What is A-Level Music?

Whether we are listening to music, watching TV or playing computer games, music is everywhere. Some people really enjoy making music as singers or instrumentalists and some simply enjoy listening to it; however we use music, it plays a big part in our lives.

A level Music offers students the chance to explore their love of music through a series of practical tasks and academic enquiry. If you intend to study Music at university or if you are simply looking for an enriching additional subject to broaden your studies and develop important skills for university and beyond, this course is for you!

Our classroom, used for teaching Music and Music Technology, is equipped with computers running Sibelius and Cubase and is a great space for rehearsals and chamber recitals. There are two dedicated, soundproofed, music practice rooms fitted with pianos and a drum kit. We have a state-of-the-art recording studio, and recording equipment for the 200 seat Cohen hall and the teaching room. The practice rooms are open to all, and many of our students enjoy rehearsing and playing together even if they are not studying Music

What you'll do

Students follow the EdExcel specification, which comprises three components:

Performing (30%)

The purpose of this component is to assess students’ performing skills in a solo and/or ensemble context. They will be given the opportunity to rehearse and refine performances on their chosen instrument or voice, developing technical control, expression and interpretative skills. All students are encouraged to take lessons, either in school from one of our peripatetic teachers (in a free period) or privately. Students thinking of studying Music at A level should ideally already be playing at Grade 6 level, and it is expected that students are at Grade 7/8 (or of an equivalent standard) in their final year of study.

This component encourages students to develop creative thinking, aesthetic sensitivity, critical awareness, self-confidence, self-motivation and their own musical interests and skills – skills that are in great demand by universities and employers alike.

Composing (30%)

Composing music is the creative process by which most of the music we experience came into being. Students will be encouraged to explore a range of compositional starting points and investigate a range of techniques for developing and manipulating ideas. They will then compose to either a Brief or complete a Free Composition, and must produce 6 minutes of music.

This unit allows for creativity to come to the fore. If you like writing your own music in your bedroom, this unit allows you to study this for A level!

Appraising (40%)

The purpose of this component is for students to develop their listening and appraising skills through the study of music across a variety of styles and genres. In turn, the unit provides a chance for students to trace the historical development of music and to see techniques and skills ‘in action’ which might inform their own performance or compositional practice.

To this end, students will study a comprehensive variety of music which includes pop music, fusion and film music, as well as classical instrumental and vocal repertoire from Bach to Stravinsky and beyond. Although the ability to read music is integral, students with limited musical literacy should not be put off from choosing Music as an A level option: you will be supported throughout the course!

Whom does this subject suit?

A level music will suit students who:

  • are passionate about music and are open-minded about what they listen to;
  • are inquisitive about how music ‘works’;
  • play a musical instrument or sing at Grade 6+ level;
  • enjoy being creative and like writing their own music;
  • enjoy using technology as a creative tool;
  • have studied GCSE Music (though this isn’t absolutely essential!);
  • have a decent grounding in music theory.

Taking a GCSE in Music, with its core components of Performance, Composition and Appraisal, provides the perfect starting point for studying the same subject at A level. The A level course represents a consolidation, broadening and deepening of the skills learned at GCSE. If you enjoyed GCSE Music, A level Music may well be for you!

That said, having a GCSE in Music is not essential for studying Music at A level. Good practical skills (Grade 6+ on an instrument) backed up with a sound grounding in Music Theory (Grade 5) and a strong desire to learn about music in all forms, styles and genres are also a good starting point for those thinking of taking A level Music.

What might the subject lead to?

Music is a highly regarded academic subject and whether you take it with a view to a career in music or as an additional A level subject, it is held in high esteem by universities and other institutions of higher education. Indeed, Music is often chosen by those students doing Science and Maths (as well as other arts-based subjects, too) as an enriching third or fourth subject. In the words of Albert Einstein: ‘The greatest scientists are artists as well.’ Music is part art and part science, which means it will help you build your problem solving, research, planning, analytical and critical thinking skills, as well as develop your creativity.