Music – Sixth Form

A Level Music

What do you most enjoy teaching?

Musicians, in the main! That is – students who accept the challenge of the subject and are curious, interested and unafraid to make mistakes. In terms of units of study I really enjoy teaching analysis –looking at pieces of music in detail and seeing what makes them work (or not!) I think I enjoy this most because a) if it is a piece of music I am unfamiliar with I am a student again – learning along with the class I am teaching and b) good analysis is like being an explorer – finding hidden gems in musical works and making sense of the world through music. I enjoy teaching composition for a similar reason – being able to watch and listen to original music come from nowhere and develop.

What are the differences between Music at GCSE and A Level ?

The courses are very similar with focus on performing, composing and understanding music. The course content is broader (and more interesting) but the classes are generally smaller with a higher concentration of students with music an important part of their lives. At A Level you will have to perform to a visiting examiner and there is also an option in 2nd year of specialising on performance or composition, to suit your preferences and talents.

Can you give us a quick summary of each of the units of work you do?

As per last question, there are three main areas of the course – performing, composing and understanding music. In performance you can perform on any instrument in any style and your final exam is in front of a visiting examiner (which actually isn’t as nerve wracking as it sounds!) In composition you will create two or three pieces (depending on what you specialise on) and understanding music has you listening to and analysing music in different styles – Classical, Contemporary, Jazz, Musical Theatre and Pop to name a few.

How is it different to Music Technology? 

Many students think Music and Music Technology are very similar. They are not. Music Technology places less reliance on performing ability and teaches you how to record, manipulate and engineer sound. There is a scientific focus in Music Technology and the course content is extremely broad. The two subjects do complement one another and we have many students who choose both subjects at A Level.

I’m sure your subject will suit lots of different ‘types’ of student, but are there any characteristics that you think can be useful?

Musical skill is a pre-requisite. Of equal importance is a student who is open to new ideas and concepts and unafraid to dig a little deeper into the music they know (or think they do!) As so much progress as a musician actually happens outside the classroom it is important that students considering A Level Music are good at self-directing and are therefore organised. GCSE Music is not a prerequisite, especially if you already have experience performing on an instrument and/or music theory knowledge.

Can you show us some examples of the type of work that students do?

Do you have examples of what previous students have gone on to do in your subject?

  • Music Composition – Österlens Folkhögskola in Sweden
  • BMus – Newcastle University
  • Acoustical and Audio Engineering – Salford University
  • BMus (Classical Piano) – Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London

Comments from alumni:

“Studying music at Highfields was life changing. The supportive and inspiring atmosphere helped me realise and fuel my passion for music, and I am now following my dream of becoming a professional Musical Director.”

Some links to click on:

The specification:

An example exam: Go to: and select ‘Past Papers’

A sample exam answer: Music Full Mark Essay

The exam board section which gives publicity for your subject

A Youtube clip of a concept being explained: