Gumley House School FCJ

  • SearchSearch Site
  • Translate Translate Page
  • Twitter Twitter
  • Facebook Facebook
  • Instagram Instagram

A Level Music

Studying A Level Music at Gumley

Introduction by Head of Music Department:

Hear from the Students:

Exam Board:  Edexcel
Expected Entry Criteria:  Grade 5 standard in a musical instrument and either Grade 6 in GCSE Music or Grade 5 theory. If you have equivalent musical experience without the grade exams, please contact Dr EP direct.

Why study this course?
A Level Music is challenging and rigorous and is widely respected by all universities, including Oxbridge. It promotes communication, empathy, confidence and self-discipline. The qualification is beneficial to anyone considering a career in Music or the Performing Arts, but is also acceptable for entry to university courses such as Medicine, Law and Business.

What will I learn?

You will emerge from this course as a more confident musician with a deeper understanding of how music works on every level. You will get to know a rich selection of pieces which span genres including classical, pop, jazz and world music. You will hone your performance skills and develop your ability to compose in two different genres.

How will I be taught?

You will be taught in a small, seminar-type group with frequent opportunities for individual guidance and consultation. We take every opportunity to explore our 18 set works by playing extracts from them in class. The lessons you have with your own instrumental or vocal teacher will also form an important part of your study. We also arrange for our students to meet leading professional musicians, attend concerts and perform in the local community.

How many hours a week private study will I have?

You will be expected to complete around five hours of independent study a week in addition to your own vocal/instrumental practice.

You’ll enjoy this course if…

You are open-minded, hardworking and passionate about music. As an A Level music student, you are expected to take a leading role in the extracurricular life of the Music Department, perform at and help with concerts and act as a role model to our younger students.

Course Description

The course is split into three elements


Performance: 30% of final marks
Assessed externally.


A public performance of one or more pieces, performed as a recital.

Performance can be playing or singing solo, in an ensemble, improvising, or realising music using music technology. The total performance time across all pieces must be a minimum of eight minutes.

Performances will be professionally recorded after 1 March in Year 13


Composition: 30% of final marks

Two compositions, one to a brief set by Pearson and one either a free composition or also to a brief. The combined duration of these two compositions should be at least 5 minutes.

One composition must be from a list of briefs assessing compositional technique, such as Bach chorale, which is completed in the Summer term of Year 13 in a 3 hour exam.

Total time across both submissions must be a minimum of six minutes.


Listening and Appraisal: 40% of final marks

This written exam paper requires knowledge and understanding of musical elements, contexts and musical language. This knowledge is applied in the context of six areas of study. You will be delighted, surprised and challenged by each of these set works in different ways. The full list is below.


Vocal Music   JS Bach – extracts from the cantata ‘Ein feste Berg’; Mozart – extracts from ‘The Magic Flute’; Vaughan Williams – extracts from ‘On Wenlock Edge’.

Instrumental Music  Vivaldi – Concerto Grosso in D minor;  Clara Schumann – First Movement of Piano Trio in G minor; Berlioz – First movement of Symphonie Fantastique

Music for Film   Elfman – Cues from ‘Batman Returns’; Portman – Cues from ‘The Duchess’; Hermann – Cues from ‘Pscycho’

Popular Music and Jazz   Selections from the work of Jazz saxophonist Courtney Pine, the songs of Kate Bush and four tracks from The Beatles’ album ‘Revolver’.

Fusions   Debussy – two movements from Estampes for piano; tracks from Cana Quema by Familia Valera Miranda; Anoushka Shankar – tracks from ‘Breathing under water’

New Directions    John Cage – Three Dances for Two Prepared Pianos no. 1; Saariaho – Petals for cello and electronics; Stravinsky – selection of movements from ‘The Rite of Spring’

The study of these set works is supported by wider listening and exploration of more music in similar genres, often gained by playing excerpts of this music in class.


The specification above for Performing, Composing and Listening and Appraising was published by Edexcel before the Coronavirus pandemic. It is possible that alterations may be made by the exam board in future years.


Performances will be recorded in March following participation in recitals and master classes. Your compositions and technical study will be submitted as coursework.

For more information, contact Dr M Esslin-Peard