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.

Year 9 Excitement

Year 9 is designed as a higher-level Key Stage 3 curriculum.

Term 1 – Ensemble arrangement: Students are in groups and must choose a song to arrange for the instrumentalists/vocalists available in their group. Students are taught rehearsal skills, ensemble skills such as balance, intonation and timing. Alongside this task, students learn about dissonance, major/minor scales, diatonic harmony, tonic/dominant and degrees of the scale, The Circle of 5ths as well as major and minor chord theory.

Term 2 – Aesthetics of Software: Students are instructed in how to use both Sibelius and Cubase software through small compositional exercises built on learning from Year 7/8. Through these tasks, students also learn about pedal notes, Min and Maj 7ths, Ostinati, dynamic terms as well as some basic FX work in Cubase.

Term 3 – Analysis of ‘Rollin’ in the Deep’: The first analysis session begins here. Using a score, students learn about the harmony, melody, structure and texture of the song ‘Rollin’ in the Deep’ by Adele. They learn through playing whilst analysing the score at the same time. To supplement this work, students also learn texture terms, cadences, tempo terms, syncopation and compound time signatures.

Term 4 – Group ‘Pop Song’ Composition: A refresher project building on what was learnt in Year 8 and in Term 2. Lyrics are used to create rhythmical patterns for melodic writing. Students will also learn how to create contrast between sections. Students are encouraged to utilise extended chords and pedal notes.

Term 5 – Melody Writing and Chord Choices: A term spent on practising analyisis of further scores in areas such as, but not restricted to: Key, Structure, Meter, Instrumentation, Texture, Chord choices and harmonic movement, rhythmical features and melodic analysis.

Term 6 – Individual Composition: Students create their own first composition in school curriculum time. Students are provided with a brief to provide structure and restrictions to focus their creativity. Students can compose in any style, and can either compose on their instruments, notate using Sibelius software or compose directly into Cubase.

Year 10 Expertise

Year 10 sees the start of coursework and exam preparation for the GCSE music specification. It is a mixture of independent instrumental/vocal work (often with the guidance of a peripatetic teacher), individual and group composition and musical analysis.

Term 1 – Killer Queen Analysis: Students will begin to analyse one of the set works which will form part of the exam in Year 11. They will learn about pop structures, guitar and vocal techniques, chord progressions and expectations of music of this era.

Term 2 – Solo performance: Students will work towards completing a solo performance which will be assessed against GCSE criteria.

Term 3 – Composition to a Brief: Students will begin a composition using either Sibelius, Cubase or by performing live. The composition will be to a brief set by the teacher and will encourage students to consider audience and context. This could be the composition that is submitted for the ‘free composition’.

Term 4 – Defying Gravity Analysis: Students will explore the music of Wicked and learn about musical theatre. They will learn about how the use of orchestral instruments and extended techniques, tonality and modulations and melody can create drama and tension in music.

Term 5 – Free Composition: Students will begin their free composition which will be submitted as part of the GCSE coursework. This composition may be for any combination of instruments and in any style. They may complete the composition in Sibelius, Cubase, or by performing live.

Term 6 – Music for a While and Brandenburg concert No.5 Analysis: Students will explore Baroque music by looking at pieces by Purcell and Bach. They will study the fundamentals of Baroque music by analysing harmony, tonality, structure, instruments, texture and melody.

Year 11 Expertise

Year 11 is a combination of completing coursework, analysing set works and revision tasks ready for the exam.

Term 1 – Composition to a Brief: Student will complete a composition set to a brief by the exam board. Examples of previous briefs include writing a song for solo voice to be performed at a leavers’ assembly, writing the music to a chase scene in a film, and writing music for a folk festival. Star Wars Analysis: Students will explore the film music genre and analyse the music from the opening titles of Star Wars.

Term 2 – Solo Performance: Students will work towards completing a solo performance which will be assessed against GCSE criteria. Pathetique Sonata Analysis: Students will analysis this dramatic Beethoven piano piece, learning about how the use of instrument, melody, structure, tonality and harmony are typical of the era.

Term 3 – Samba Em Preludio and Release Analysis: Students will explore how music can be a fusion of different styles by exploring the genres of Samba, Jazz, Celtic and African music, and how these influences are seen in the set works.

Term 4 – Coursework: Students will spend this term completing any outstanding coursework. This includes a solo performance, an ensemble performance, a free composition and a composition set to a brief.

Term 5 – Revision

Term 6 – Revision