What is this subject about?

Performing, composing, analysing and listening to music. Performance accounts for just under a third of the course, as does composing. listening and analysis, which involve studying a given set of scores, account for just over a third. The listening and analysis unit also includes some study of harmony, in the form of basic Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass (SATB) writing.

What will I study in the first year?

The first year comprises solo and ensemble performing, for coursework and for concerts; composing to a set brief, and harmony in the form of SATB part-writing; and listening to and analysing familiar and unfamiliar music, using an anthology of scores.
The first year set works include vocal works by Bach, and Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute’, symphonic music, such as Vivaldi’s ‘Concerto in D Minor’, piano music by Clara Schumann, film music by Danny Elfman and Rachel Portman, modern music by Debussy and John Cage, and popular music by Kate Bush and Courtney Pine.

What will I study in the second year?

The second year will cover extended performance skills, in the form of a recital; two compositions (one to a formal brief) using a range of techniques and harmonic styles; extended listening techniques, including dictation and chord identification; and analysis of set scores, demonstrated through comparison-style essay writing.
The second year set works include songs by Vaughan Williams, Berlioz’s ‘Symphonie Fantastique’, songs by the Beatles, Bernard Hermann’s score for ‘Psycho’, Anoushka Shankar’s ‘Breathing Under Water’ fusion, and Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’.

How is the course assessed?

Performance and composition are assessed as coursework, and composition will be produced during a set number of supervised hours. The A Level recital is 8 minutes playing time. Listening, analysis and harmony take the form of written papers. You can play solo or with a small ensemble of up to 4 players.

What skills will I need for this course?

Skills needed include a minimum of Grade 5 performance standard on any instrument, fluent notation reading skills to Grade 5 theory level, creative skill in order to compose, and annotating skills in order to take notes on the Anthology set work pieces you will be analysing. A broad knowledge of music and a desire to listen to a wide range of music from different periods, styles and genres, and basic keyboard skills are also helpful.

Do I need Music GCSE to study Music at A level?

The skills demanded for A Level are very different from those required at GCSE, and Music GCSE is not a requirement. What is important is that you take note of the formal requirements detailed above, and undertake some music composition work over the summer prior to beginning your studies. It is very useful to have followed a Music GCSE course however as you will understand the three strands required in Music education.


​What can the course lead to in terms of higher education and future careers?

Many employers are interested in Music for its artistic and creative aspects, which can lead potential employees into fields such as media and marketing. Other careers stemming from the study of music are teaching, professional performance, and studio-based work including sound engineering (although you may need to undertake relevant work
experience or particular studies to secure studio work). The Music Department enjoys a progression agreement with a local Music Technology higher education provider.
Music at degree level is incredibly varied from institution to institution, so it is necessary to consider which element of music you want to pursue. Some courses focus largely on performance, some on composition, some on academic, analytical and historical study and some on popular music, jazz and world music styles. If, for example, you love performance but you’re not keen on academic music, you might want to apply for a performance diploma at a music college rather than a degree. If you’re not a strong performer but you enjoy analysis, a traditional university may have a course which suits this balance. If you want to compose music for film and television there are specific universities which offer such course options. There are many career opportunities in the music industry for music composers, song-writers and those with creative flair.

Entry Requirements

​What are the formal entry requirements for this course?

Aside from the general entry criteria that the College requires, you will also need to achieve Performance at a minimum level of Grade 5 (you don’t have to have taken the Grade 5 exam, but you have to be able to perform at that standard); and the ability to read standard notation, NOT just tab or other notation. It is essential to have studied Music Theory to Grade 5 standard. The opportunity to take this examination will be offered in the first year to anyone without the qualification, but you must have already spent some time studying Grades 1-4 Theory of Music.

Extra Support

​What extra support / enrichment activities are on offer?

Music is delivered in a new purpose-built centre allowing students access to recording and practice facilities. There are regular concerts, facilitating both solo and ensemble performance, choir, concert band, jazz groups, contemporary bands, and the opportunity to form smaller ensembles. There are a number of trips including the chance to attend Opera, Symphony Concerts, Musicals, Folk and Jazz Events. There are also workshops on composition and performance techniques led by professionals in their field. Students have access to computers running Sibelius, Logic, Cubase and Protools to assist with composition coursework completion. Additionally, we take students on a Music tour abroad during Wider Skills Week.

Subject combination advice

​Subject combination advice:

In view of the creative element entailed in Music, it may suit partnership with English, Art and Social Science subjects. However, Music is the sort of course you take because you have a long-held interest in it, so many students tend to opt for it purely on that basis and is not dependent on which other subjects they are choosing. Music can be taken with BTEC Music Technology as the two subjects complement each other well.

What is the difference between Music and Music Technology?

Music Technology BTEC is very different from Music A Level. Music Technology involves the study of sound recording equipment and methods of studio recording, and sequencing with some music elements, whereas the ICT element of Music is really a by-product of the course requirements. For example, we use studio equipment to record performances, and we use laptops running music software to work on composition, but we don’t study the technical side of this. Music is about performing, composing, listening and analysing.