AQA spices up GCSE Music with Sgt. Pepper

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Fifty years after The Beatles started recording Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, students will begin studying the album as part of a refreshed Music GCSE from AQA.

For the first time, students will study three tracks from one of The Beatles' most critically acclaimed records: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, With a Little Help from My Friends and Within You, Without You. As part of the teaching for the course, students will be asked to look at the various aspects which make up the songs - including the melody, harmony, structure, rhythm and the meaning behind the music and lyrics.

The course will also include classical music by renowned composers Copland and Haydn, and songs from legendary guitarist Carlos Santana's Supernatural album.

Seb Ross, who leads AQA's music department, said: "Pop music began in this country with The Beatles in the swinging sixties, so what better band to look to for the study of contemporary music than the Fab Four. We've chosen The Beatles because John, Paul, Ringo and George helped to define popular music and the iconic Sgt. Pepper album has taken on a life of its own, so it's an exciting addition to AQA's Music GCSE."

Ernie Sutton, Treasurer of the British Beatles Fan Club, said: "It's a great tribute to The Beatles that their music is being studied for the new AQA Music GCSE. The Beatles changed the face of popular music and song writing in a very short space of time, which future musicians benefitted from. It is fantastic that young people can study their ground breaking and influential Sgt. Pepper album, which changed recording techniques forever."

The remixed course will also give young people the option to prove their DJing credentials as part of the performance section of the qualification. They'll be asked to demonstrate a combination of technical skills and methods required for a DJ set. This will include 'scratching', a technique associated with hip-hop music, which produces different sounds by moving a vinyl record back and forth on a turntable. They can use vinyl, CDs or a laptop for their performance.

Students will still be able to sing or play a musical instrument for their performance. They'll be free to choose their favourite songs to perform, whether it's Nessun Dorma, a Beyoncé classic or some bossa nova in the form of Mas Que Nada.

AQA has also unveiled plans for its new Dance GCSE, which has won backing from key figures in the Dance world and aims to inspire the next generation of performers, choreographers, supporters and audiences. Students will learn to create and perform in styles that interest them, but they will study a wide range of styles including ballet, contemporary, urban and dance from other cultures. It provides the springboard for future creativity in dance and ensures students develop a lifelong interest in the art form.

The plans for both GCSEs, which will be available to teach from September 2016, are being submitted to the regulator Ofqual for accreditation.