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GCSE Music advice please

(80 Posts)
runforthehills65 Fri 03-May-13 12:16:50

My son showed no interest in playing an instrument until Year 7. He is now in Year 8 and about to take Trinity Grade 1 piano.

He practises a fair amount at home and does seem to be able to play pieces by ear quite easily.

I am not musical at all and wondered whether this level is too low to do GCSE Music? His music teacher said he should ideally be grade 3 level but thinks he will cope.

Anyone whose DC has taken GSCE Music and how hard is it?

He's got to chose now for Year 9 and I don't want him taking this if he will really struggle and could chose another option, ie. geography or 2nd language.


MTSCostcoChickenFan Sat 04-May-13 22:03:28

I am obviously talking about the performance component.

BestIsWest Sat 04-May-13 22:04:00

I think enjoyment of your subject is key. Both mine took/are taking Music GCSE because they loved it. Both have said the composition part is the hardest. DD didn't play an instrument (not properly anyway, she could strum a guitar a bit) but sang for the performance part. She got a B. DS does play and well.

Startail Sat 04-May-13 22:13:32

No I don't think you can decide if a grade one pianist will be good enough or enjoy music enough in Y7 to do GCSE music.

As other posters have said just being a competent performer isn't enough, you really do have to enjoy music. DD sings in both school choirs and a church group. She happily gives up three day of half term to do a county workshop. Often she sings for no good reason, it's just what she does.

The ensemble performances rely on a have a good, willing to try something different attitude and enthusiastic supportive staff.

Does the school do good concerts, are their lots of lunch time groups. Is there rock, jazz, pop, different instrument groups not just classical orchestra. Go to a concert and judge for yourself the standard of the pupils and the enthusiasm of the staff.

If your DS 'likes' practicing, is happy to accompany other musicians and have a stab at singing or other instruments then great. If he just plods through his grades to please Mum and put them on his UCAS form I'd be loathed to do GCSE.

Like art and drama, GCSE music is more than simply a grade it needs to fit what makes you tick or it will not end well.

Viewofthehills Sat 04-May-13 22:17:37

DD is in yr 10 now doing music. All of the composition is now done in controlled assessment at school, none at home. She is on track for an A or A*, but it is still not an easy subject. The listening paper is also reckoned to be difficult.

gobbin Sat 04-May-13 23:40:39

The expected standard for a pupil to achieve an A* in the Performing element at GCSE is a grade 3/4 piece played with excellent accuracy and interpretation. In Edexcel they need to get 27/30 or more to achieve this. If they offer a harder piece, this is scaled so a lower mark on first marking will be scaled up a few marks (there's a scaling grid) accordingly.

What some people won't appreciate is that GCSE Music was designed for your average kid to be able to access the course following Key Stage 3 lessons plus peri instrumental tuition from age 11. The fact that most kids doing Music have private instrumental lessons and have had them for years, often with Theory exams as a bonus, means that many schools put a 'minimum access tariff' on the course (e.g. 'You can't do Music unless you're Grade 5 on your instrument').

This goes totally against the spirit of the course, although with pressures of a results-driven education system I can understand why schools do it. We don't - we're inclusive, but also cater for the elite.

Oh, and anyone whose teachers are allowing pupils to do composition work outside the classroom and bring it in are in danger of being busted if they get inspected by their exam board. All composition work is supervised coursework and they're not allowed to take it off site.

Tingalingle Sun 05-May-13 08:52:08

Gobbin -- that's worrying me a bit. DS writes songs bloody endlessly when he should be doing other things and assures me that his teacher has said he can base some of his composition on one he's already written.

Should I be more suspicious about this?

Moominmammacat Sun 05-May-13 08:56:14

He doesn't actually have to take music exams ... just learn a couple of Grade 3 pieces.

stillenacht Sun 05-May-13 09:03:24

As Gobbin says smile

gobbin Sun 05-May-13 09:03:59

Tingalingle they can develop ideas anywhere, anytime, so your son thinking/singing at home is fine.

What they aren't allowed to do is begin writing it up in school (longhand or Sibelius etc.) take it home to continue writing it up via usb stick or manuscript then bring it back to school.

All the work done on a composition must be identifiably their own. If it's left the school then the teacher cannot know who else has worked on it or given assistance.

stillenacht Sun 05-May-13 09:05:30

However one point regarding composition we do OCR and you can work on compositional IDEAS outside the classroom

stillenacht Sun 05-May-13 09:06:27

Gobbin you and I..same hymn sheet ;)

gobbin Sun 05-May-13 09:11:22

Yeah stillenacht same for Edexcel and WJEC. Just not the actual printed/written doc that is being submitted for marking.

circular Sun 05-May-13 11:05:02

That sounds exactly like it was structured for DD1 with Edexcel Gobbin. On hindsight, it looks like they were trying to steer those that were weaker academically or could not read music to the Btec Performing Arts.

They were told for performances that it was not worth going above grade 5 as the maximum difficulty marks were fir grade 5 standard.

DD expected to be weak at co position as no imagination. She found doing her Grade 5 theory last summer helped, and was lucky in that the co pulsars composition was minimalist which she did on Garage Band. She scraped an A* in that, and was advised to do her second composition on Garage Band also.

Runfor Just realised your DS is choosing options to start in tear 9. Does that mean they chose some each year and do a one year course? (I know some schools do this) If so, would it be possible to wait a year and chose music next year if still keen?

Also, don't underestimate the time that Music takes up, and at least me extra curricular activity is likely to be compulsory, most will do more.
Is he likely to be taking any other practical subjects that would also have a high workload - Art, Tech subject, textiles?

RussiansOnTheSpree Sun 05-May-13 13:08:59

Stillenacht (helige nacht?) - DD1 did her creative task for OCR this week. It was done from a prompt, and is was exactly like an exam, done to time and invigilated. You could use ideas that are in your brain but that's it.

Schmedz Sun 05-May-13 14:36:47

Gobbin..does that mean that a child who plays a grade 3 piece to an excellent standard will get the same grade as someone who plays a much higher grade piece to an excellent standard? Even if the child who got to a higher grade started learning at age 11?

I think it is commendable to encourage all musical abilities to take the course (after all, isn't it designed to teach and improve skills...if not, then what is the point?). It is just I also think that A* should surely be reserved for a few outstanding performers otherwise what does it really mean? I happen to think that achieving an A or B in a really rigorous course is actually pretty fantastic and would be very proud if either of my DCs managed this (but with a quality grade 4 as A* performance standard then my 10 year old should have done her GCSE Music already... and she is certainly not that unusual at her school in her musical experience...)

OP should certainly not worry that her child won't be able to manage the course because he has clear self motivation to start an instrument and work to passing his first exam already. That self motivation will get him through anything he puts his mind to and will ensure he will achieve to the best of his ability.

webwiz Sun 05-May-13 15:05:52

Schmedz the performance element is only a small part of the course so being able to perform a solo piece perfectly while being recorded is worth 15% of the GCSE (thats edexcel I don't know about the others). Don't knock it as a task there are specific criteria that you are marked against and it can be a nerve racking experience.

Overall for the specification DS is taking you have to be able to do a solo performance, perform in an ensemble, produce two compositions and take a final listening paper which seems to cover the entire history of music as far as I can see. To get an A* you have to be pretty good at all the requirements.

Schmedz Sun 05-May-13 15:43:09

I have little recent experience of what the GCSE course involves, now being a JS music teacher, so am very aware that performance is only one component and there are a number of modules which are taken, with set works studied. I was just shocked to learn that the 'grading' of performance required for an A* in that particular component is so low, especially as I am acutely aware of the skills required to give an outstanding performance.
I have no doubt of the musical skills required to gain an outstanding mark for the other components or the fact that top marks across the board are required.

gobbin Sun 05-May-13 15:57:16

Schmedz as Webwiz said it's actually very challenging for a pupil to achieve A* across all three components and those that do I would consider to be talented. In Edexcel you have to achieve 90% plus to get an A* on each component...not an easy task.

When marking a pupil playing a harder piece they are marked against the standard criteria and then scaled up a few marks to account for difficulty. A Grade 5 player can drop a few marks for inaccuracies or a pretty dull performance and regain them on the scaling. A Grade 3 player who drops a few marks stays on that mark, if you see what I mean. However, the system was designed that a Grade 3 player can achieve full marks.

Again, remember that GCSE was designed for kids like mine, in a comp in the south Wales valleys where many rely on the peri service for their 1/2 hr (often shared) lesson per week and music tuition via school lessons, not just those having private prac/theory lessons.

Tingalingle Sun 05-May-13 16:04:52

Gobbin -- thanks!

RussiansOnTheSpree Sun 05-May-13 18:10:13

This is something I have seen on other threads too - this implication that private lessons and peri lessons are qualitatively different. Not in this part of the country, they aren't. Nor in the London borough where I grew up. The only difference is, you don't miss eg French if you are having a lesson outside school. My kids all have a mixture of private and peri lessons for their many instruments and there is no practical, financial or qualitative difference between either type of lesson. And all of the people who teach them work as both peris and give private lessons as well (and most of them also give lessons in the posh schools. And one of them is the main tutor on that instrument for the regional conservatoire scheme).

gobbin Sun 05-May-13 18:35:06

I hope I'm not giving the impression that our peri staff deliver a poorer service than private colleagues. I'm making the point that PUPILS are up against it in terms of making progress when the system/funding is often against them.

Ours are amazing and are capable of wonderful things in the time constraints in school, like getting children from nothing to Grade 5 on cello in 2.5 years and many Grade 6 - 8 candidates on short or shared lessons. We work as a very close knit team and most also run an ensemble for us too, feeding into the County system.

webwiz Sun 05-May-13 21:08:31

My DCs have had instrumental lessons with both private and peri teachers and peri ones are just infinitely worse than private ones. Again nothing to do with the quality of the teachers but the missing bit of lessons is just a pain. We had several battles with teachers who refused to let DD1 leave their class for her piano lesson, DD2's paired flute lesson when the other girl arrived at random times during the lesson and the big fuss that DS's drama teacher made about the scheduling of his singing lessons to clash with controlled assessments for several weeks running.

DS's guitar teacher has been coming to the house once a week for half an hour for the past 6 years and there is no added complications. He's cheaper than the school music service as well.

BellaVita Sun 05-May-13 21:36:39

DS1 (yr11) chose music. Back in Dec we got his review through from school - he was given an E. When it came to his parent consultation evening, everything was going swimmingly until our appt time for the music teacher and DS burst into tears and said we were not going to like what the teacher had to say. Actually, his music teacher was lovely and we discovered that DS didn't like the subject even though he loved it in years 7, 8 and 9.

With a lot of extra work and some help he is now on track for a C. I told him we would be happy with whatever happened as long as he tried his best.

RussiansOnTheSpree Sun 05-May-13 21:46:31

Webwiz - even if the peri teachers you have had have been poor (and it is by no means clear from what you've said that the fault lies with the peris - it sounds to me as though the fault lies with the school) - that still doesn't mean that all peris are poor. As I said, in the two places I have experienced music tuition - the London borough I grew up in, and the place I live now, hundreds of miles away - there isn't a split between peris and private teachers. Private teachers are also peris. Peris are also private teachers. And so on.

Gobbin - you did seem to be casting learning an instrument at school in a poor light, yes, even though you didn't explicitly criticize the quality of the peris, you criticized the quality of the experience. And as I said I have seen many many similar and worse comments on a variety of threads from a variety of teachers (some wishing to push the idea that music in private schools is always better than music at state schools, some wishing to promote the idea that peris are terrible and that learning privately out of school is the only way to go). Many of my friends are instrumental teachers (as part of their career portfolios) and it really annoys me to see sweeping, rude and negative comments about an entire profession.

RussiansOnTheSpree Sun 05-May-13 21:47:54

Variety of posters, sorry. Not teachers. I don't think I have seen any instrumental teachers criticising peris.

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