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took attention away from the marimba melody, and before to om e dr he

different noises, the only proviso being that we stuck to crotchets and quavers and did not do anything which y, and before too long we had a very interesting percussion part.part

added a few extra rhythmic sounds as re ti


as the piece th

piece wore on. The class had quite a lot of fun playing otche

fu t y inter esting rcussion dents that empty spaces (i.e. bar Later

The bass player in my Year 10 set the sugYear 10 set the suggested that the drum part needed to have a bass part. We agreed, and I suggested that the bass part could also add some interesting rhythms to the mix. I also showed the stu- e selected

a synth-bass sound (to go with the synth-pad sound that was playing the chords) and, again, experimented with each of the three notes. The B and F wer bass par became

(i.e. rests) in the bass par with

i B

bar. Later the bass part became more constant, and by bringing the various rhythm and bass parts in at differ- ent times (reinforcing the important point that texture needs to be built slowly over time) we found that we now had a good fifty seconds of effective music.

ee notes. The B and F were used, alternately,, at first just to emphasise the first beat of they at first just to emphasise the first beat of the ff

par built slowly over time) we found that we now KS5KS4

After 50 or so seconds of the mp3, you will be able to detect quite a big change in the demo piece. What actu- ally happened was that at first we simply built the two ideas up in ABABINTRODUCT

On listening through, however, and prompted by some open questions from me, more than one of the students commented that the piece became a little boring and predictable once all the parts were playing.

I suggested that we might look at one more trick to ‘spice up’ the composition at the 50-second mark, whichion at the 50-second mark, which we agreed was the point that the piece became predictable. We listened to a small selection of ch

from one of the students’ phones to see what other writers do to avoid thisthis I oblem woul would like to share one such idea that I have used with great results over the past few years, which is down what happened approximately two-thirds of the way through each effective

song from becoming boring.

Simon Rushby is director of music at Reigate Grammar School, and has taught music in secondary schools for over 20 years. He has also been a Prin- cipal Examiner for A level music, and has written many articles and books including Rhinegold’s GCSE Listening Tests Book 4. He is also a song- writer whose songs have been released by major artists around the world


ch song we levelling theng th include those who hav

on. problem. I o hear

levelli Various ideas came out of this brief listening session, including:

 A key change (difficult when you only have three notes to play with)  An instrumental solo, or significant new instrument coming in  A sudden change in tempo or texture


Jane Werry is direc- tor of music and an AST at Hayes School in Bromley. She is also an A-level mod- erator for OCR and a freelance soprano

ce sop

There is a Spotify playlist here contain- ing all the tracks mentioned in this article.

A Christmas compendium of lesson ideas A Chr by Jane WerryWe INTRODUCT ON

You may well find yourself at the end of this ter t m with one or two lessons ‘lefeftt over’ after yo the



the holidays beckoning, beckoning, so her themed lesso

e beckoning Christmas ove as c ver version

jazz version of O Come versio k

ns. be to k ons

azz version f O Come All Y Faithful, which is really interesting to compare with Twisted Sister’s heavy metalSisters heavy metal version. Ask them what their definition of cover version would be and whether they can name any other well- known cover versions. Get them to brainstorm all the ways they can think of that the music o th or the original could ely that they will say change the style – in which case you will need to get ings like this

As the class come in to the room, play a cover version of a Christmas ca o jazz version of O Come All Ye Faithful, which is really interesting to compar m

o defi ii d th

be changed to make a cover.r It is likely to think i


 Change the instruments  Slow it down or speed it upow  Make it higher or lower

Change the instruments Slo

ke gh o

 Change some of the pitches  Change the rhythm

Change the rhythm

 Makeke the time signature different  Change the structure

erent nge th fe ucture

 Change it from major to minor or vice versa  Put in different acc

inor or vice ersa erent accompaniment patterns

tion or format your students or two lessons This selectionhis sele nt tito include help

ttion or two lessons. essons. material il

Have a selection of Christmas music to hand for students to choose as their stimulus, written inas music to hand for students to choose as their stimu ell-known par ist s probablyro


ents find most accessible Th accessible. The chorus or a well-known of traditional carol

s fin traditional car straightforward and more complex as suits your students.

material will help students to feel motivated, rd

d more com l

and you c r student

you want to include mor modern Christmas songs or different forms of notation. Having a choice of stimulus otivatedt

e moder C ristm

ro tunes a e in the easiest possible keys, ot ti

nes are in the easiest possible keys re

ent el moti ated, and you can have a no a mixtur la ry

ulus, written in whatever nota- sufficient for on

s ffi ne

ys, but you may decide h i

decide can have a mixture of traditional andl and contemporary,

 Understanding the tonal implications of the melody: the tonic key needs to be recognised (is it major or minor?), and also the keys to which the melody modulates in its middle phrases

 Using good cadences: the end of each phrase needs to be identified and harmonised with a successful and appropriate cadence

 Writing strong harmonic progressions: in front of each cadence there should be confident harmonic writing that is both suitably consonant and with a sense of progression towards the tonal centre of the cadence at the end of the phrase

 Constructing appropriate voice parts: each of the lower parts needs to have a good shape, with no awkward intervals; in addition the combination of the four lines needs to create a well-balanced texture and avoid parallel 5ths and octaves

The Briefs paper (available on 1 November each year) provides a 16-bar melody, similar to a hymn tune, which includes a series of short phrases. Candidates are required to harmonise the melody by adding three lower parts. Important aspects of the task are:

QUESTION 1: HARMONISATION OF A MELODY What the question involves


co r

ld them to think in morere detail what this entails. Hopefully they will come up with things like this: what this entails. Hopefully they il

they will H

y will come up with things like this 1

This article provides teachers with a series step-by-step worksheets to guide students through all the details of technique required for success in the two questions of this brief.

Music Teacher November 2011

he way th c

y i

carol. I particularly like Chet Baker’s Tw

wisted Si n

yo ill ell

nly because h ning

r themed lessons that you can use or adapt with any Key Stage 3 classes.

ion th

the top of the texture, but this exercise helps pupils to see the harmonic possibilities at each melodic moment. whil

are finished, mainly because the autumn term is so loo long. Perhaps you do not want to start a new project with h re is a collection of ideas for fun yet wor hwrtthwhile one-offf (or two-off)f) Christmas- se or adapt with any K

When harmonising a melody (as on the Unit 2 paper) the melody note will, of course, need to be maintained atained a t


your planned projects new ro

ojects Ther re w

Brief C. In these briefs, imagination is a key element. Others, however, will be drawn to the option of Brief A. Among those tempted in this direction will be:re

GCSE, will find it an easy decision to choose to continue with th ir creative work each

will be many candidates for AS music who, having enjoyed and flourished di

 You may use any computer sequencing or notation program for your composition – I suggest you use the one you know best. I am here to help you with any technical issues or ques- tions about the program, but there isn’t time on this occasion to teach you about a program which is new to you

es i

music Brief C. In these briefs, imagination is a key elef i agin moment Worksheet lank can a

enjoye h their

 You can use rhythms and percussive sounds, but any tuned percussion instruments can only play the three notes you have chosen

Oth rs

 Those who find the blhose who find the b ank canvas fas for free composition daunting ‘r

or free composition daunting daunting  Those who enjoy ffollowing the ‘ruwing the ules’ (perhaps the ma j r,

 You need to focus on sustaining your ideas – think of how you can develop your ideas using repetition and contrast

 Those thinking of pursuing a more academic course in music at univt niversity

 Remember to give thought to all the elements of music: melody, harmony, rhythm, texture, timbre and structure.

Many teachers will instinctively have a belief in the value of compositional techniques, and will have strong and well-considered reasons for wanting students to take Brief A. They will also know that there is a significant chal- lenge with this brief for pupils who embark on an AS music course with no experience of traditional harmony and counterpoint.

You have three 45-minute lessons to complete this task. Good luck!

(perhaps the mathematically-minded) of compositional e ercisesonal exercises

We then decided, after this ‘breakdown’ section, to have a ‘drop’ – a dance music term for the point where all by Richard Knigh

felt that we hadn’t really got a proper ‘tune’ yet. I suggested that if we were going to finish with a new melody, using the same three notes, it would need to be sufficiently different to the other parts to really stand out. We achieved this by selecting a very distinctive sound, having the melody in a higher octave to all the other parts, and, most importantly, keeping it slow moving so that it contrasted with the faster, quaver rhythms of the ma- rimba, bass and percussion part. A common mistake made by students is to think that good melodies need tofication (Unit 2), AQA o contain many notes and rhythms, when actually, long notes are extremely effective.

the parts come in at once. On listening through I asked the students if the piece was now complete, and they vide a consonant fit (in other



For any note in the given melody, you have a choice of three chords that will provide a consonant fit (in other words, not clashing):

The students found this class composition part very inspiring, and well worth the hour or so of lesson time that we spent on it. I set them homework to come up with their own three notes and a variety of ideas, written down or recorded in whatever form they wished, to show to me in the next lesson, when they would begin their own three-note compositions.

Richard Knight is a composer with a wide range of works to his name, especially chamber music. He has been director of music at two leading indepen- dent schools and is a senior examiner for music at A level. He also examines for ABRSM.

Brief A: Compositional techniques  Brief B: Free composition  Brief C: Arra Arranging


ompositional techniques ree composition

INTRODUCTIUCT ON For the composing component  Br

INTR by Richard KnighttComposition task 1 – BRIEF For the composing component of the board’s AS specird’s

Your first project is a short and snappy one, in which you get the chance to demonstrate how well you can use the most meagre resources. Your challenge is to compose a piece of music lasting no less than one minute using just three notes. You can choose the three notes yourself (choose them carefully!) and you are not allowed to use any other notes, anywhere in your piece. Other points to consider:  Your composition should be for at least two instruments or sounds

Music teachers have a wealth of ideas to cr got the students to write

fective at heard, which prevented the

inevitably uneven playing field of a Year 10 music set. It is likely that such a set will have never composed on their own before (their composing experience maybe having

the students to write re


been limi limitedted to g ouroup pp projects in Key Stage 3) to those who have been writing songs on their guitar, keyboard or computer at home since they were eleven. Both these kinds of student, and the vast majority that fall some- where in between, will find this project a helpful way to start writing effective pieces. Inexperienced or uncon- fident composers will find the lack of a need to magic sophisticated ideas out of thin air extremely liberating, and those with experience or confidence will learn valuable lessons about limiting one’s resources and doing the most that one can with next to no material.

We agreed that in our piece, a change in texture would work best. We kept the rhythm parts going, and im- provised a marimba and bass part using the three notes. I pointed out that we could use different octaves, which we did, and one student suggested a very high, long note that could fade in and add a new dimension.

The Concept AQA AS Music: teaching Unit 2 brief A QA AS Music: teaching Unit 2 brief A

The idea of a three-note piece is extremely simple. Students have to compose an original piece of music using just three notes – no more, no less. It is always good to start the composition process with a brief, and this is the brief that I give to my students at the start of the three-note project:

ened to a mposit

confidence, or

lesso with eferab

BAB for INTRODUCTION that this would suffice. s

form and felt that and ce all the par

Many students begin their GCSE Music course worried about composing. Equally, many come to their first composition lesson with lots of ideas but little knowledge of what to do with them. Only those with experience, confidence, or preferably both, find that they can launch straight into composing with any degree of success.

egin th e e playing chart musict musicoss this early hurdle and get students composing effectively early big change in o piece. What actu When you listen to the mp3, you can hear the initial marimba idea, the e pa chords which ef chords

students how a bass line can both shadow the main melody, and, later to provide a good ‘groove’ for the composition.

The Three-Note Piece: getting over the d first hurdle in GCSE Compositioni GCSE Co p sitio


The Three-Note effectifectively underpin it,


the gradually increasing drum parts, and the entry of the bass part. With this bass par I was able to show the ater, fit in with the rhythm of the kick drum

by Simon Rushby by Simon Rushby rhythm of the kick drum

With this bass part, I was able to show the r

gg getting o er the just portant

t needed to have a bass par Wet. W ag eed, the stu-

part were just as important as notes and rhythms. W selected h ds) and, again,


playing about with


fication (Unit 2), AQA offfers three alter

re alternative routes:ro

ih d in the free composition rk and opt for BriefB ef B, or possibly

composition at

Music Teacher November 2011



Music Teacher November 2011


Music eacher November 2011 Teacher November

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