3.1 Appraising music

The areas of study provide an appropriate focus for students to appraise, develop and demonstrate an in-depth knowledge and understanding of musical elements, musical contexts and musical language. The areas of study can also provide a rich source of material for your students to work with when developing performance and composition skills.

There are seven areas of study:

  1. Western classical tradition 1650–1910 (compulsory)
  2. Pop music
  3. Music for media
  4. Music for theatre
  5. Jazz
  6. Contemporary traditional music
  7. Art music since 1910.

Students must study Area of study 1: Western classical tradition 1650–1910 and choose two from Areas of study 2–7.

3.1.1 Area of study 1: Western classical tradition 1650–1910 (compulsory)

For the purposes of this specification, the western classical tradition is defined as art music of (or growing out of) the European tradition, normally notated, and normally intended for public performance.

There are three strands of music represented which cover three key genres:

  • Baroque: the solo concerto
  • Classical: the operas of Mozart
  • Romantic: the piano music of Chopin, Brahms and Grieg.

Listening – unfamiliar music

Students must be able to listen attentively to unfamiliar music from each of the three strands to identify and accurately describe musical elements and use musical language (including staff notation).

Analysis and contextual understanding – set works

For two of the selected strands, students must also be able to critically appraise music through analysing excerpts from the set works using knowledge and understanding of:

  • the effect of audience, time and place on how the set works were created, developed and performed
  • how and why the music across the selected strand is different
  • how the composer’s purpose and intention for the set works is reflected in their use of musical elements
  • relevant musical vocabulary and terminology for the set works
  • the complex interdependencies between musical elements
  • the sophisticated connections between music and its context.

Strand A: Baroque solo concerto

Composer

Set works

Purcell

Sonata for trumpet and strings in D major Z.850 (complete)

Vivaldi

Flute concerto in D Il Gardellino op.10 no.3 RV428 (complete)

Bach

Violin concerto in A minor BWV1041 (complete)

Strand B: The operas of Mozart

Composer

Set works

Mozart

Le Nozze di Figaro k.492: Act 1, focusing on:

  • overture
  • No.1 Duettino (Figaro and Susanna, including following recitative)
  • No.3 Cavatina (Figaro, including the previous recitative)
  • No.4 Aria (Bartolo)
  • No.5 Duettino (Susanna and Marcellina)
  • No.6 Aria (Cherubino)
  • No.7 Terzetto (Susanna, Basilio, Count)
  • No.9 Aria (Figaro).

Strand C: The piano music of Chopin, Brahms and Grieg

Composer

Set works

Chopin

  • Ballade no.2 in F major op. 38
  • Nocturne in E minor op.72 no.1

Brahms

  • Intermezzo in A major op.118.no. 2
  • Ballade in G minor op.118 no. 3

Grieg

  • Norwegian march op.54 no. 2
  • Notturno op.54 no. 4

The edition and any translation used are at the discretion of the teacher and student. However we will name the editions used for the exam at aqa.org.uk/music.

Musical elements

Students must be able to use knowledge and understanding of the following musical elements when appraising music from this Area of study.

The following table contains all the musical elements, for this area of study, that students must know and understand, to answer questions in section A (Listening) and section B (Analysis and Contextual understanding) of the exam. Marks will also be awarded for knowledge of other terms, if relevant to this area of study, in section B (Analysis and Contextual understanding) of the exam.

Element type

Element

Melody

  • contour – ascending, descending, stepwise, conjunct, disjunct, scalic, triadic and arpeggio
  • intervals, including compound intervals
  • phrase length – equal, unequal and balanced
  • ornaments – trill, mordent, turn, acciaccatura and appoggiatura
  • passing notes – accented, unaccented and chromatic
  • auxiliary notes – upper, lower and chromatic
  • note of anticipation
  • echappée note
  • portamento
  • melodic devices – sequence, motif, fragmentation, repetition, intervallic augmentation and diminution.

Harmony

  • consonant and dissonant
  • diatonic – primary and secondary triads, dominant 7th and all inversions
  • chromatic – diminished 7th, secondary dominant 7th, substitution chords (borrowing from opposite mode), chord of the Neapolitan, Neapolitan 6th and augmented 6th chords (Italian, German, French)
  • cadences – perfect, imperfect, interrupted, plagal, half close, phrygian and tierce de Picardie
  • circle of 5ths progression, harmonic sequence
  • pedal notes – tonic, dominant, inverted and inner
  • suspensions (4–3, 7–6, 9–8 and bass), preparation and resolution
  • cadential 6/4.

Tonality

  • major, minor, and their key signatures
  • modulation to dominant, subdominant, and their relatives, also to tonic minor, relative minor and tertiary keys
  • enharmonic keys
  • modality.

Structure

  • binary, rounded binary and ternary
  • ritornello and episode
  • sonata form
  • through-composed
  • introduction and coda
  • recitative and aria
  • foursquare
  • antecedent and consequent phrases
  • ostinato.

Sonority (Timbre)

  • standard orchestral and vocal types
  • basso continuo
  • pizzicato, arco, col legno, con sordino, sul ponticello, sul tasto and double stopping
  • sotto voce, vibrato
  • una corda, pedalling.

Texture

  • solo, monophonic, unison, octaves, parallel 3rds
  • melody and accompaniment, homophonic, chordal
  • polyphonic, contrapuntal, imitative, fugal
  • antiphonal
  • trio sonata texture
  • polarised
  • countermelody, descant
  • canon.

Tempo, metre and rhythm

  • simple and compound time
  • common Italian tempo terms including ritenuto, rallentando and accelerando
  • rubato, pause
  • syncopation, hemiola, cross-rhythm, motor-rhythm.

Dynamics and articulation

  • common Italian dynamic terms including sfz and fp
  • accent, tenuto, staccato, marcato, legato.

Musical language

Students must be able to use musical language appropriate to this Area of study in the following ways:

Reading staff notation

Students must be able to identify musical elements (as above) when reading staff notation.

For unfamiliar music, students must be able to read short passages of a minimum of four bars and a maximum of eight bars.

For familiar music, students must be able to read approximately two pages of music score.

Writing staff notation

Students must be able to:
  • write melodic notation in all keys within short passages of music of a minimum of four bars and a maximum of eight bars
  • write rhythmic notation, including compound time within short passages of a minimum of four bars and a maximum of eight bars.

Chords

Students must learn standard and extended chords, including chord inversions and secondary dominant 7ths, and be able to identify them in aural and written form. Examples of relevant types of chords can be found in the Musical elements.

Musical vocabulary and terminology

Students must be able to identify and apply appropriate musical vocabulary and terminology to both music heard and notated. The appropriate vocabulary and terminology required can be found in the tables appropriate to the student's selected area of study.

3.1.2 Areas of study 2–7

Students must choose two areas of study from the following:

2. Pop music

3. Music for media

4. Music for theatre

5. Jazz

6. Contemporary traditional music

7. Art music since 1910.

Listening – unfamiliar music

Students must be able to listen attentively to unfamiliar music from all the named artists/composers in their selected areas of study to identify and accurately describe musical elements and use musical language (including staff notation).

Analysis and Contextual understanding

For three of the named artists/composers from each of their selected areas of study, students must be able to appraise music and make critical judgements, using knowledge and understanding of:
  • how the artists’/composers’ use of musical elements for at least two published works reflects the style of the genre and their purpose and intentions for the work
  • how the style of the artists’/composers’ music has varied over time through comparison of published works
  • musical vocabulary and terminology relevant to the work and area of study.

Selection of the published works for each named artist/composer is at the discretion of the teacher and student. However, the works must be in the public domain such that they are easily accessible to examiners.

3.1.3 Area of study 2: Pop music

For the purpose of this specification, pop music is defined as popular mainstream music derived from and including a number of musical genres including rock, funk and R&B from 1960 to the present.

Named artists

  • Stevie Wonder
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Muse
  • Beyoncé
  • Daft Punk
  • Labrinth

Musical elements

The following table contains all the musical elements, for this area of study, that students must know and understand to answer questions in section A (Listening) and section C (Essay) of the exam. Marks will also be awarded for knowledge of other terms, if relevant to this area of study, in section C (Essay) of the exam.

Element type

Element

Melody

  • riff
  • pitch bend
  • melisma, syllabic
  • hook
  • slide
  • glissando
  • ostinato
  • blue notes.

Harmony

  • power chords
  • sus4 chords
  • chord extensions – secondary 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th
  • other complex chords eg half diminished 7th, added 6th
  • chord symbols eg C/E C7 Cø and C+
  • tonic and dominant pedal.

Tonality

  • specific modes eg dorian, lydian
  • pentatonic
  • blues scale.

Structure

  • intro/outro
  • middle 8
  • bridge
  • breakdown
  • verse
  • chorus
  • instrumental
  • break
  • drum fill.

Sonority (Timbre)

  • studio/technological effects eg reverb, panning
  • standard contemporary instrumental types eg electric guitar, synthesisers
  • drum kit components and techniques eg rim shot
  • vocal timbres eg falsetto, belt, rap
  • specific instrumental techniques eg slap bass
  • specific instrumental effects eg distortion.

Texture

  • looping
  • layering
  • a cappella.

Tempo, metre and rhythm

  • bpm (beats per minute)
  • mm (metronome marking)
  • groove
  • backbeat
  • irregular metre.

Dynamics and articulation

  • fade in/fade out.

3.1.4 Area of study 3: Music for media

For the purpose of this specification, music for media is defined as music specifically composed for film, television and gaming from 1958 to the present.

Named composers

  • Bernard Herrmann
  • Hans Zimmer
  • Michael Giacchino
  • Thomas Newman
  • Nobuo Uematsu

Musical elements

The following table contains all the musical elements, for this area of study, that students must know and understand to answer questions in section A (Listening) and section C (Essay) of the exam. Marks will also be awarded for knowledge of other terms, if relevant to this area of study, in section C (Essay) of the exam.

Element type

Element

Melody
  • leitmotif.
Harmony
  • power chords
  • sus4 chords
  • chord extensions – 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th
  • other complex chords eg half diminished 7th, added 6th
  • chord symbols eg C/E C7 Cø and C+
  • tonic and dominant pedal.
Tonality
  • tonal
  • atonal
  • modal.
Structure
  • cue
  • underscore
  • soundtrack
  • mickey-mousing
  • diegetic and non-diegetic music
  • source music.
Sonority (Timbre)
  • standard orchestral instruments
  • standard jazz, rock and pop instruments
  • electronic instruments
  • ethnic instruments suitable for sense of location
  • technological effects eg echo, reverb, panning, distortion
  • tremolo.
Texture
  • cluster
  • polarised texture
  • drone.
Tempo, metre and rhythm
  • mm (metronome marking)
  • additive rhythm
  • cross rhythm
  • rhythmic layering.

3.1.5 Area of study 4: Music for theatre

For the purpose of this specification, music for theatre is defined as music composed to govern, enhance or support a theatrical conception from 1925 to the present.

Named composers

  • Kurt Weill
  • Richard Rodgers
  • Stephen Sondheim
  • Claude-Michel Schönberg
  • Jason Robert Brown

Musical elements

The following table contains all the musical elements, for this area of study, that students must know and understand to answer questions in section A (Listening) and section C (Essay) of the exam. Marks will also be awarded for knowledge of other terms, if relevant to this area of study, in section C (Essay) of the exam.

Element type

Element

Melody
  • pitch bend
  • melisma, syllabic
  • slide
  • glissando
  • leitmotif
  • angular.
Harmony
  • power chords
  • sus4 chords
  • chord extensions – secondary 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th
  • other complex chords eg half diminished 7th, added 6th
  • chord symbols eg C/E, C7, Cø and C+.
Structure
  • intro/outro
  • bridge
  • verse
  • chorus
  • instrumental
  • middle 8.
Sonority (Timbre)
  • studio/technological effects eg reverb
  • standard orchestral instruments
  • standard contemporary instrumental types eg electric guitar, synthesisers
  • vocal timbres eg falsetto, belt, rap
  • specific instrumental techniques eg slap bass, tremolo.
Texture
  • a cappella
  • colla voce.
Tempo, metre and rhythm
  • bpm (beats per minute)
  • mm (metronome marking)
  • irregular metre.

3.1.6 Area of study 5: Jazz

For the purpose of this specification, jazz is defined as a style of music characterised by a strong but flexible rhythmic understructure with solo and ensemble improvisations on basic tunes and chord patterns and a highly sophisticated harmonic idiom from 1920 to the present.

Named artists

  • Louis Armstrong
  • Duke Ellington
  • Charlie Parker
  • Miles Davis
  • Pat Metheny
  • Gwilym Simcock

Musical elements

The following table contains all the musical elements, for this area of study, that students must know and understand to answer questions in section A (Listening) and section C (Essay) of the exam. Marks will also be awarded for knowledge of other terms, if relevant to this area of study, in section C (Essay) of the exam.

Element type

Element

Melody
  • glissando
  • pitch-bend
  • smear
  • spill/fall-off
  • rip.
Harmony
  • chord extension – secondary 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th chords
  • other added notes – eg 2nd, 6th, sus4th
  • substitution (especially tritone substitution)
  • commonly used jazz harmony symbols
  • turn-around.
Tonality
  • blue notes
  • blues scale
  • pentatonic scale
  • diminished (octatonic) scale
  • knowledge of specific modes for modal jazz.
Structure
  • 12-bar blues
  • chord changes
  • song form/standard form
  • middle eight/bridge
  • intro and outro
  • head
  • chorus
  • fours
  • break.
Sonority (Timbre)
  • growl/talking trumpet
  • harmon mute
  • wah-wah mute
  • ghosted notes
  • slap bass
  • rim-shot
  • standard big band instruments.
Texture
  • heterophonic
  • a cappella
Tempo, metre and rhythm
  • swing and straight rhythm
  • cross rhythms eg three over four
  • push and drag
  • double time
  • ametrical
  • stop time
  • riff.

3.1.7 Area of study 6: Contemporary traditional music

For the purpose of this specification, contemporary traditional music is defined as music influenced by traditional musical features fused with contemporary elements and styles.

Named artists

  • Astor Piazzolla
  • Toumani Diabaté
  • Anoushka Shankar
  • Mariza
  • Bellowhead

Musical elements

The following table contains all the musical elements, for this area of study, that students must know and understand to answer questions in section A (Listening) and section C (Essay) of the exam. Marks will also be awarded for knowledge of other terms, if relevant to this area of study, in section C (Essay) of the exam.

Element type

Element

Melody
  • raga
  • pitch bend
  • kumbengo (ostinato riffs on kora)
  • birimintingo (improvised runs).
Harmony
  • drone
  • sus4 chords
  • chord symbols eg C/E, C7, Cø and C+
  • other added notes – eg 2nd, 6th, sus4.
Tonality
  • specific modes eg Dorian, Lydian.
Structure
  • tango nuevo, milonga
  • fado
  • alap
  • fusion
  • verse and chorus
  • folk rock
  • song form/standard form.
Sonority (Timbre)
  • specific instruments: bandoneon, kora, sitar, Portuguese guitar
  • specialist string techniques for tango, including chicharra, latigo, arrestre and tambor
  • studio effects eg reverb, sampling
  • piano glissando
  • drone
  • sympathetic strings (sitar).
Texture
  • looping
  • layering
  • heterophonic.
Tempo, metre and rhythm
  • polyrhythm
  • latin 3 + 3 + 2 rhythm
  • habanera rhythm
  • tala
  • riff.

3.1.8 Area of study 7: Art music since 1910

For the purpose of this specification art music since 1910 is defined as music that comprises modern, contemporary classical, electronic art, experimental and minimalist music as well as other forms.

Named composers

  • Dmitri Shostakovich
  • Olivier Messiaen
  • Steve Reich
  • James MacMillan

Musical elements

The following table contains all the musical elements, for this area of study, that students must know and understand to answer questions in section A (Listening) and section C (Essay) of the exam. Marks will also be awarded for knowledge of other terms, if relevant to this area of study, in section C (Essay) of the exam.

Element type

Element

Melody
  • modes of limited transposition (including whole tone and octatonic scales)
  • pentatonic and hexatonic scales
  • tone row
  • note addition and subtraction
  • resultant melody
  • cells and motifs
  • metamorphosis.
Harmony
  • non-functional harmony
  • chord extensions eg added 6th
  • cluster chords
  • static harmony
  • open fifths.
Tonality
  • bitonality
  • tonal ambiguity
  • atonality
  • modality.
Structure
  • cyclical structures
  • ostinato
  • cadenza.
Sonority (Timbre)
  • organ stops eg reeds, mixtures, use of swell pedal, tremulant
  • studio effects eg reverb, sampling
  • unusual instruments eg ondes Martenot
  • unusual effects eg col legno, harmonics.
Texture
  • looping
  • layering
  • a cappella
  • drones.
Tempo, metre and rhythm
  • additive rhythms
  • palindromic rhythms
  • metrical displacement
  • phasing
  • augmentation and diminution.

3.1.9 Musical language: Areas of study 2-7

Students must be able to use musical language appropriate to their selected area of study, in the following ways:

Reading staff notation

Students must be able to identify musical elements relevant to their selected area of study (as above) when reading staff notation.

For unfamiliar music, students must be able to read short passages of up to eight bars.

For familiar music, students must be able to read extended passages of score of approximately two pages.

Chords and their associated chord symbols

Students must learn standard and extended chords, including chord inversions and secondary dominant 7ths and their associated symbols, and be able to identify them in aural and written form. The specific types of chords and symbols can be found in the tables relevant to the student's selected area of study.

Musical vocabulary and terminology

Students must be able to identify and apply appropriate musical vocabulary and terminology to both music heard and notated. The appropriate vocabulary and terminology required can be found in the tables appropriate to the student's selected area of study.