When studying the Cambridge IGCSE Music syllabus, learners listen to, perform and compose music, encouraging aesthetic and emotional development, self-discipline and, importantly, creativity. As a result, learners enhance their appreciation and enjoyment of music, an achievement that forms an ideal foundation for future study and enhances life-long musical enjoyment
What do you enjoy about the subject?
Nicole: I enjoy the performance aspect of it. It’s quite fun.
Alyssa: Yeah, me too. I enjoyed how there was a lot of practical work which I wasn’t unconfident doing as well as the theory side; fifty-fifty which was good.
Pravin: I quite enjoyed the theory side: just learning about different dynamics and how to structure the whole composition itself.
What is the most challenging thing about the subject?
Pravin: Though I like the composition side, i think the most challenging [thing] is the composition itself because you have to structure everything properly.
Alyssa: Yeah, I agree with that. The composition I did find quite difficult but the teachers were there to guide me through it. You learn new things everyday and you learn from your peers so at the end it was pretty good.
Nicole: I also found the composition aspect quite difficult. It’s quite difficult when you have to compose something from scratch but teachers do help you and give you a sort of idea of what to start on. It’s quite difficult to create something.
Why did you choose this subject?
Nicole: I chose the subject mainly because I was already playing an instrument before so I felt like I could develop my learning of that instrument.
Alyssa: I chose music for IGCSE because I knew I wanted to take it for A-Levels and also as an undergraduate degree - which I am.
Pravin: I took music for IG’s mainly because I already had an interest in music. I had passed grades for piano and so on, and that I have already learnt it I thought it would be nice to have it in IG’s as well.
Was there anything in the subject that was different from your initial expectations? What were the main changes from year 9?
Pravin: I expected there to be a bit more stress on the whole idea because when we did stuff in year 9, it was mainly just lessons that were ‘lanky’. It was a bit more free, but in year 10 and so on there is more composition, fixed times and so on.
Alyssa: Yeah, I think when you go to year 10, the people in your music class want to be there.
They want to be serious. It’s not just somewhere you can go to relax. It’s not an easy subject so there was a big jump from year 9 to year 10 because there was work all the time.
Nicole: Yeah, I also think that but in terms of difficulty, when I took music I did initially think that it would be an easier option but its not. There is quite a lot that goes into it. Although it’s interesting, you still need to put in the work too and understand the different types of music.
What do lessons look like in terms of writing, independent study, collaboration, assessment etc?
Nicole: For general lessons, it does depend on what part of the year or part of the course you are doing. In the beginning of the year, we were learning about different types of music so those were regular classes where you take notes; teachers would tell us about the stuff that we were learning. But for composition, we would sort of get an idea of how to do the composition and would spend a lot of time actually doing composition and teachers would come in and help.
Alyssa: Yeah, I don’t really remember... I think every lesson was different so sometimes it would be taking notes and sometimes it would be going into the rooms to try indian music or Japanese music. Every lesson was very different so it wasn’t just taking notes all the time.
Pravin: Given that I’ve only just started IG music, we’ve mainly been doing a bit of composition and a bit of learning on individual topics and a bit of [learning] in depth of what you would have already learned in year 9.
How much homework or independent study will I be doing a week in this subject?
Pravin: I say think maybe about an hour max.
Alyssa: I think towards the end there’s a lot more [work]. When the coursework was due, I remember being here for a few hours everyday. I would stay back on Saturdays, Sundays. I think [you should] pace yourself because towards the end I was just overwhelmed.
Nicole: I would also say that, especially for composition. You should start your composition early. Don’t leave it to the last minute because when the first draft of the composition was due, I spent about 2 hours a day doing composition fixing stuff, towards the end, when I could have spaced out my work better. But for theory, listening papers, I would say I spend about half an hour a week. Self-revising, going through all the points and stuff.
Any tips for the new Music students?
Nicole: I would say if you’re entering music, you should at least have an instrument [that you play] or you should be singing already, at maybe grade 4, grade 5-ish [level], so that it’s way easier for you to get into the performing aspect. You should also know how to read notes, and have a bit of theory.
Alyssa: Yeah, I think you should definitely like the subject, I’m a big believer that if you don’t like something then you’re not going to do well in it. So like with all my subjects I made sure that I enjoyed the subject. With music, I think you should have passion for music and you’ll just do a lot better.
Pravin: I do agree with the two points made, but if someone doesn’t have proper theory backup themselves, I’m pretty sure the teachers here can make it so that you’ll at least get up to speed by the time it comes.
Alyssa: Just to add on that, if you’re not so comfortable with Sybelius and notes for example, if you’re performing, then you can just record it onto GarageBand. Technology is great.
What are the skills or knowledge you can develop in this subject and why are they useful?
Pravin: It would have to be based around notation I guess you could say, and the way that you structure your compositions. Learning about instruments can also be a major thing in this course as well.
Alyssa; Yeah, well, skills for later on in life - collaboration, you work with some people you wouldn’t think of working with for your solo performance and ensemble so you work with people, make plans and practice, so yeah those are good skills to have.
Nicole: I would also say for one part of the listening paper we have to know about world music, which before I didn’t really know much. So I think it really expanded what I knew about the music world. And also in terms of composition I think: taking IGCSE Music has really improved my composition.
How do you study for the subjects?
Nicole: Well for practical, you just practice everyday, or you try to, and for listening I would just go through notes. Composition is coursework so you should work hard.
Alyssa; Yeah, I think listening is a big part. So if you’re just listening - so for example, we did Japanese music, Indian music, Chinese music, Arabian music, so if you just listen to them a lot and you start to recognise different features which helps in your listening paper. That’s what I did.
Pravin; I’d say just try to train your ear as the listening part is a very big part in it self. So try train your ear and work on it.
Will taking any other subject help me to be successful in this subject?
Pravin: It’s kind of hard to say but maybe as stated by the IG teachers, it’s said that maths is a co-ed with music because of time signatures and so on.
Alyssa: Yeah, I don’t think maths so much with GCSE, but I found that English helped a lot in writing - well more for A levels, but - writing your essays on an AS level. Yeah, English, the way you write because a lot of it is creative writing, and some parts of the paper which English helped a lot as well.
Nicole: I wouldn’t really say subjects - I mean, the ones that they mentioned could help but I would say sort of having a background in music, like if you already learnt theory before and out-of-school theory lessons, it’s way easier to get into music already.
Overview by Ms Anna
Hello, I’m Miss Anna from the music department and I’m here to introduce you to IGCSE music and your paper code is 0410. The skills needed for this paper; the skills you definitely need is at least a grade 4 or grade 5 of music outside. It’s very different from what you learn in year 7, year 8, year 9. Some of the things you learnt there will be taken over to IG, but there is definitely a need for you to know music a little bit more better as a criteria before you enter because it will help you, especially when you’re reading notes. Your note-reading has to be very strong for you to follow the lesson. I think that would be the most necessary one, and of course an instrument that you need to be able to play at a grade 4/grade 5 level. Alright? So that will be the skills needed.
Now, I’m basically going to end by talking about the best thing about the subject. Now music is supposed to be fun, so it will be fun, lessons will be fun, things that you do in the music lesson will be fun. You’ll be doing composition, performances and a lot of gigs that we are doing, playing in school performances, so all these things bring your root together and you are able to work as a team, work as a band or ensemble. This is something that you don’t get outside very often. You always have solo lessons, one-on-one lessons, but something you get in music class is the fact that you’re playing in a group, you have to fun, you jam, and it’s really nice. Okay, and there is also the serious part where you learn about the instruments and you learn about the music, the classical notes and stuff. So I think it’s a good mix of things you can do in a music lesson, but you really need to know and have the criteria before joining because they do not want it to be a struggle for you.
Papers in IGCSE Music
Component 1: Listening
1 hour 15 minutes
40% of total marks
Written examination based on CD recordings supplied by Cambridge
-Prepared listening: One specific piece to prepare and analyse
-Unprepared listening: Music from all around the world
Component 2: Performing (coursework)
30% of total marks
1 solo and 1 ensemble performance
Component 3: Composing (coursework)
30% of total marks
100 marks scaled to 50 marks
Two compositions for different genres