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How to tackle an A Level Music Essay.

There are three main types of question 1. Describe 2. Compare 3. Place the set work into a Historical/Social context Describe and Compare questions can range in terms of what you are to look at. Here are the common examples and a list of what needs to be covered under each heading. Describe/Compare the melody Type of movement = Step (conjunct) or leap (disjunct) Phrase length (long short, regular or irregular) Range/Tessiatura (high, low, small, large) Shape (ascending, descending) Repeated (or varied) motifs and/or phrases Specific devices such as sequence or ostinato Particular feature (distinctive or repeated motif or interval, embellishments)

Describe/Compare the instrumentation Number of instruments/voices Names of instruments/types of voices Techniques (double stopping) Role of the instruments (melodic, accompaniment, bass line) What exactly are the instruments playing (e.g. staccato chords in strings) Relationship between the instruments (unison, octaves, thirds) Level of virtuosity

Describe/Compare the rhythm Tempo markings Metre (double, triple, quadruple, simple, compound) Regular or irregular metre Syncopation Hemiola Continuous crotchets/quavers/semi-quavers Actual rhythms (dotted rhythms, two quavers & crotchet) Regular or irregular accents

Describe/Compare the texture Monophonic Union/ octave unison Polyphonic (rhythmically independent voices) Homophonic (basically just chords) Melody dominated homophony Rhythmic unison Number of parts Instruments playing in 3rd 5th Octaves Contrapuntal techniques Imitation/fugue/canon

Describe the harmony Major/minor Diatonic/chromatic Consonant/dissonant Modal/tonal Use of cadences Inclusion of chromatic/added chords Suspension/pedal/false relationship/circle of 5th Tierce de Picardie

Placing a set-work into a social/historical context Introduction You need to show you understand the overall context of the piece and set up your answer so that the points you make are relevant to the question. However, you should be very concise this is only a short essay and there is not enough time to write background information that is not relevant to the question. TEN points You need to make ten points to get the full marks and where appropriate these should be illustrated by a detailed reference to the music (use your score!). It is vital that you tailor your examples for the precise question being asked failure to do this is a common way of losing marks. You should either write ten mini paragraphs, or better, group your points into longer paragraphs using MAD-T-SHIRT. Conclusion Briefly sum up the conclusions of your discussion, referring to stylistic & general contextual issues.