A Level Music
Examination Board: AQA A Level
Music is widely regarded as a challenging and exciting A level that combines well with other arts and humanities subjects and with maths, IT and physics. It inspires creativity and expression in a way that no other subject can. The course gives an opportunity for you to develop performance and composition skills as well as to further your knowledge of different music styles. There is plenty of scope to perform and compose music that appeals to you but an open mind to all types of music is essential. Music technology is fully integrated into the curriculum with opportunities to compose and perform using this format.
Studying GCSE music is an essential pre-requisite to studying on the A Level course, though some exceptions can be made. You need sound performing skills (Grade 4 minimum on entry to the course) as you will need to prepare 10-12 minutes of music of your choice. You will be expected to read music from a score for part of the examination so if your reading skills are poor or restricted to reading tablature then be prepared to improve your skills.
Enthusiasm is a key requirement. You will prepare for and perform in a Sixth Form concert, have the opportunity to go on Sixth Form concert trips e.g. Visit the Huddersfield contemporary festival and see live music performed in Leeds and Bradford. Getting involved in teaching younger students and/or being involved in the extra-curricular life of the school is also important and valuable.
You will develop an understanding of the organisation of sounds, the context of music, and musical styles and genres. You will be encouraged to engage critically and creatively with a wide range of music and musical contexts. The subject content is divided into three components:
1. Appraising music
UNIT ONE: Appraising Music
You must study Area of study 1: Western classical tradition 1650–1910
1. Baroque: the solo concerto
2. Classical: the operas of Mozart
3. Romantic: the piano music of Chopin, Brahms and Grieg
We then choose two from Areas of study two to seven.
- Pop Music
- Music for Media (Film, Television and Game)
- Music for Theatre
- Contemporary Traditional Music
- Art Music since 1910
Typically, we focus on Pop Music and Music for Media or Theatre.
UNIT TWO: Performance
You must be able to perform music using one or both of the following ways:
1. Instrumental/vocal: as a soloist, and/or as part of an ensemble
2. Production: via music technology
You must be able to interpret relevant musical elements, using resources and techniques as appropriate, to communicate musical ideas with technical and expressive control. There is an expectation that your performance pieces meet grade 6 standard as a minimum.
UNIT THREE: Composition
You must learn how to develop musical ideas and compose music that is musically convincing by submitting two original compositions in any style that inspires you.
UNIT ONE: Appraising Music (40% of A level - externally marked)
·One 2-hour 30 minute paper that tests your ability to be able to listen attentively to familiar and unfamiliar music from all the named artists/composers in your selected area of study to identify and accurately describe musical elements and use musical language (including staff notation).
UNIT TWO: Performance (35% of A level – externally marked)
· You must perform for a minimum of 10 minutes and a maximum of 12 minutes in total. This will be recorded in the final term of Year 13 and then sent to the examiner.
UNIT THREE: Composition (25% of A level – externally marked)
· You will submit two compositions to the examiner. One must be in response to an externally set brief released in September of Year 13. (Composition One) and the other a free composition (Composition Two). The combined duration of the compositions must be a minimum of four and a half minutes, and a maximum of six minutes.
Careers in the music business include promotion, administration, performance, music therapy, sound engineering and teaching. Former students have continued their performance studies at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Guildhall School of Music, Birmingham Conservatoire, Scottish Conservatoire, Hull University, Huddersfield University, Durham University, Salford University and the Royal Northern College of Music.
Students have a choice of the musicological or highly practical type university courses with different institutions allowing students to develop their interests in a wide variety of fields, e.g. contemporary music, composition, electronic music, performance, jazz, popular music or baroque studies.
Whilst many students do go on to study music further, other students opt for music as it is an enjoyable subject to study and because it complements a wide and varied range of subjects. The A level shows breadth of interest when applying for a non-music degree. What all these students had in common though was a love of music.