Year 7 Exploration

Students learn basic skills and knowledge which are built upon throughout the 7-year curriculum. Taught elements include keyboard geography, treble clef, TAB, note lengths, beats and pulse, Ukulele skills, Drum kit skills, Bass guitar skills, Major/minor chords, pitch, triadic melody writing, structure and textual layering.

Term 1 – Keyboard Skills: Students work their way through a keyboard booklet, which gets harder as it goes on. Students will learn how to find the notes on a keyboard, how to read treble notation, how to read and name rhythm notation, the correct hand position for playing on the keyboard, rehearsing skills and how to perform in time with another person. There will also be the chance to perform in front of the class if they wish to.

Term 2 – Ukulele Skills: Students begin their first group project where they have to select a popular song to perform on Ukulele whilst singing at the same time! This will be their first practical assessment. They will learn how to understand the difference between major and minor chords, how to read ukulele chord charts and perform these chords on a ukulele, how to strum and develop strumming patterns, how to accompany singing, rehearsing skills in a larger group as well as leadership and conducting/directing skills

Term 3 – Programme Music: This is the first composition project and will use sequencing software called ‘Reason’. This is an assessed project. Students will compose two contrasting sections in response to two different paintings. Students will learn how to use musical elements to create a certain mood including pitch, tempo, dissonance and major/minor chords. How to write a bass line, how to record and edit music in Reason, as well as the name and sounds of typical orchestral instruments. We will be listening to music by Holst and understanding how he creates his moods.

Term 4 – Band Skills: Students will be taught about the drum-kit and how to play basic ‘rock’ beats as well as taught how to play the Bass guitar and read bass TAB. We will build on the major chords learnt in the previous composing unit and use them to create our own ‘bands’ where we will learn to play ‘Wild Thing’. Students will also learn how to react to other performers by working together to create an arrangement, react to other performers’ intonation/timing/ rhythmical ensemble/balance, as well as the time constraints of a rehearsal schedule.

Term 5 – Sibelius Fun: Students learn and explore more about staff notation by learning how to use the notation software ‘Sibelius’. Students recreate famous melodies and notation by learning to input them into the software and hearing what it is they have input at the end. Students learn the aesthetics of the software, compositional decisions, react to errors in using the medium and how to harmonise a melody using chords.

Term 6 – 4-Chord Song Mash-up: Students learn how to play a 4-chord sequence on piano/ukulele/guitar, how to add a bass line, how to read and interpret drum notation and guitar TAB, how to create a mash up as well as how to create contrast in a performance. This summarises everything that has been learned during the Year 7 course and sees everything combined in a creative way.

Year 8 Exploration

Music in Year 8 extends everything learned in Year 7. Chord sequences are extended. Compositions and performances have different/changing chord sequences. Melodic lines are developed further during composition and ensemble skills are practised and refined throughout the year.

Term 1 – Reggae: This is an assessed ensemble project that sees students form bands to perform ‘No Woman No Cry’ by Bob Marley. Students learn: how to play an 8-bar chord sequence, about the history and culture of Reggae and Bob Marley, how to play a syncopated chord sequence, how to play a one drop drum pattern, how to add passing notes to a bass line, how to structure a performance and how to add contrast to a performance.

Term 2 – Film Music: Musical genre comes in many forms and the music used for these also differs greatly. Students will explore musical conventions found in Super-Hero films, Horror films and Action films and compose three mini-pieces in Reason. They then choose one of these to develop in the final weeks. Students learn how to use and develop musical elements to create a certain mood including pitch, tempo, dissonance and chords, as well as the name and sounds of typical orchestral instruments.

Term 3 – Blues: This is a keyboard, performance project. Students learn: the history and culture of the Blues, how to perform a 12 bar blues sequence on the keyboard, how to label chords using Roman Numerals, how to perform a block and/or walking bass line on a keyboard, how to perform an improvised melody using a Blues scale as well as how to structure out a performance/arrangement.

Term 4 – Pop Song: This is an assessed composition project. Students are taught how to write and record an 8 bar pop chord sequence, how to write and record a pop drum pattern with fills, how to write and record a bass line that is developed using passing notes, how to write lyrics using an AAB structure as well as how to compose a melody using scales from the chord.

Term 5 – Disco Band Performance: Building on their previous band projects, this project sees students play a whole song that has different sections that contain different chord sequences. Performers’ intonation/timing/ rhythmical ensemble/balance are also practiced in this project, as well as learning about the history behind Disco music.

Term 6 – Group Song Project: This project is the culmination of the compulsory music curriculum at Robert Smyth. Students are put to the test as song-writers as they learn to react to compositional decisions within the chosen genre, explore new possible avenues of composition, react to the instrumental palette that has been chosen as well as reacting to the musical limitations of experience within peer group. Students can record their songs at the end of the project.