I am sure that most GCSE exams have some kind of Long Answer Question. This blog series is going to focus on the Edexcel GCSE Music Exam and the 12 mark Long Answer Question at the end of the exam. If you are looking to develop your overall musical skills then you can try this no matter what board. I will be posting several of these questions over the coming weeks including a template for your to print and fill in. I will be giving links to the audio but unforatuneyl it is difficult to link to the actual sheet music. A Long Answer Question in an exam is likely to have some kind of skeleton score, but if you can cope without then great!
How to approach a Long Answer Question
In general these questions are going to get you focussing on why music sounds the way it sounds. Exams over the years have usually had a mixture of short questions, multiple choice questions and then longer answer questions. The Long Answer Question is a chance for you to show your knowledge of why music is the way it is – what makes it sound the way it sounds. A Long Answer Question is also going to test your knowledge of style, genre, musical history and musical language.
When you first read the question you should ask yourself the following things:
- Who composed the piece of music?
- When was it composed?
- Are there any other pieces that are similar?
- Do any particular features jump out at me?
- What is the question asking me to focus on?
- What stylistic features are there?
You might like to start by jotting down some initial thoughts. These questions are going to use one of the GCSE Set Works for Edexcel and then a piece of Unfamiliar music. If you are not with Edexcel then you can still access and use these questions. Essentially they are compare and contrast questions.
Why Compare & Contrast?
I think that the best way to fully explain something is to Compare & Contrast. Let me give you an example that isn’t musical. If someone asks you to recommend a restaurant to them then you are likely to compare your choice to another, to help them understand what it might be like. Same with a book – “Did you read “The Muse” well you will love “The Essex Serpent”. Does that make sense? When trying to understand something we are always going to need to compare it to something else. The pieces I have chosen all link to the set work in some way. In order to answer the question you are going to need to work out features in both pieces and then compare then to each other. This will form a more full discussion. I have attached a document below that will help you with this. Print it out in colour and use it for your planning – again, it can be used for any exam board as all study of music is useful!
Another important factor in any discussion or evaluation is to look for key stylistic features. If you were recommending a hotel to a friend you wouldn’t say, it has beds and a sink! No, you would refer to the features of the hotel and in particular any features that make it a great hotel. This is the same with music, and for each Long Answer Question you need to focus on the stylistic features in the piece.
Every single answer simply must be packed full of Key Terms. Music Education thrives on terminology and there are so many words to learn. Some are specific to a piece, style or genre but some are more generic and used widely. It is a good idea to write down as many key terms as possible when you first hear a piece of music. The document below has a space for key terms, use it to log everything you know and everything you hear.
If you are studying Edexcel GCSE Music then you will be familiar with these pieces. If not then please do listen to them today to get your ready for the first Question. These pieces are all great and I will be selecting a piece of music to match each set work. Then I will set any essay question and you can then plan and write the Long Answer. Here is the list of set works:
- Bach – Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, Allegro, 3rd Mvt.
- Beethoven – “Pathetique” Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, 1st Mvt.
- Purcell – Music For a While
- Queen – Killer Queen
- Wicked (The Musical) – Defying Gravtiy
- Stars Wars – Main Titles
- Esperanza Spalding – Samba Em Preludio
- Afro Celt Sound System – Release
Before we start on the questions, which will begin in the next blog, I think it would be good to do a few things in preparation:
- Listen to all of the pieces above whilst you get on with other work.
- Read through your notes or take a look at the notes on the Edexcel website
- Listen to the pieces again, but this time, jot down some notes on each piece.
- Look up the composers, artists, film & musical that are covered by these set works.
- Download the document below so that you are ready to plan each Long Answer Question.
- Subscribe to this blog so that you get all of the updates & questions.
I hope that this blog series will help students prepare for GCSE Music. It will encourage Wider Listening and will encourage students to think about what makes music sound the way it sounds. It will explore composers, genres, pieces and styles.