Skip to content ↓

What will I study in A Level Music?

Students experience 3 musical disciplines of:

  • Performing
  • Composing
  • Appraising music

Students will:

  • Develop their performance skills through personal practice, instrumental/voice lessons and attending ensembles/choirs
  • Compose music in different styles and genres
  • Explore and analyse music from diverse genres and learn about harmony

What qualities will I need to succeed at A Level?

  • To be competent on your instrument to a minimum standard equivalent of Grade 6 ABRSM
  • A Grade 7 or above at GCSE Music
  • To have passed Grade 5 ABRSM in music theory and have a clear knowledge of harmony. Grade 6 theory is a very desirable exam to follow in parallel to the A level course
  • An interest in all genres of music and a keen interest and enthusiasm for your own instrument     
  • A willingness to read around your subject and to attend public concerts to broaden your knowledge
  • You must be confident with composition and music software (Sibelius 8+ and/or Cubase style software)
  • To be an ambassador of music at school – performing in concerts/out of school festivals and taking an active role in rehearsals showing commitment and reliability

Course Overview 


This Unit gives pupils the opportunity to develop their already sophisticated performance skills by developing further their musicality. This is very akin to preparing for an ABRSM, Trinity Guildhall or LCM exam.

Externally Assessed

30% of the qualification (60 marks)

Students perform:

  • A minimum of one piece, performed as a recital.
  • The performance can be solo, as part of an ensemble, improvisation, realisation using music technology, or a combination of these.
  • Total performance time across the recital must be a minimum of  8 minutes.
  • Performances must be recorded after the 1st March in the year of certification.


  • The purpose of this component is to assess students’ skills in composing music.
  • Students will learn more of the processes involved in creating music through developing the technical and expressive skills needed by a composer.

Externally Assessed

30% of the qualification (60 marks)

Students must submit two compositions, of a combined duration of 6 minutes.

  • One composition can be chosen from a list of briefs relating to areas of study, or a “free” composition, carrying 40 of the marks for the composing assessment. This composition must be at least 4 minutes in duration.
  • One composition must be from a list of four briefs “assessing technique”, carrying 20 of the marks for the assessment. This composition must be at least 1 minute in duration, unless the brief specifies a longer minimum duration.


Written examination: 2 hours

40% of the qualification

100 marks

Content overview

  • Knowledge and understanding of musical elements, contexts and language.

Application of knowledge through the context of six areas of study, each with three set works.

Vocal Music

  • J. S. Bach, Cantata, Ein feste Burg
  • Mozart, The Magic Flute
  • Vaughan Williams, On Wenlock Edge

Instrumental Music

  • Vivaldi, Concerto in D minor, Op. 3 No. 11
  • C. Shumann: Piano Trio in G Minor Op17 movt 1
  • Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique

Music for Film

  • Bernard Herrmann, Psycho
  • Portman, The Duchess
  • Elfman: Batman Returns

Popular Music and Jazz

  • Beatles – Revolver
  • Courtney Pine – Back in the Day
  • Kate Bush: Hounds of Love


  • Debussy, ‘Estampes’
  • Anoushka Shankar: Breathing Under Water
  • Familia Valera Miranda: Caña quema

New Directions

  • Cage – Three Dances for two prepared pianos
  • Saariaho: Petals for Cello Solo and Optional electronics
  • Stravinsky: Le Sacre du Printemps

Where does A Level Music lead?

Students may be looking to undertake further study of music at University, Music Conservatoire or have wider interests in the performing arts.

      Performing – orchestras, “pit” bands, rock bands, theatre work, television

Teaching – classroom, visiting music teacher, music therapy. All of these can be coupled with semi-professional playing work

Music management – theatres, agencies, arts management, i.e festivals

The Armed Forces – RAF Central Band, Coldstream Guards, Army

The Arts – acting, musical theatre