Transitioning to GCSE Music

Transitioning to GCSE Music is not as hard as it sounds. It is something that all students can do over the coming months both in and out of the classroom. But, what does it mean & why do we need to make a Transition?

Transitioning to GCSE Music

Music is something students study for most of their life. From the very first scream to the formation of songs in singing assemblies. Students will study music from different genres, composers and styles. Students will have opportunities to perform, compose and analyse music. So the transition isn’t such a big step, and arguably there are bigger jumps in other subject areas.

Transitioning to GCSE Music is all about how students focus on their musical skills and start to build up their internal and external musician. Taking GCSE Music means taking Performing, Composing & Listening to the next level. It means an extra emphasis on instrumental or vocal commitment and a desire to want to improve.

But also, students might want to take Music GCSE because they like music, and I think this is fine. It is entirely possible to turn something we enjoy into a focusses curriculum area, and I would say that these ideas are perfect for the student who enjoys music and wants to enjoy studying it even more.


Listening to music is a great tool when it comes to Transitioning to GCSE Music. Everyone loves to listen to music, possibly every single day. So how does the aspiring Music GCSE Student approach listening. It is simple really, they do it deliberately. They find a moment in the day, pick a piece of music and listen. The music isn’t just on in the background, but it is the focus of the moment. And whilst listening there are some things to think about:

  • What is the mood of the music?
  • What instruments are involved in the performance?
  • Does anything jump out at you?
  • Do you notice any changes in the music?

These thoughts can be simple and don’t need to be over complicated. But this kind of focus on music will help prepare for GCSE Music. It will also develop students as listeners. It might seem like a simply and rather enjoyable task, but it is a crucial one. And parents, guardians, brothers & sisters in the house can then join in with discussion. Imagine an “Album of the Day” chat in every household.


Every GCSE Music course will involved performing. Students may have performed prior to GCSE Music, but this could be a big jump for some. Going from playing in a band or just playing at home to suddenly recording a piece.

Well firstly it isn’t suddenly and they have the whole course to prepare for the final performances. But along the way they will need to play. so when thinking about Transitioning to GCSE Music it might be good for students to think about their instrument or vocal performance:

  • Some students might not play an instrument or sing – well, now is the time to start, in Year 9. It is entirely possible for a committed student to learn an to sing or play over the GCSE course. But it is always better to start sooner rather than later and not ignore this vital component.
  • Students who already play might start to map out a “Dream Performance”. What piece of music or song would they love to be able to play/sing at the end of Year 11?
  • Are there any instrumental or vocal teaching books that they could get to start supporting learning?
  • What apps, videos or software could they start using to enhance their playing?
  • Could they start to practise for 15-30 minutes every day?

The key thing I always ask students is this – “what are you going to play or sing to me in September of Year 10, I don’t mind if it is Happy Birthday, but I want you to commit to it”.


There are so many ways that students can start creating music for themselves both in and out of school. The more that they can create music for themselves the better. This can be done online using a range of Composing at Home resources. Composing can be daunting, but yet some students are natural composers and sometimes over-look this skill.

It is also beneficial for students who don’t read music to start interacting with some score-writing software or notation software. This can help them with their skills in the lead up to GCSE Music. Reading music is so important, but it is not too late if they can’t already read. I don’t ever want students to be put of taking GCSE Music because they can’t read music. They can easily learn, and they do learn. But it is fun and useful to learn through composition.


Some students will already be confident performers and enjoy composing. They might be able to read music already and might practise regularly. I am thinking of the student who is definitely taking Music GCSE but just wants to brush up on some knowledge. I would recommend that students therefore have a look at a couple of books that might help them with some knowledge and get them prepared for GCSE Music.

Not every student is the same. Some want to take Music GCSE because they enjoy music and have some musical skills. Others want to take Music GSCE and then go on to A-Level and beyond. Getting head is therefore a great idea and there is nothing wrong with pushing yourself. Here are a couple of books that students might want to read:

Step Up to GCSE Music

Guide to Music Theory

I would suggest that these books are for those students who are already feeling confident.

Final thoughts

I believe that Music GCSE should be open to all students who want to take it. I am aware that not all students will achieve a Grade 7, 8 or 9, but they might not achieve that in another subject. It is all about the progress that they make. If a student doesn’t play or sing now, or isn’t a confident composer, then they might be by the end of Year 11. I want to make sure students can take the subject should they wish.

But they just need to be aware of what will be asked of them so that they can prepare. Some students will be more than ready, they might want to therefore push themselves. But for some students just thinking through what they need to do will be helpful. Listening & playing every day will really help students to transition to GCSE Music.

It is also good to Unite with Parents/Guardians so that they can support they GCSE Music Students. I have produced a blog and handout to help with this process.

So let’s not put students off, but just present the reality. And when Transitioning to GCSE Music it is always useful to build up a passion for the subject through listening to music! We don’t need to start the course early (although I know some schools do that formally) and it is possible for determined students to make great progress in Year 10 & 11.

GCSE Music is for those who love music, want to learn more about how it is put together and how they can experience this through performing, composing and listening. Experience helps, but commitment & determination go a very long way.

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