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Music A-Level at Chesham Grammar School

Course description

The Music A2 course is an excellent preparation for further study at University or Music Conservatoire. The AS course is equally valuable for non-specialists as a third or fourth AS for those who want to conclude their musical studies at that point. It is a broad course which includes study of classical, popular, jazz, electroacoustic and world music with opportunities to excel in performing and composing. 

The course is in six units, three of which lead to AS at the end of Year 12 with a further three leading to full A level at the end of Year 13. Throughout the course, you will develop your performing skills and compose music and learn about harmony. You will build up your aural and analytical skills by studying set works from instrumental and vocal music as well as music used for dance, ritual, TV or film.

It is essential that you are able to read music in both the bass and treble clefs and to perform by Summer of Year 12 to at least Grade 6 standard. If you wish to access the higher Grades, you will need to perform at Grade 7 or 8.

Course content

The AS Course is in Three Units:

In the first unit, you perform and record a five-six minute recital on to a CD as a soloist and/or as part of an ensemble. You can choose music in any style and perform on any voice or instrument. The recital is 30% of the AS course and will be assessed by your teachers and moderated by the Exam Board.

In the second unit, you will create and record onto a CD in school under coursework conditions, your own three minute piece of music in response to a brief. You will also write a CD sleeve note to describe your piece and its influences. This is another 30% of the AS course.

In the third unit, which is 40% of the AS course, you will listen to music and understand how it works by studying set written scores. You will learn how to write a short passage of simple four part harmony. This will lead to a two hour examination in the summer term which has three sections:

  • Listening to extracts of music from the set works on a CD and answering questions
  • Investigating musical styles of extracts from the set works and writing two essays
  • Understanding chords and lines from a simple score and writing a short passage of harmony

A keyboard with headphones is allowed in the examination.

The A2 course has a further three units:

In the first Unit, you will perform and record onto a CD a fifteen minute recital as a soloist and/or as part of an ensemble. You can choose music in any style and perform on any voice or instrument. The recital is 15% of the A level and will be assessed by your teachers and moderated by the Exam Board.

In the second unit, you will develop your composing skills. You must complete two tasks, either:

  • two 3-minute compositions recorded onto a CD


  • one 3-minute composition and one technical study


  • two technical studies

Compositions can be instrumental music in the classical style or music for film, TV, Dance or Theatre. Technical studies will involve completing the harmony in passages in either Classical style two-part counterpoint; Baroque four-part harmony or popular song style. This constitutes 15% of the A Level.

In the third unit, which is 20% of the A Level, you will listen to set works and a wide range of other music. You will follow two Areas of Study, Instrumental Music and Applied Music, learning how to compare and contrast excerpts, to put music into historical and social context and to identify harmonic and tonal features. This leads to a two hour examination in the Summer which has three sections:

  • Aural analysis-comparison, chords, keys, aural dictation from a CD
  • Music in context -two essay questions on set works
  • Continuity and change in instrumental music -one essay on set work

Entry requirements

For Advanced level courses, students will be expected to have successfully completed GCSE level examinations, with an average score of 46 points from their best eight GCSEs.

The average is worked out by converting each grade to a numerical score where:

A* = 58, A = 52, B = 46, C = 40, D = 34, E = 28, F = 22 and G = 16 b.

In an A level subject to be taken there is a requirement of grade B or above at GCSE (Grade A or above in Maths, Music and the Sciences), either in the subject itself or in an appropriate related subject in the case of new courses, as indicated on the subjects’ requirement. At least a C in English Language and Mathematics.

Subject Specific

GCSE Grade A with Grade 5 theory and at least Grade 5 practical (ideally Grade 6)

Please note that at A level it is very important that all students have an instrumental teacher and follow a course of guided study on their instruments.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Chesham Grammar School directly.

Last updated date: 30 April 2015
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