Musical language/content 

The musical references made below under the heading The organisation of sound form the basis for the exploration of all Areas of Study within GCSE Music. The whole musical experience of this course – both teaching and learning – should be centred on them. 

Candidates will be expected to be able to understand notation suitable to the occasion, including staff notation. 

The five Areas of Study for all of the units in this specification are: 

  • AoS1 Rhythm & Metre 
  • AoS2 Harmony & Tonality 
  • AoS3 Texture & Melody 
  • AoS4 Timbre & Dynamics 
  • AoS5 Structure & Form 

These will be explored through three Strands of Learning: 

a) The Western Classical Tradition 

b) Popular Music of the 20th & 21st centuries

c) World Music 

The organisation of sound 

Rhythm & Metre 

  • pulse
  • simple & compound time  
  • regular, irregular, free  
  • augmentation, diminution, hemiola, cross-rhythm  
  • dotted rhythms, triplets, syncopation  
  • tempo, rubato  
  • polyrhythm, bi-rhythm
  • drum fills 


  • diatonic, chromatic  
  • consonant, dissonant  
  • pedal, drone
  • cadences: perfect, plagal, imperfect, interrupted, Tièrce de Picardie
  • identification of major, minor and dominant seventh chords using Roman numerals/chord symbols 


  • tonal, major, minor, modal  
  • use and identification of key up to 4 sharps and 4 flats  
  • modulation: 
    • to dominant/subdominant in major or minor key 
    • to relative major or minor 


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


  • intervals within the octave  
  • conjunct, disjunct, triadic, broken chords, scalic, arpeggio
  • passing notes, acciaccaturas, appoggiaturas  
  • blue notes  
  • diatonic, chromatic, pentatonic, whole tone, modal  
  • augmentation, diminution, sequence, inversion  
  • slide/glissando/portamento, ornamentation  
  • ostinato, riff  
  • phrasing, articulation  
  • pitch bend  
  • improvisation 


  • instruments and voices singly and in combination as found in music for solo instruments, concertos, chamber groups, pop and vocal music  
  • generic families of instruments as found in world music  
  • timbre, including the use of technology, synthesised and computer-generated sounds, sampling, and use of techniques such as reverb., distortion and chorus  
  • instrumental techniques including con arco/with a bow, pizzicato/plucked, con sordino/muted, double-stopping, tremolo/tremolando
  • vocal techniques such as falsetto and vibrato 


  • gradation of dynamics as follows: 
    • pp, p, mp, mf, f, ff 
    • cresc., crescendo, dim., diminuendo 
    • sfz, sforzando 
    • 'hairpins'  
  • common signs, terms & symbols 

Structure & Form  

  • binary, ternary, call & response
  • rondo, theme & variations, arch-shape  
  • sonata, minuet & trio, scherzo & trio  
  • strophic, through-composed, da capo aria, cyclic  
  • popular song forms  
  • ground bass, continuo, cadenza 

Unit 2 only: 

Composer, Performer & Audience
  • intention, use, purpose  
  • commission, patronage  
  • technical/emotional demands  
  • amateur/professional performance  
  • performance practice, interpretation, improvisation 
Occasion, Time & Place  
  • sacred, secular, utility  
  • private, public, concert
  • live, recorded, media
  • internet  
  • performing conventions 

The teaching should enable students to gain:

  • the necessary listening skills which will enable them to respond to questions in the Listening and Appraising paper
  • knowledge of the Areas of Study as indicated by the terms listed under The organisation of sound above
  • the necessary levels of knowledge, understanding and skills to enable them to link the Areas of Study to the Strands of Learning. 

The Strands of Learning are to be used to enable students to:  

  • understand and recognise how the elements of music as listed in The organisation of sound are used in the Areas of Study.  
  • appreciate/understand how composers use the Areas of Study