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Music Performance

Why Music Performance?

The music sector has a value of almost £4 billion in revenue and employs more than 100,000 people in the UK. The UK is one of only three countries in the world which can lay claim to being a net exporter of music in the world. The sector also contributes significantly to other sectors, including tourism due to almost 8 million visits by music tourists made annually, and the sector continues to be a driver of growth in the digital technology sector.

The main purpose of this course is to allow learners to develop the core specialist knowledge, understanding and skills for the performing pathway. For example, for the performing pathway, learners will study music performance techniques and either solo music performance skills or how to work and develop a music ensemble, as required by the sector.

Summary of content

Six units are studied for the qualification. One mandatory unit, at least one specialist unit and four other optional units.


23. Music Performance Techniques - mandatory

Professional musicians work in a highly competitive environment. They must be able to deliver performances in a wide range of situations; in the studio, as a solo performer, as part of a group or in a live venue, often under great pressure. To be able to work in this environment musicians rely upon the foundation of polished technique, timing, tone and control. Coupled with this, they have to develop an adaptive, professional approach to continuous improvement of their musical and vocal skills.

33. Solo Music Performance Skills - specialist

In order to be an effective solo performer, the instrumentalist or vocalist not only must possess high levels of technical skill, but also needs to be able to develop a varied repertoire that will be appropriate for their target audience. The choice of suitable repertoire for an extended programme is crucial to the success of the overall performance.

Performers need to be able to play/sing confidently and accurately to an audience with a level of technical accuracy, expression and interpretation in their work that, when combined, we refer to as ‘musicianship’. Learners should work with a specialist instrumental or vocal teacher.

40. Working and Developing as a Musical Ensemble - specialist

Few musicians spend their working lives as soloists. Most regularly work as part of a group or ensemble of some kind. Sometimes these ‘musical partnerships’ are short-term, for instance a session musician being hired to play in a theatre band. Many musicians become involved in more long-standing group projects allowing them to develop complex creative partnerships. Such partnerships can be hugely rewarding for musicians and the mutual influences and challenges play a fundamental part in a musician’s development. This practical unit explores the nature of ensemble work by allowing learners to become part of a musical ensemble concentrating on the process of working together to produce a musically and artistically satisfying result.

6. Classical Music in Practice OR 30. Pop Music in Practice

The term ‘classical music’ is used here to refer to music written in the western ‘art’ music tradition, from the renaissance period (around 1400) through to the beginning of the twentieth century (1900). It includes renaissance, baroque and romantic periods of music as well music from the classical period associated with Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. It is a formalised music and can be compared with other classical traditions from world genres. It covers genres such as orchestral, concert, chamber, church and operatic music.

The term ‘pop music’ is used here to refer to the music, predominantly songs, that have formed the backbone of the music recording industry from 1950 to the present day. It includes the many and varied forms of blues, rock ‘n’ roll, rock, country and western, soul, rap, dance, urban and new wave styles of music. Pop music is an important expressive art form in contemporary culture. It is rooted in the behaviours of contemporary society. It provides a soundtrack to the modern world, reflecting and commenting on the ongoing human condition. This unit will give learners considering a profession in music a thorough grounding in pop music.

7. Composing Music

Music is a creative art – the act of musical creation being the very essence of music making. Musicians need a constant source of new music to perform, audiences need a constant source of new music to hear. In the western world and beyond the responsibility for new music often lies at the feet of the composer.

There are ever-increasing avenues for the practising composer in the modern music industry. Writing within the classical tradition for the concert hall is one such avenue but the commercial world is also a source of employment for many working composers. The record industry needs songs; TV and radio needs jingles, theme tunes and incidental music; the theatre needs supporting scores; film and TV drama requires title music and underscoring; computer games need music; and increasingly the internet requires the skills of the composer.

28. Musical Theatre Performance OR 36. Studying Music from Around the World

Musical theatre is an exciting and popular art form that combines singing, dancing and movement. It takes many forms, including large-scale Broadway and West End musicals, pantomime, opera, operetta and plays with significant music and movement content. There is a vast repertoire of material available and learners will have the opportunity to interpret and perform in musical theatre work selected to suit their interests and abilities. Musical theatre combines the skills of acting, dancing and singing and this unit is about exploring the interaction between these three performance skills and applying them appropriately to meet the performance requirements of particular pieces.

This unit enables learners to develop their knowledge and musical skills through a study of ‘world music’ from different geographical and cultural regions. The unit will explore a number of aspects of the relationship between music and society and will introduce learners to the diverse wealth of compositional systems employed around the world. The unit explores instrumental and vocal traditions from different cultures. Learners will have the opportunity to devise and perform music using characteristics taken from world music traditions. They will also gain valuable research skills by engaging in a short fieldwork project.

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