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Another options question - music?

(27 Posts)
OhYouBadBadKitten Sat 15-Feb-14 18:54:57

We've not had dds options booklet yet but as everyone else is asking questions I'd get mine in grin

Dd is considering gcse music. How hard is it really to get an a/a*? I know it sounds like an awfully pushy question but she has high ambitions and needs really good grades.

She is pretty musical but better at theory than music exams. She does play 3 instruments. The bit she's worried about most is the listening element.

Thanks smile

KatyMac Sat 15-Feb-14 19:14:17

DD is not very musical - she doesn't play any instrument other than a Djembe & she did GCSE in a year & got a B

OhYouBadBadKitten Sat 15-Feb-14 19:17:56

Thanks Katy smile shows its doable then. I think she'd enjoy it, composes for fun. No idea why I'm musing on it on a Saturday night!

KatyMac Sat 15-Feb-14 19:43:17

DD sings & keeps timing/rhythm well (obviously) but she's not dramatically academic. She got C in Geog & Spanish & Science all last summer & a DD for Dance the year before

Who knows what Eng Lit, Eng Lang & Maths will be this year (all that really matters) with Business, Additional Science (GCSE) & Drama (BTEC) as well


gobbin Sat 15-Feb-14 19:57:33

For an A/A* she needs to be Grade 3 minimum on instrument or voice and be able to play accurately and with attention to all the details (dynamics, articulation etc.)
For the composing part, she needs to be creative (and able to use simple conventions) when composing. For the listening exam she will need to understand the elements of music in depth and know either a bit about certain styles in general or a lot about a set number of piece (depending on which board she's doing).

All the boards have particular topics or styles they need to know about for the listening exam but each board has different ones they focus on.

Picturesinthefirelight Sat 15-Feb-14 20:07:13

Do you really only need to be Grade 3. I got a B many moons ago (grade 4) & was told that to get an A you needed to be at last Grade 5

Dd is only year 7 but already thinks shed like to do GCSE music. She is Grade 1 piano & is doing Grade 3 singing this year but she is very strong on aural & composition.

OhYouBadBadKitten Sat 15-Feb-14 20:18:26

Shows how unpredictable it can be Katy. Blimey!

Thanks Gobbin. Do music theory exams have any crossover with it? I think it is the listening element that is a complete unknown quantity. She plays in local and school orchestras.

stillenacht Sat 15-Feb-14 20:29:23

A very good pupil can get A with lots of natural composition ability, a confident and polished performance of a piece (anything from grade 2 up) and a solid performance on the listening paper. I've had a fair number of self taught guitarists and singers-with no ABRSM Certs to their name, get As but they are all naturally talented in composition and have worked hard in the listening too.

Theory is important in GCSE but not as important as aural understanding and understanding of compositional devices and keywords associated with the area of study. I tell parents that a good distinction at grade 4 is the equivalent of a GCSE grade A* in the performance (only the solo-worth 15%).In every syllabus though the quality of the performance (ie how polished it is) is FAR more important than the ABRSM grade it is.

Picturesinthefirelight Sat 15-Feb-14 21:00:30

Back in my day there used to be something called a difficulty multiplying factor. Is that still the case?

circular Sat 15-Feb-14 21:16:40

DD1 did GCSE Music last year, was told min performance standard was a Grade 3, with extra marks being awarded for more difficult pieces, up to maximum Grade 5. To get full marks on a Grade 3 piece, it would have to be played perfectly, so a better bet to play Grade 4 or 5, but absolutely no point going for anything more difficult.

Music is her thing, but she is weaker at composition, not creative, but found theory skills helpful to be able to tick all, the boxes. There wasn't really much theory involved in the analysis, she tells me even at AS the theory questions are only about Grade 3.

In the end, her lowest mark was the written paper (A) but with full marks on performance (for a grade 5 solo and grade 4/5 ensemble piece) and low A* in the composition, she did get A* overall.
Seems it's about trying to bag the marks in your strongest element, as most are not good at all three.

Best1sWest Sat 15-Feb-14 21:30:15

Mine both found the listening paper vey hard. DD got a B with A grades for the solo and ensemble pieces. DS is year 11 and has also done ok in the performances but hates composition and had better get his act together if he's going to get anything at all for the listening paper judging by his mock result.

OhYouBadBadKitten Sun 16-Feb-14 08:48:07

It sounds like a pretty tough gcse as it tests such a wide spread of skills.

BirdintheWings Sun 16-Feb-14 16:46:40

I think 'at least grade 3' might be a guide to the standard at the point of choosing the GCSE rather than for the exam two years later, but schools vary on this.

DS here is also year 11 and found the first composition very hard, but has just breezily submitted a song with guitar accompaniment for the second one (which is the sort of thing he dreams up instead of working).

He did a grade 6 piece for the solo, largely because he'd just got full marks on it for the grade exam the month before at didn't feel like brushing up an earlier one.

BirdintheWings Sun 16-Feb-14 16:46:49

at = and.

stillenacht Sun 16-Feb-14 19:56:52

I have been teaching GCSE music for 20 years... Distinction level grade 3 piece is certainly an A in the performance exam. Grade 6 is actually the second difficulty level out of three for AS

stillenacht Sun 16-Feb-14 20:01:31

I have pupils that get As on grade 3s and As playing grade 6s. It really depends on the fluency, musicality, appropriate tempo, rhythms and articulations played. I have also had pupils and parents ignore my advice and play grade 7 pieces which they are not mature enough to play competently and the pupil loses marks to the extent one particular pupil got 22/30 (a grade B) but if this pupil had taken my advice and played a grade 4/5 piece beautifully he/she would have got 30/30.

Ferguson Sun 16-Feb-14 22:30:17

I don't have personal experience of these finer points, except that our DS got A* GCSE, and also did 'A' level music, fifteen years ago. I remember he had to know about the styles of Classical composers, and write passages in certain styles I think.

He was 'into' jazz much more than Classical, playing alto sax in school and county jazz bands. He also played keyboard, and went back to his early piano teacher to 'swot up' for the exams.

A proper understanding of the harmonic series, cycle of fifths etc is also useful, and I do mean UNDERSTANDING, and not just rote learning. I used to imagine 'harmony' was something dreamed up by early composers many hundreds of years ago, when in fact it is a natural result of the laws of PHYSICS of sound generation.

I would assume listening to as wide a range of music as possible, mainly Classical but also other genres, would be essential.

Maybe stillenacht can point people in the right direction for web sites on these topics? [PS: looked at your 'Profile', and concur your music tastes, with the exception of Amy: never did get on with her, Sorry!]

circular Mon 17-Feb-14 09:22:16

Ferguson Agree Re the physics. No confidence that the scientists in DD1s GCSE music group did the best. And over half in AS group taking physics and/or maths too.

Stillnacht The AS performance seems to be a totally different ball game. DD1's group mostly G7 or G8 level, all been told to do G6 standard pieces. Although working towards G8 now, she has kept G6 pieces going, one of which was full marks in G6 at the time. Very disappointed in recent performance mock marks, whole class were.

stillenacht Mon 17-Feb-14 09:56:45

Unfortunately performance at AS/A2 can be subjective (not so much as composition). My pupils all perform pieces of grade 6/7 standard and most get around 36-40/40, as long as the pieces are flawless, interpreted well and musically interesting.

stillenacht Mon 17-Feb-14 09:59:18

The problem with keeping pieces going (I have seen this) is that pieces can become stale, lose their spark. Also a 30/30 on an ABRSM doesn't equate to a 40/40 with Edexcel (our exam board). We have asked most years for remarks in performance (and more so in composition).smile

treas Mon 17-Feb-14 10:56:46

My ds had to pick his options last year (yr8) as school start introducing gcse in yr9.

He chose music, his teachers said that he should do well as he is good at composition.

He plays piano / keyboard and has only been 'taught' by his grandmother who is not a 'real' piano teacher.

He has done no grades at all so we don't have any idea what grade he is playing at, but now in Yr9 he is being graded A/A* for his work and he has another 2 years to go before the exams.

Theas18 Mon 17-Feb-14 11:19:01

If she's a capable performer with good theory and I assume a classical music background I think she's going to find it a relaxing subject and get an A/A*.

My 3 have found it easy - but the composition hardest I think. If you listen/perform a lot the listening paper isn't hard. However they were all doing maybe 10-12hrs/week or more of non school music at that stage LOL

Mine haven't "kept pieces going" but have worked up a new repertoire program specifically of stuff that isn't exam syllabus material. Partly to keep them engaged but also as a specific plan (with the teacher) to avoid the examiner heart sink feeling of " this again.... I heard it better last week"..

OhYouBadBadKitten Mon 17-Feb-14 13:05:42

Really interesting to read everyone's thoughts, thank you. She is a good performer, but has had a tendency to let nerves get in the way of exams.

I think shes going to have to take a bit of a leap of faith. Other academic subjects I think you know where you stand much more.

circular Tue 18-Feb-14 07:58:04

Theas18 The separate repertoire works well if it's an outside examiner (as in OCR syllabus), as they do hear so many.
But when its initially teacher assessed (EDEXCEL) almost safer with grade pieces.
For GCSE DD had an unusual ensemble piece that the teachers didn't know, and had to fight to get it classified as a more difficult piece.

Theas18 Tue 18-Feb-14 12:52:05

Interesting point circular. Yup we are OCR

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