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What kind of gcse composing class do you have?

Discussion in 'Music' started by rod901, Aug 16, 2017.

  1. rod901

    rod901 New commenter

    What does a typical composing lesson go like? Do you bring stuff in to help students compose with? Or do you listen to a piece of music in a particular style or genre and see if students can reproduce it? ANy thoughts on making a lesson interesting and productive?
  2. muso2

    muso2 Occasional commenter Community helper

    The GCSE music revision guides have some useful ideas for students on the process of composing, which you might find a good starting point.

    I tend to do a series of lessons on a style of music from the areas of study, including listening, context, understanding what the features of the style are, etc. Performing and composing exercises would usually form part of that. I wouldn't so much be focusing on reproducing a piece or style of music as using ideas and musical features as a stimulus. E.g. I might give a chord sequence and melodic structure to some or all students if it were an exercise in understanding features of the genre, but if it were for their CA composition I'd expect those ideas to be their own.
    If all the class were studying one genre and composing as part of their learning, it would be fine for them to be working in pairs of groups, but if it were for their CA, they would obviously be composing individually, and often in a range of different genres, using a range of different instruments/music tech, etc.

    What kind of things do you mean?
    Are you a one-person dept? If not, do bounce ideas off other colleagues and see what is working well for their students.
    Does that help? I'm sure there are as many approaches to this as teaching styles, and I'd approach a genre I expected to be a popular CA choice in a different way from one I was just 'scratching the surface' of.

    When students are choosing the music they compose and composing creatively, it can sometimes be difficult, but never boring.
  3. rod901

    rod901 New commenter

    hi muso2. Thanks for the explanation. Have you got some resources you can send me for first year gcse-ers? Or do you know a good website with music resources you can download suitable for the composing element? I could make my own but I am swept off my feet at the moment with other stuff to do.
  4. muso2

    muso2 Occasional commenter Community helper

    Afraid not, as I haven't yet taught the new spec introduced in 2016. It would also depend what board you are using, as the content differs considerably.
    I would start by seeing what resources already exist in your department (presuming GCSE was taught in your school last year). The exam board you are using should have some resources and an outline SoW online, and I'd recommend tes resources also to give you some ideas. Rhinegold and CPG produce plenty of resources which may help.
    Do you have colleagues in schools local to you that you can network with? Your music hub may be able a to put you in touch with some people if not. If you can tell us what exam board you are using, others be able to help further.
  5. muso2

    muso2 Occasional commenter Community helper

    GCSE bitesize often also has some useful composing ideas - worth a look.
  6. rod901

    rod901 New commenter

    Rhinegold just produce material for the listening and appraising of (edexcel). I know where to get this. But no one seems to have in 17 years teaching done materials for GCSE composing. You know stuff you can just print off ready to use in class. I will have a look at the places you mention above however. ALso why have no other teachers responded to this important question?
  7. muso2

    muso2 Occasional commenter Community helper

    Rhinegold certainly used to do a study guide for ocr that included composing stimulus ideas, and they produce composing workbooks like this:


    I agree that if composing is not your forte, then as a teacher you can sometimes feel dropped in it. But even if there were a book of ready to use resources, I'd want to adapt things for students, especially at the start when they are building on year 9 work. OCR's creative task as was (now composition 2 I believe) has a choice of stimuli for students to base a composition on - chords, melodic pattern, rhythm, etc - I used to use these lots to get students used to composing. And the mark schemes for teachers came in handy for some guidance too. Even with a different board, you might find these to be useful resources.
    A Google search of 'GCSE music composing guide' also comes up with a surprising amount of stuff which looks credible and useful at a glance (though beware as probably not all written with the new specs in mind).
  8. rod901

    rod901 New commenter

    Google? pfft! THe rhinegold composing workbook looks quite complicated and as per usual has a lot of texts to read through rather than keeping these simple. There must be some music teachers out there with stuff they can send.
  9. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    The current Rhinegold Study Guide for Edexcel GCSE Music has a substantial chapter on composing by Steve Berryman, with various hints and tips, suggested tasks and exercises, and so forth.
    muso2 likes this.
  10. rod901

    rod901 New commenter

  11. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    Take a look at the title page. It says:

    with a chapter on composing by
    Steven Berryman

    I agree that the Rhinegold Study Guides are addressed to students, but the subject is not really large enough for there to be much in the way of separate books for teachers. Composing is particularly problematic in that respect, because there are so many different starting points (using notation, using technology, writing in a rock style, writing in a folk style, writing in an art music style etc).

    Just going back to your original question, I've been retired for many years now, but when I was teaching G(C)SE composing, I concentrated mainly on techniques. e.g. Writing a piece based on a theme whose first note had to be repeated at least 7 times before moving onto a new pitch; writing a piece based on double echoes of a one-bar idea; writing two pieces in which the same melody is harmonised in two totally different ways, etc. Style doesn't usually matter when dealing with techniques.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2017
  12. rod901

    rod901 New commenter

    Now this thread is starting to become interesting and useful. I just wish more teachers would join in with their ideas.
  13. bessiesmith

    bessiesmith Occasional commenter

    For the first few weeks at GCSE my composition lessons look at particular aspects of composing music (How do you write a chord sequence? How do you write a melody? How do you harmonize a melody? How do you build up layers in a texture? etc.) The lessons include some modelling from me, some different ways of approaching the topic, lots of experimenting from the students and feedback - both from me and the other students.
  14. TomMatthias

    TomMatthias New commenter

    Please can I point you in th direction of my 'Water Music' composition resource? This is an extremely easy resource to use and has produced some beautiful compositions and outstanding performances from the children in my classes. It can be used in a single lesson when introducing Debussy, impressionism and the pentatonic scale or can be used in a series of lessons to produce larger scale compositions in preparation for a major performance.
  15. LoukuleleLou

    LoukuleleLou New commenter

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