GCSE A-Level

Colourful Set Works

It really is nothing new, and I am very late to the party with this approach, but this term our set works got colourful.

I have been loving studying set works over the last couple of years at GCSE and A-Level. But, I have wanted to improve the analysis and get a better system for studying them. I often dive into the year, a set work or a lesson, and don’t always spend enough time thinking about the different ways of doing things. Colourful Set Works is all about bringing the theory to life on the page.

Analysis of set works is so important for students and every student is different. Some like to write notes, some like to write on the score and some are put off by the score entirely. Everyone is different, and yet this year I am forcing all students to adopt this colourful policy.

The Elements of Music

So the elements now all have colours and I am gradually remembering what they all are. Some students are fully on board, some are reluctant and some are annoyed that I have affected their own personal colour system. But on the whole it is working well and I think it will help a great deal. Having Colourful Set Works will not be for everyone, but encourage all students to follow the method.

I have avoided it in the past mainly because every student is different and I can get a bit ODC about these things. I am nervous about students not following the colour system already! But they seem to be enjoying it and it is working really well.

What are the benefits?
  1. It makes you stop and think about each and every element. You have to consider what you are thinking about, talking about and annotating on the score.
  2. You can clearly see what elements you have covered already and what ones therefore need to be looked at.
  3. It helps to consider which elements are most prominent in a set work and this might point to certain questions popping up in the exam.
  4. I think it helps students to be organised and think through what they are doing.

I wish I had done it sooner like my mate Don, but hey, I have started now.

My Colour Scheme
  • Harmony – Dark Blue
  • Melody – Orange
  • Tonality – Pink
  • Texture – Brown
  • Structure – Red
  • Context – Black
  • Lyrics – Yellow
  • Rhythm & Metre – Light Blue
  • Dynamics – Light Green
  • Timbre & Instrumental techniques – Dark Green

When I chatted over the colours with a colleague we felt that we would want to use yellow the least as it is harder to read on the page. So we assigned that to lyrics, because let’s face it, not many of the set works have lyrics anyway. Context is black because that is what we write about the most and the other colours just flowed from there. I guess it doesn’t really matter what colour you use for what. I just thought I would share that we did think it through.

So Far, So Good
It is going well so far and I am enjoying using my iPad to annotate the set works using colour. On the advice of my mate Don, I am using a great iPad app called “GoodNotes”. I now use this for all my note taking. I did feel that too much paper was going through my department, so in an attempt to do my bit for the environment, I am using my iPad for note taking.


And finally, I guess what I have enjoyed about this new approach is that it is something fresh. Trying new ideas and innovations is so important and we need to make sure we are doing that. Just because we haven’t jumped on a band wagon doesn’t mean it is too late to do it. I encourage you to give this a go if not already. I am catching up on this technique compared to some. But I am glad I am because I think it is going to better prepare my students for the exam.

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