All you need to know about taking the Music GCSE

4 mins
May 10, 2022
Did you know that it has been scientifically proven that singing in a group can help boost your mood? Or that listening to music can help improve your physical performance? Or that the 'Happy Birthday' song is the most profitable song of all time?

We know the time to choose your GCSEs is fast approaching, so we're here to help you decide. In this article, we're going to lay out the pros and cons of the Music GCSE! So, let's start de capo (at the beginning)!

What does the Music GCSE involve? 

There are three components to your Music GCSE. Think of these as umbrella themes; within them are smaller subjects you'll need to know to pass your exams. Here we're going to explain the components and break them down slightly so you can see if the Music GCSE is right for you. 

1. Understanding music: This theme is all about your understanding of musical elements, context and language. You'll look at various types of music (from gaming music, pop and broadway, to traditional music like the blues and Latin music) and music from different periods (like western classical tradition between 1650-1910). You'll also learn to use musical language. 

2. Performing music: In this theme, you'll need to apply your theory and understanding of music with your practical ability. 

3. Composing music: Here, you'll learn how to develop musical ideas; this includes manipulating and altering music. You'll also compose music that is convincing and recognised as a particular genre. 

How do you revise for the Music GCSE? 

The components we mentioned above are all assessed differently. You'll need to look at how the exam is formatted when thinking about revision; this can change depending on which exam board your education provider uses, so it's best to check (in fact, we strongly advise it!). In this article, we're using the AQA Board as an example. 

Understanding music (40%) - this is the written exam and will involve listening exercises and written answers. There are 96 marks on offer, and the exam is 1 hour and 30 minutes. 

Performing music (30%) - this comprises two musical performances (one solo and one ensemble), this counts as a Non-Examination Assessment (NEA), which means it is marked internally by teachers. The performance must last a minimum of four minutes and there are 72 marks on offer. 

Composing music (30%) - in these NEA's you'll create two compositions (one in response to a brief set by the examiner and is up to you to decide). Each composition must demonstrate at least four types of musical elements, and the combined duration must be a minimum of three minutes. There are 72 marks on offer here!

Why study GCSE Music? 

There are loads of benefits to studying the Music GCSE, from both a professional and personal standpoint. So let's take some time to go through them here. 

Professionally speaking, the Music GCSE will help you gain a whole load of transferable skills, from independent learning (you've got to be disciplined about practising your instrument) to performance and presentation skills, which are highly-prized in almost any career. You'll also get the opportunity to express yourself creatively. Many universities and employers view creative subjects as an asset, as you'll likely learn adaptability, communication and emotional intelligence. 

From a personal point of view, music can lower your blood pressure, improve your mood and regulate your emotions. So, if you're feeling particularly stressed and anxious, you've got something that will almost always help. Another great thing about playing an instrument is its ability to enrich your life, whether that's levelling out your emotions or making friends by starting a band or joining an orchestra.  

Is the Music GCSE hard?

It's important to note that you'll struggle with the music GCSE if you cannot play an instrument (or sing, or use music software). As we mentioned up top, a large part of the GCSE is performance-based, so you'll need the ability and the confidence to back it up! 

Whilst knowing an instrument will help you in your Music GCSE, that's not all there is. You'll also need to know a lot of theory. This can be difficult to learn, especially if you just want to be creative!

It's also worth mentioning that aspects of the GCSE are closely linked with other subjects like religious studies and history. So, when thinking about your options, look at subjects that share some common themes as it might mean a little less work in the long run.

Is the Music GCSE worth it?

When choosing your GCSE options, you want to make sure you're picking the best choice for you, so you need to think about three factors: 

  1. Will you enjoy it? (remember, the GCSE is a two-year course!)
  2. Do you have the ability to get a good grade? (how much input is needed from you?)
  3. Will the qualification help you get where you want to go? (what do you need for your future career?)

Try thinking about all of your GCSE options like this; if it can satisfy these questions, you can probably answer the 'is it worth it?' with yes. If not, look at other options that you'll enjoy and succeed in more! 

Can you do A level Music without GCSE?

The short answer is yes, it's possible to do A Level music without taking the Music GCSE. Some of your teachers at school or college might advise against it, as in the GCSE you learn a lot of theory that can come in handy when taking your Music A Level. Having said that, if you have already done musical exams in your instrument (eg, Grade 6 guitar) you shouldn't struggle to learn what you need for the A Level. 

What jobs can you get with a Music GCSE?

It's great that you're considering your future career when making choices about the qualifications you'll need. While no single GCSE can ensure a job offer, nailing the Music GCSE can be a great start to your career in music. Below we've listed a whole load of jobs that will likely start with a Music GCSE!

  • Artist manager
  • Broadcaster 
  • Music agent
  • Music producer
  • Music therapist
  • Musician
  • Private music teacher
  • Radio producer
  • Secondary school teacher
  • Sound designer
  • Sound engineer
  • Sound technician, broadcasting/film/video
  • Special effects technician
  • Theatre sound design

How can we help? 

Right now, we're sad to say that we don't have any resources that will help you get a pitch-perfect grade in your Music GCSE. But, we have something that might help you decide whether a Music GCSE is something you want to pursue. Our pathfinder quiz will help you work out which careers suit you best, based on your strengths and interests, so you can see if acing a Music GCSE will help you get one step ahead!

Music GCSE revision resources

Springpod aims to empower students, and as we don't currently have any music resources, we're going to point you to some of our friends that do! Have a look at the resources below, we know they'll help! Bitesize, Brainscape, Quizlet, Whitmore High.

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