Unit 4 - Composing Music

This is an extract of the full specification, which you can download from this page.

20% of the total marks    30 marks

Creating and developing musical ideas with technical control and coherence. 

Controlled Assessment Advisers will be available to provide guidance to centres. 

The task 

Candidates are required to compose one piece of music which explores two or more of the five Areas of Study. This may be in any style or genre of the candidate's choosing. 

Candidates have up to 25 hours of Controlled Assessment in which to complete the composition. This must be undertaken as an individual exercise under informal supervision. There is no time limit in terms of the duration of the composition but candidates should be aware of the need to demonstrate sufficient development of musical ideas in the music and as a consequence, very short pieces may not allow for this.

The composition must be submitted as follows: 

1. A recording of the final completed composition. This must be in a format that can be played on an external device such as CD or mini-disc. The recording may be made using live performers, ICT or a combination of both. 

2. A musical score. In this case, a score is understood to be any written format that is appropriate to the particular genre of music presented. This could include: 

  • staff notation 
  • graphic notation 
  • tab 
  • a written account detailing the structure and content of the music 
  • a combination of some or all of these.

In all circumstances, the score should accurately reflect the intentions of the candidate and bear close resemblance to the music presented in the recording. 

The composition submitted for Unit 4 must be different from that submitted for Unit 2. 

Candidates also complete a Candidate Record Form detailing the nature of their chosen task and the Areas of Study explored in the composition. 

Submissions should be sent to the AQA moderator.

In preparing candidates for this Unit, it is anticipated that teachers will assist in helping candidates to work to their strengths. In many cases, candidates may wish to utilise their skills and aptitudes in performing and/or their preferences in listening and appraising in creating and developing the composition. The nature of the task in relation to the selected Areas of Study will encourage this and whilst it is recognised that many compositions will explore most, if not all of the Areas of Study, it must be possible to respond successfully within two areas. It is recognised that different centres will have widely differing resources and musical experiences for their candidates. The nature of the set task will allow for this diversity and enable centres to work to their strengths. 

Task supervision and control

  • Candidates have up to 25 hours in which to complete the composition. 
  • Additional time may be allowed in order to complete the recordings, where necessary. 
  • Candidates must complete the composition, with the exception of research and preparation, under informal supervision.  
  • Research and preparation may be completed under limited supervision. This might include set tasks to be completed at home, in libraries or through internet research. 
  • Teachers may help with the research and preparation of the composition but the final presented work must be the work of the candidate. Teachers must make clear on the Candidate Record Form the amount of help and guidance given to candidates. 
  • Candidates may work with others but the final completed composition must be the individual work of the candidate. In practice, this means that candidates may work with other musicians in producing the recording, but the score will be entirely their own work. It must be possible within the presentation of the score to be able to understand how the performances of those other than the candidate have taken place. There should be a strong correlation between the music presented in the recording and the presented score. 

Assessment Criteria 

Teachers will mark and assess the final presented composition according to a single set of assessment criteria. This assessment will be subject to moderation by AQA.

The piece will be assessed in the light of the selected Areas of Study and its success measured against the realisation of key elements with consideration of the musical aspects detailed below: 

  • the imaginative use of sound  
  • a sense of musical balance 
  • the creation and development of musical ideas 
  • an understanding of the chosen medium  
  • the appropriate and idiomatic use of instruments, voices and other sound sources 
  • appropriate uses of musical elements, devices, techniques and conventions.

Strengths in one or more aspects may balance relative weaknesses elsewhere. 

Compositions will be marked according to the following six bands of assessment in combination with the musical aspects listed above. 

30–26 

  • The composition is musically stimulating, interesting and satisfying. 
  • The candidate demonstrates the successful and imaginative creation of musical ideas in relation to the Areas of Study selected. 
  • There is a sense of completeness in the music and there is evidence of development of the musical ideas. 
  • Writing for instruments, voices and sound sources is idiomatic. 
  • The score is accurate and contains detailed performance directions appropriate to the chosen style of the music. 

25–21

  • The composition is imaginative and largely satisfying. 
  • The candidate demonstrates a sound sense of understanding of musical ideas in relation to the Areas of Study selected. 
  • There is a sense of wholeness in the music with some development of the musical ideas presented. 
  • Writing for instruments, voices and sound sources demonstrates understanding of the techniques required. 
  • The score contains sufficient detail to reflect the candidate's intentions, though some details may be missing. 

20–16 

  • The composition is largely effective. 
  • The candidate demonstrates some understanding of the musical ideas in relation to the Areas of Study selected. 
  • There is a competent handling of the musical ideas. 
  • Writing for instruments, voices and sound sources demonstrates some understanding of the techniques required. 
  • The score shows some accuracy but may contain some omissions and/or inaccuracies. 

15–11 

  • The composition is partially effective. 
  • The candidate demonstrates limited understanding of the musical ideas in relation to the Areas of Study selected. 
  • There are some limitations in the handling of the musical ideas. 
  • Writing for instruments, voices and sound sources may present inconsistencies in their deployment. 
  • The score shows some musical ideas clearly. 

10–6 

  • The composition works but at a basic level. 
  • The candidate demonstrates a basic understanding of the musical ideas presented in relation to the Areas of Study selected.
  • There may be some incoherence in the handling of musical ideas. 
  • Writing for instruments, voices and sound sources appears simplistic and may lack finish. 
  • The score shows inconsistencies and is not accurately presented. 

5–1 

  • The composition is very rudimentary. 
  • The candidate demonstrates a rudimentary understanding of the ideas in relation to the Areas of Study. 
  • Musical ideas lack coherence and may appear incomplete. 
  • Writing for instruments, voices and sound sources lacks understanding. 
  • The score is inaccurate and incomplete.

 0 

  • The candidate's work shows no evidence of the skills being assessed