensive use of technical language. 

50–41 marks:

  • The piece will be musically interesting and satisfying.  
  • The candidate will demonstrate an understanding of structure, development, tonality, use of melody, harmony and rhythm, texture and timbre, within the context of the style of the music.  
  • The writing for instrument(s)/voice(s)/electronic sound source(s) will be appropriate in relation to the expressive qualities of the music.
  • The score/chart/annotation will be largely accurate and detailed, bearing a close resemblance to the music in the recording in relation to pitch, rhythm, form and structure, timbre, texture and performance detail.
  • The review provides an evaluation of the process which is mostly detailed and accurate with a good use of technical language. 

40–31 marks:  

  • The piece will be effective.
  • The candidate will demonstrate an understanding of some aspects of structure, development, tonality, use of melody, harmony and rhythm, texture and timbre, in relation to the selected task.  
  • The writing for instrument(s)/voice(s)/electronic sound source(s) will be mostly competent and there will be an attempt to convey some of the expressive features of the music.
  • The score/chart/annotation will contain some detail relating to the music in the recording in relation to pitch, rhythm, form and structure, timbre, texture and performance detail.  
  • The review provides an evaluation of the process with some detail and accuracy, with a sound use of technical language. 

30–21 marks:  

  • The piece will be partially effective and complete but will demonstrate limited understanding in relation to structure, development, tonality, use of melody, harmony and rhythm, texture and timbre.  
  • The writing for instrument(s)/voice(s)/electronic sound source(s) will be partially successful and the expressive qualities of the music will be unconvincing and tend to be contrived.
  • The score/chart/annotation will contain limited detail relating to the music in the recording in relation to pitch, rhythm, form and structure, timbre, texture and performance detail.  
  • The review provides an evaluation of the process which lacks detail and is not always accurate with some use of technical language. 

20–11 marks:  

  • The piece will lack effectiveness and will demonstrate a basic understanding of structure, development, tonality, use of melody, harmony and rhythm, texture and timbre leading to sections of incoherence.  
  • There will be some areas that are incomplete and the writing for instrument(s)/voice(s)/ electronic sound source(s) will demonstrate a lack of understanding in relation to the expressive qualities of the music.
  • The score/chart/annotation will contain inaccuracies and/or inconsistencies relating to the music in the recording in relation to pitch, rhythm, form and structure, timbre, texture and performance detail.
  • The review provides a limited evaluation of the process which is mainly descriptive, with some use of technical language. 

10–1 marks:  

  • The piece will demonstrate a very limited and rudimentary understanding of the compositional techniques.  
  • There will be significant areas that are incomplete and much of the piece will lack coherence.  
  • The writing for instrument(s)/voice(s)/electronic sound source(s) will demonstrate significant weaknesses that will inhibit the expressive qualities of the music.
  • The score/chart/annotation will be largely inaccurate and will contain only rudimentary detail relating to the music in the recording in relation to pitch, rhythm, form and structure, timbre, texture and performance detail.  
  • The review is a description of the process with a limited use of technical language.

Unit 6 - A Musical Performance

Unit 6: A Musical Performance

Candidates offer two (or more) contrasting pieces to form a short programme for either acoustic performance and/or performance via music technology chosen from: 

(a) solo acoustic performances – lasting 10–15 minutes 

(b) technology-based performances 

(c) one solo performance and one technology-based performance – the solo performance to be at least 5 minutes. 

The pieces will be chosen to show variety of style, technique, period and/or approach.

Candidates may perform their own compositions if these make sufficient technical and expressive demands on them.

Candidates must submit a score or lead sheet/ detailed guide or recording of the original work with the recording of their performance and a Candidate Record Form (CRF). The recorded performances will be externally assessed. 

Solo acoustic performances

 A solo is defined as a performance where the candidate's part is: 

  • a single unaccompanied part 
  • a part which is accompanied by piano, guitar (or similar), a backing track or a small unit of other players. 

The accompaniment must not detract from the candidate's performance or double the part to be assessed.

The solo performances should enable the candidate to demonstrate appropriate technical, expressive, interpretative and communicative skills. Solo performances may include improvisation. In such cases, the candidate must make clear the basis of the improvisation: e.g. a melodic fragment, a scale, a chord progression, a rhythmic idea.

The recording of each piece or movement must be a complete performance (i.e. a single take). 

Technology-based performances 

Where a candidate's submission consists of Technology 1 only or Technology 2 only, there must be two performances in order to demonstrate the required variety. 

Technology 1: Sequencing 

Candidates will use a combination of sequencing and multi-tracking/close microphone recording to create one or more recordings. At least one recording should be of a pop/rock/jazz ensemble with at least six vocal/instrumental parts, with the inclusion of a drum kit. Candidates will submit a combination of recorded audio and MIDI sequenced tracks, the number of each track being at the discretion of the candidate. 

The minimum requirement is for six independent parts, the piece must be 48 bars or more in length, classical style submissions will feature a solo part, pop/jazz submissions will feature a vocal line, evidence of use of sound sources other than GM (e.g. plug-ins or sound module), plus at least one VSTi. 

Candidates must provide a recording on CD/minidisc and details of the equipment used, including the use made of the various facilities available within the hardware and the software. 

Credit will be given for: 

  • accuracy of pitch and rhythm 
  • a well-balanced recording 
  • evidence of close attention to performing and expressive detail 
  • awareness of style required 
  • ability to make use of the various facilities available within the hardware and software to produce a valid result. 

Technology 2: multi-track/close microphone recording 

Candidates will use multi-tracking/close microphone recording to produce one or more recordings based on initial recordings of six parts which must include independent vocal and instrumental lines. The candidate may be one of the performers or may alternatively perform all the vocal/instrumental parts. The submission will include the candidate's initial recording and the final mix. 

The minimum requirement is for six independent instruments, one of which must be a vocalist, the piece must be 48 bars or more in length, and candidates must demonstrate some appropriate use of both time-based and dynamic effects, and use of the stereo field/panning at mixdown. 

Candidates must provide a recording on CD/minidisc and details of the equipment used and the recording process. 

Credit will be given for evidence of: 

  • care taken to ensure good balance 
  • use of an appropriate dynamic range 
  • use of panning to obtain a clear recording and, where necessary, to separate sounds that utilise similar frequency ranges 
  • use of effects where appropriate, such as reverberation, delay. 
  • quality of recording across a wide range of frequencies.

Where a candidate presents a performance which contains both acoustic and technology-based elements, they may choose either Technology Performance 1 or Technology Performance 2.

The programme of solo acoustic performances is externally marked holistically out of 60 using the relevant assessment criteria. 

The programme of technology-based performances is, when all the pieces are the same type, externally marked holistically out of 60 using the relevant assessment criteria.

When a programme comprises mixed types, ie one solo performance and one technology-based or two different technology types, then each type is externally assessed and marked out of 60 using the relevant criteria on the next pages. These marks are added together and divided by two to give the final overall mark.

Assessment Criteria for Unit 6 (max 60 marks) 

The Solo Perfomance is assessed on:

  • Level of Demand 
  • Accuracy of pitch and rhythm plus observance of expressive and performance directions as indicated on the score/lead sheet 
  • Communication and projection of the performance
  • Interpretation of the music, showing awareness of its style and character.

Level of Demand 

6 marks:

The chosen programme will make high demands of the candidate. The standard expected will be greater than Grade 7 or its equivalent. 

5 marks:

The chosen programme will make a substantial range of technical demands upon the candidate although these will be within more limited parameters than those expected for the top mark. The standard expected will equate to Grade 7 or its equivalent. 

4 marks:

The chosen programme will make a reasonable range of technical demands upon the candidate. The standard expected will equate to Grade 6 or its equivalent. 

3 marks:

The chosen programme will make a narrower range of demands upon the candidate while still requiring a degree of technical expertise and command of the instrument/voice across a variety of performance techniques. The standard expected will combine elements of Grades 6 and 5 or their equivalent.

2 marks:

The chosen programme will make some demands upon the candidate while requiring a more limited degree of technical expertise and command of the instrument/voice across a variety of performance techniques. The standard expected will equate to Grade 5 or its equivalent. 

1 mark:

The chosen programme will make few demands of the candidate. The part(s) will be technically straightforward. The standard expected will be less than Grade 5 or its equivalent. 

Accuracy 

18 –14 marks:

At the top of the band, there will be no discernible flaws. Otherwise, inaccuracies will be limited to a very occasional slip; at the lower end, there may be occasional slips but these will not affect the overall fluency of the performance. Intonation will be virtually secure. The candidate will have observed the composer's expressive and performance directions. 

13–9 marks:

At the top of this band, the performance should be largely accurate and slips or inaccuracies will not affect the overall fluency. At the lower end, there may be more slips and intonation, rhythm and/or tempo may become more problematic, leading to the occasional hesitation or loss of fluency. The majority of the composer's expressive and performance directions will have been observed. 

8–5 marks:

A performance which achieves consistency in most elements but which may lack variety, technical competence or fluency. There may be more frequent slips and/or more consistent misreading of the notation or performance detail. The basic outline of the music should be appreciable to the listener. In general, the composer's expressive and performance directions will have been observed. 

4–1 marks:

A performance which attempts to convey some features of the music accurately but achieves only limited consistency and fluency. There will be little or no application of the composer's directions for expression or performance detail. At the lower marks, the music may be scarcely recognisable. 

Communication

18–14 marks:

A committed, assured, convincing and well-projected performance. The candidate will demonstrate total involvement in the music. 

13–9 marks:

The candidate will demonstrate some level of commitment and the performance will be generally assured. There will still be an overall sense of conviction in the performance. 

8–5 marks:

The performance will lack conviction and commitment on occasions. 

4–1 marks:

The performance will have only limited conviction and the candidate may fail to impose him/herself upon the performance, leading to an anxious experience for performer and listener.

Interpretation 

18–14 marks:

The candidate will show a mature understanding of both period and style. The tempo will be appropriate and mastery of the techniques demanded by the music will be evident. 

13– 9 marks:

The performance will have style and tempo appropriate to the music. At the lower end of the band, the performance will retain a sense of the character of the music. In general, the techniques demanded by the music will be met though with some loss of integrity at times. 

8–5 marks:

At the upper end of this band, the candidate will show a general understanding of the style and character of the music. Towards the lower end, there will be limited sensitivity to the interpretative demands of the music. Technical demands may compromise the tempo. 

4–1 marks:

There will be only a rudimentary sensitivity to the interpretative demands of the music.

The Technology-based performance 1 - Sequencing is assessed on:

  • Accuracy of pitch and rhythm 
  • A well-balanced recording with the use of appropriate timbres 
  • Evidence of close attention to performing and expressive detail 
  • Awareness of style required 
  • Ability to adapt software and hardware as necessary to effect a valid result. 

Candidates will be expected to give details of equipment used during the sequencing process and the facilities available within the hardware and software. 

Accuracy of pitch and rhythm 

12–10 marks:

Excellent accuracy of pitch and control of all rhythmic elements to produce a musically satisfying recording 

9–7 marks:

A few minor slips which do not inhibit the overall musicality or fluency of the recording 

6–4 marks:

More significant errors, affecting the overall sense of ensemble 

3–1 marks:

Significant lapses, resulting in an unmusical performance 

Use of timbre, balance and panning techniques 

12–10 marks:

Judiciously chosen timbres set within a well-balanced and effective recording 

9–7 marks:

Appropriate timbres, mostly well-balanced and with some evidence of use of panning 

6–4 marks:

A recording where most timbres are well-chosen but where there are inconsistencies in the balance and only limited use of panning 

3–1 marks:

Mostly inappropriate choice of timbres and little sense of balance or evidence of use of panning 

Evidence of close attention to performing and expressive detail 

12–10 marks:

Comprehensive evidence of close attention to all aspects of performing and expressive detail to create a musical performance

9–7 marks:

Effective use of performing and expressive detail, with broadly successful articulation, phrasing and use of shading 

6–4 marks:

Some attempts, not always successful, to use performing and expressive detail to produce a musical performance. There may be inconsistencies in the application of dynamics, articulation, phrasing and tempo 

3–1 marks:

Limited or no attention to performing and expressive detail, resulting in a recording characterised by a lack of dynamic contrast and inconsistencies in articulation, phrasing, shading and tempo 

Awareness of style required 

12–10 marks:

Complete awareness of the stylistic requirements of the music and the ability to achieve this through the careful editing of data 

9–7 marks:

Broadly successful creation of required style 

6–4 marks:

Some sense of the required style but achieved inconsistently 

3–1 marks:

A basic transcription of the music with limited or no sense of the required style

Ability to use the facilities available within the software and hardware to produce a valid result 

12–10 marks:

Complete understanding of measures needed to use the facilities available within the software and/or hardware to produce an authentic recording 

9–7 marks:

Broad understanding of the measures needed to use the facilities available within the software and/ or hardware to produce an authentic recording and mostly successful application of these facilities 

6–4 marks:

Some understanding of the measures needed to use the facilities available within the software and/or hardware to produce an authentic recording but only partial success in their implementation 

3–1:

Limited understanding of the measures needed to use the facilities available within the software and/or hardware to produce an authentic recording and little or no evidence of success in their implementation.

The Technology-based performance 2- multi-track close microphone recording is assessed on:

  • Balance 
  • Dynamic range, including use of compression 
  • Manipulation of mixing desk 
  • Use of effects, such as reverb., delay, etc. 
  • Quality of the recording across a wide range of frequencies. 

Candidates will submit a multi-tracked/close microphone recording based on an initial recording of six or more independent vocal and/or instrumental parts. The candidate may be one of the performers. The submission will include the initial recording and the final mix. Candidates must additionally provide information about the equipment used and the recording process. 

Balance 

12–10 marks:

Excellent sense of balance throughout the recording. 

9–7 marks:

Occasional miscalculations as to balance, increasing where a mark of 7 is awarded.

6–4 marks:

Sections of poor balance; areas where important features are unclear. 

3–1 marks:

Generally poorly balanced; much of the detail of the music is obscured. 

Dynamic Range, including use of compression 

12–10 marks:

Excellent management of dynamics in ways completely appropriate to the music. 

9–7 marks:

Occasional miscalculations of dynamic and/or a more limited dynamic range. 

6–4 marks:

Sections where the dynamic range is miscalculated and/or very limited. 

3–1 marks:

Mostly inappropriate choice/use of dynamics/ dynamics which adversely affect the impact of large sections of the performance. 

Manipulation of mixing desk

12–10 marks:

Excellent use of mixing desk which enables all aspects of the recording to be appreciated. 

9–7 marks:

Occasional miscalculations in the use of the mixing desk, to the extent that there are restrictions on its effectiveness in separating parts. 

6–4 marks:

Sections where the use of the mixing desk is misjudged, inappropriate or very limited.

3–1 marks:

Generally little use of the mixing desk with few or no alterations from the original mix achieved. 

Use of effects such as reverb., delay, etc 

12–10 marks:

Judicious and appropriate use of effects throughout the piece. 

9–7 marks:

Occasional miscalculations as to the use of effects. 

6–4 marks:Sections where effects are misjudged or lacking.  

3–1 marks:

Little or inappropriate use of effects.

Quality of the recording across a wide range of frequencies 

12–10 marks:

An excellent recording with clear use of a wide range of frequencies. 

9–7 marks:

Occasional miscalculations as to the use of a wide frequency range. 

6–4 marks:

Sections where the level of care and attention to matters of equalisation are misjudged or lacking.

3–1:

Little or inappropriate use of equalisation for significant sections of the recording