Music at Keystage 4

Use Rockschool to... Support GCSE Preparation

New specifications at GCSE have opened up the options and flexibility for music teaching at keystage 4.

But how can we support all of the different kinds of music student, and all their various abilities and interests? And what support is out there for teachers to do this?

OCR get asked all the time:

  • How to choose performance pieces for coursework?
  • What kind of score has to be submitted?
  • Where can we find these?
  • What teaching tools are there to help with composition and theory?
  • How do we make the case for Music as a valuable subject at options evenings?

Rockschool graded exam pieces at all levels, and the materials that support them, can be used to support preparation for GCSE and key stage 4 Music assessments.

Rockschool have ready-to-go resources that can inform lesson planning and lesson content and save time for teachers.

Below explains how RSL have mapped Rockschool graded pieces to the GCSE examination board OCR GCSE difficulty criteria and how Rockschool can support composing and listening, using Grade 3 as an example.

MAPPING MUSIC AT KEY STAGE 4 DOCUMENT DOWNLOAD

Using Rockschool Grades can support GCSE preparation in a number of areas:

Solo Performance

  • OCR suggest that Rockschool pieces at Grade 3 can exhibit the level of challenge to achieve higher marks for the difficulty criteria within GCSE music
  • The resources supplied by Rockschool mean students can learn their pieces with or without the support of a private tutor
  • Backing tracks available and the written score provide all the necessary material for submission to meet the GCSE requirements
  • Backing tracks and audio can be used to learn pieces by ear

Ensemble Performance

  • Adding extra live performers to the Rockschool pieces makes them suitable for ensemble submission
  • OCR suggests that the score provided in the Rockschool pieces is suitable for submission for all instruments involved in the ensemble
  • The backing tracks can be used as a resource for students preparing their individual parts

Composition

  • Improvisation elements within the Rockschool Graded syllabuses are a stimulus to support composing activities in the classroom
  • The RockSchool quick study pieces at Grades 6 to 8 can be used to support students’ stylistic awareness as they prepare their composition skills

Listening

  • General Musicianship questions that feature at all Rockschool grades help prepare students for the listening exam elements of the GCSE qualification. OCR’s listening exam features unprepared questions that reflects the Rockschool approach.
  • Factfiles that accompany Rockschool pieces focus learners towards the understanding Style and Context required at GCSE
  • Walkthroughs that accompany Rockschool pieces help learner identify musical characteristic and improves their aural perception
  • Consider using the Rockschool’s popular music theory workbooks

Summary

The integrated approach to teaching music can really immerse the student in their learning.

Really understanding their performance pieces increases understanding of composition, style and context, and musical knowledge that be transferred to the listening exam.

Linking classroom teaching to instrumental teaching can provide many benefits. Students preparing with instrument teachers can use their exam pieces for their GCSE coursework. Equally, students who learn pieces from Rockschool’s syllabi for their GCSE performances could be entered for a grade certificate as well. This added value can improve perception of Music as a subject and double the sense of achievement for students.

Progression can be mapped too - using the grade 1 and 2 syllabus pieces and books and moving up to 3, then 4 - the above principles can all be applied. You can choose the grade that meets your students’ abilities.

Identifying difficulty:

OCR does not specifically state graded exam standards for GCSE performances; instead, 6 of the 30 marks for each performance are for difficulty.

When determining a mark out of 6 for difficulty bear in mind the advice on page 50 of the OCR specification; briefly, the way is a piece is executed can affect the difficulty – adding or embellishing; reducing or simplifying. Don’t only use the score as the artefact to determine the difficulty. Use of best fit also applies!

These are guidelines based on the skills demonstrated as in the printed Rock School books and the accompanying CDs.

The full difficulty descriptors for OCR can be found in the specification from page 50.

Mapped Pieces From Grade 3

Piano

Otis Redding - Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay from Piano Grade 3 contains the following that reflects the characteristics in the higher mark descriptors of the OCR difficulty criteria:

  • Pitch: a more difficult key; more difficult melody in range and/or leaps
  • Duration: rhythmically more difficult
  • Dynamics: clear dynamic contrasts*
  • Tempo: use of tempo requiring more control and/or dexterity*
  • Timbre: sensitivity of touch; use of pedal(s)
  • Texture: addition of polyphony and/or homophony and consideration of its complexity, e.g. independence of hands
  • Structure: the addition of contrasting sections or new demands
  • Phrasing: appropriate articulation and sensitivity of touch highlights the musical shape of the piece*
  • Style: more complex in its requirements
  • The assessed part has increased difficulty and independence in relation to any other parts
  • A wide range of notes, and more difficult leaps; requires changes in hand position
  • Use of syncopated, dotted or other complex rhythms
  • Use of dynamic contrast, including gradation of volume*
  • Some independence of parts

*(would need to be listened for as part of the performance as no specific markings on the score – students will need to ensure they can demonstrate this)

Electronic Keyboard (Using the chords as above the stave)

Otis Redding - Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay from Piano Grade 3 contains the following that reflects the characteristics in the higher mark descriptors of the OCR difficulty criteria:

  • Pitch: a more difficult key; more difficult melody in range and/or leaps
  • Duration: rhythmically more difficult; quicker chord changes*
  • Tempo: requires more control and/or dexterity*
  • Timbre: good use/control of sound bank*
  • Texture: more complex chords; fingered chords
  • Structure: the addition of contrasting sections or new demands; use of fill-ins
  • Phrasing: appropriate articulation and control of touch sensitivity to create the musical shape of the piece*
  • Style: more complex in its requirements
  • The assessed part has increased difficulty and independence in relation to any other parts
  • A wide range of notes and changes in hand position; use of harmony in the right hand
  • Complex rhythmic patterns, such as syncopation and/or dotted rhythms
  • Quicker chord changes and a wider range of chords
  • Challenges posed by the speed of the part
  • A good use of the technology is required*
  • Dynamic contrast through touch sensitivity and registration changes*

*(would need to be listened for as part of the performance as no specific markings on the score – students will need to ensure they can demonstrate this)

Drums (Using the Untuned Percussion descriptors)

Santana’s Smooth, from Drums Grade 3, contains the following that reflects the characteristics in the higher mark descriptors of the OCR difficulty criteria:

  • Duration: rhythmically more difficult; use of rolls, flams and other rudiments
  • Dynamics: clear dynamic range and contrasts*
  • Tempo: requires more control and/or dexterity
  • Timbre: use of the different timbres available from the instrument
  • Texture: the number of sound sources used and consideration of their complexity
  • Structure: the addition of contrasting sections or new demands
  • Phrasing: appropriate articulation and stick/ hand control to create the musical shape of the piece*
  • Style: more complex in its requirements.
  • A part requiring rhythmical dexterity; perhaps more dotted rhythms, and some syncopation
  • Good use of dynamic contrast through effective control of drumsticks (or hand and finger dexterity), including gradation of volume*
  • Use of syncopated, dotted or other complex rhythms
  • Challenges posed by the speed of the part
  • Contrasting sections, perhaps including an improvisatory section
  • The assessed part has significant difficulty and independence in relation to any other parts

*(would need to be listened for as part of the performance as no specific markings on the score – students will need to ensure they can demonstrate this)

Guitar

Creedence Clear Water Revival - Proud Mary from Guitar Grade 3 contains the following that reflects the characteristics in the higher mark descriptors of the OCR difficulty criteria:

(Use the chords style / classical style descriptors and cross reference to apply to the different types and styles of guitar)

  • Pitch: a more difficult key; more difficult chords
  • Duration: more frequent chord changes; more complicated rhythm
  • Dynamics: clear dynamic range and contrasts*
  • Tempo: requires more control and/or dexterity
  • Timbre: use of the different timbres available from the instrument
  • Texture: density of the chords; more intricate strumming
  • Structure: the addition of contrasting sections or new demands
  • Phrasing: strumming patterns and articulation indicate the musical shape of the piece*
  • Style: more complex in its requirements
  • The assessed part has increased difficulty and independence in relation to any other parts
  • A part in a more difficult key, with modulations
  • A wide range of chords, including extension chords
  • A dynamic contrasts including gradations in volume*
  • Use of syncopated, dotted or other complex rhythms
  • Requires left-hand dexterity - chord changes are more rapid and complex; position changes are frequent and use a wide range of the fret board
  • A range of right-hand techniques are evident, thus showing a range of articulation and some challenging rhythmic accompaniment figurations

*(would need to be listened for as part of the performance as no specific markings on the score – students will need to ensure they can demonstrate this)

Acoustic Guitar

Ed Sheeran - Thinking Out Loud from Acoustic Guitar Grade 3 contains the following that reflects the characteristics in the higher mark descriptors of the OCR difficulty criteria:

(use the chords style / classical style descriptors and cross reference to apply to the different types and styles of guitar)

  • Pitch: a more difficult key; more difficult in range and/or leaps; some position work
  • Duration: rhythmically more difficult
  • Dynamics*: clear dynamic range and contrasts
  • Tempo: requires more control and/or dexterity
  • Timbre: use of the different timbres available from the instrument
  • Texture: addition of polyphony and/or homophony and consideration of its complexity
  • Structure: the addition of contrasting sections or new demands
  • Phrasing: use of appropriate articulation to create the musical shape of the piece*
  • Style: more complex in its requirements
  • The assessed part has increased difficulty and independence in relation to any other parts
  • A wide range of notes with frequent leaps
  • Use of syncopated, dotted or other complex rhythms
  • Dynamic contrast and gradation of volume is required*
  • The addition of an independent second part and/or chords
  • Requires left-hand dexterity – position changes are frequent and use a wide range of the fret board
  • A range of right-hand techniques are evident, thus showing a range of articulation and phrasing

*(would need to be listened for as part of the performance as no specific markings on the score – students will need to ensure they can demonstrate this)

Bass Guitar

Dire Straits - Money for Nothing from Bass Grade 3 contains the following that reflects the characteristics in the higher mark descriptors of the OCR difficulty criteria:

(use the chords style / classical style descriptors and cross reference to apply to the different types and styles of guitar)

  • Pitch: a more difficult key; more difficult in range and/or leaps; some position work
  • Duration: rhythmically more difficult
  • Dynamics*: clear dynamic range and contrasts
  • Tempo: requires more control and/or dexterity
  • Timbre: use of the different timbres available from the instrument
  • Texture: addition of polyphony and/or homophony and consideration of its complexity
  • Structure: the addition of contrasting sections or new demands
  • Phrasing: use of appropriate articulation to create the musical shape of the piece*
  • Style: more complex in its requirements
  • The assessed part has increased difficulty and independence in relation to any other parts
  • A wide range of notes with frequent leaps
  • Use of syncopated, dotted or other complex rhythms
  • Dynamic contrast and gradation of volume is required*
  • Requires left-hand dexterity – position changes are frequent and use a wide range of the fret board
  • A range of right-hand techniques are evident, thus showing a range of articulation and phrasing

*(would need to be listened for as part of the performance as no specific markings on the score – students will need to ensure they can demonstrate this)

Voice

Taylor Swift - 22 from Female Vocals Grade 3 contains the following that reflects the characteristics in the higher mark descriptors of the OCR difficulty criteria:

  • Pitch: more difficult melody in terms of range and/or leaps
  • Duration: rhythmically more difficult
  • Dynamics: clear dynamic range and contrasts*
  • Tempo: greater breath control to sustain a slower pace, or the technical dexterity to articulate a faster moving part
  • Timbre: good tone and expressive control of the sounds across the vocal range
  • Structure: the addition of contrasting sections or new demands
  • Phrasing: use of vocal technique, diction and breath control to create the musical shape of the piece*
  • Style: more complex in its requirements
  • Increased difficulty in relation to other parts e.g. lack of support from any accompaniment present
  • The assessed part has increased difficulty and independence in relation to any other parts
  • A part with a wider range of notes (beyond a 10th), and some leaps, resulting in challenges in pitching and intonation
  • Use of syncopated, dotted or other complex rhythms
  • Use of dynamic contrast, including gradation of volume*
  • Good breath control to sustain and phrase a slow-moving melody, or challenges posed by the speed of the part and therefore requiring vocal dexterity
  • Clear use of phrasing with a range of articulation

*(would need to be listened for as part of the performance as no specific markings on the score – students will need to ensure they can demonstrate this)

Music Production

GCSE requires learners to:

  • Perform with technical control, expression and interpretation
  • Compose and develop musical ideas with technical control and coherence
  • Demonstrate and apply musical knowledge
  • Use appraising skills to make evaluative and critical judgements about music

Rockschool's Music Production Grade Three exam syllabus:

  • Creating and using audio loops and MIDI, both live and programmed. Using compression, gating, limiting, expanding
  • Creating a piece of music in 16-bar sections from a short rhythmic loop, adding a given chord sequence, own melody, bass-line and additional percussive elements. Using music technology to create dynamics and balance
  • DAW functions, including templates, markers, bounce, piano roll/MIDI editors, quantise. Recognition of staff notation, including triplets in 4/4
  • Demonstrate understanding of the inter-related dimensions through practical task. Creation, use and advantages of audio loops. Using compression, gating, limiting, expanding, EQ, panning to affect dynamics, balance, depth and stereo field. Recognise and use major, natural minor and blues scale
  • Stylistic features of Pop, Rock, Reggae and Soul

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