Music is a practical subject in which students work as musicians, engaging in musical thinking. Three kinds of activity require musical thinking: listening, composing and performing. These elements provide the foundation for the music curriculum.

In lessons at Hillsview Academy, all aspects of music are taught through practical activities, encouraging students to experiment with sound and evaluate the outcomes. This leads to highly motivated, independent learners. Students experience a wide variety of musical genres from all parts of the world including both the social and historical contexts. This creates in our students a willingness to appreciate new and unfamiliar music and develops an ongoing appreciation of the subject.


  • All students shall be given equal access and opportunity to the activities of the department and so provide stimulation and enjoyment of the subject.
  • Students will develop an understanding of the expressive qualities of music and its ability to communicate feeling and ideas.
  • Students will be encouraged to develop personal skills of self discipline, self motivation and co-operation in practical activities.
  • Students will develop an awareness and appreciation for our diverse musical heritage and the music of other cultures.
  • Teaching strategies will recognise the individuality of each student and will encourage them to develop their full potential.
  • All students, regardless of prior experience or capability, are engaged in active music making and are allowed to feel a sense of achievement
  • The music curriculum responds to the cultural heritage of the local community, whilst addressing a range of other cultures
  • Students have the opportunity to learn a range of musical instruments, which reflect their interests and aspirations
  • Music makes a contribution to the life of the school and to the development of key skills (social, moral and spiritual development)

KS3 Music

During KS3 students will have the opportunity to study a range of different topics.

Voice works

“Voiceworks” is all about using the voice and singing. Learning is developed through a wide variety of songs and chants from different times and places. Students learn about vocal harmonies and textures developing an understanding of the voice, how it works, breath control and vocal registers.


This unit develops students’ ability to recognise, explore and make creative use of the elements of music found in variation form. Students begin this unit by working with a famous theme and exploring different musical ways in which this can be varied and developed, using the elements of music and exploring changes in tonality and rhythm. Students explore how composers have used variation form in a selection of music from different times and places. Finally, students learn about the concept of Ground Bass, as a type of Variation Form, performing Pachelbel’s “Canon” and composing their own Ground Bass Variations before looking at how Ground Bass has been used in popular songs.

Reggae music

This unit explores reggae music and the culture it comes from. After exploring the origins of reggae music as one of a number of different styles of Caribbean music, students learn about the importance of bass lines in reggae music and how offbeat chords are a key feature of music of this genre. Students explore the strong and weak beats of the bar, syncopation and the effect that this has on reggae music, before looking at how “fragmented” melodic parts can be used as bass line riffs and melodic hooks. Students look at the famous reggae musician, Bob Marley and his influence on Rastafarianism to a worldwide audience through the lyrics of reggae songs and explore the different textural layers which make up reggae music.

African music

This unit explores the main rhythmic musical features and devices used in African music, particularly the African drumming tradition of West Africa. Students learn to perform different drum strokes on a drum before composing, performing and improvising simple rhythms, turning these into cyclic rhythms. These are then combined to form a poly-rhythmic texture, characteristic of much African music. Students explore the effect of syncopation on rhythms learning about its offbeat feel and its emphasis on weaker beats before exploring how call and response is used in African music, improvising, composing and performing their own call and response rhythms. Students look briefly at African musical instruments before combining their learning of cyclic and poly-rhythms, syncopation and call and response into an African-inspired piece.


This unit develops students’ understanding of poly-rhythmic music and contemporary minimalist styles exploring how different poly-rhythmic textures and musical conventions are used by minimalist composers including the use of repetitive and changing rhythmic and melodic motifs in different styles of minimalist music. The main focus of this unit is rhythm: cyclic rhythm, poly-rhythm and moving in/out of phase and also looks at structure including cyclic structure and motivic transformation. Students explore a range of minimalist music including “Clapping Music”, “Tubular Bells” and “Oxygen e (Part IV)”.

Jazz Improvisation

This unit develops students’ understanding of bass lines and chords as a harmonic foundation upon which a melody can be constructed upon and as a foundation for improvisation. Students begin by learning about the history, origin and development of the Blues and its characteristic 12-bar Blues structure exploring how a walking bass line is developed from a chord progression. Students also explore the effect of adding a melodic improvisation using the Blues scale and the effect which “swung” rhythms have as used in jazz and blues music. Students are introduced to seventh chords and how these are formed and their characteristic sound used in jazz and blues music. Pupils examine the lyrics of blues songs before composing their own set of lyrics for a performance of their blues song using different textural layers.

Popular song

In this unit, students explore the genre of popular song, learning how different artists and groups have created different musical arrangements of the same song. Students learn about different musical devices used in popular songs including how the different structural elements are sequenced horizontally to produce the classic form of a popular song, as well as how different textural layers combine vertically showing awareness of the different parts used in a popular song. Students explore hooks and riffs and learn about their function within popular songs.

Sound tracks

This unit aims to give students the experience of being “film soundtrack composers” and explores the challenges and musical devices used in film soundtrack composition. The unit focuses on three genres of film soundtrack: Action/Thriller Soundtracks, ‘Western’ Soundtracks and “Horror Movie” Soundtracks. Students begin by exploring Leitmotifs and how they have been used to represent certain “characters” or “situations” in films, before exploring how Themes have been used in film soundtracks and performing a number of “James Bond” Themes. Students compose their own soundtrack to the new James Bond film trailer “Spectre” learning how film composers use “Cue sheets” to create music to fit with exact timings. Students perform a famous Theme from a ‘Western’ exploring how film music composers use instruments “associated” with ‘The Wild West’ to create a sense of Time and Place. Finally, students explore soundtracks to “Horror Movies”, learning about Concords and Discords and how composers of “Horror Movies” use Discords, instrumentation and extremes of Pitch to create their own “Horror Movie” soundtrack using a Storyboard to help them with their planning.


Students opting to study GCSE Music continue to develop and apply the musical knowledge, understanding and skills set out in KS3. The AQA GCSE specification supports students to form a personal and meaningful relationship with music. Students are encouraged to engage critically and creatively with a wide range of music and musical contexts, and reflect on how music is used in the expression of personal and collective identities.

The Subject content is divided into the three components:

  • Understanding music
  • Performing music
  • Composing music

Component 1: Understanding music

What's assessed

  • Listening
  • Contextual understanding

How it's assessed

Exam paper with listening exercises and written questions using excerpts of music.


  • Section A: Listening – unfamiliar music (68 marks)
  • Section B: Study pieces (28 marks)

The exam is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

This component is worth 40% of GCSE marks (96 marks).

Component 2: Performing music

What's assessed

Music performance

How it's assessed

As an instrumentalist and/or vocalist and/or via technology:

  • Performance 1: Solo performance (36 marks)
  • Performance 2: Ensemble performance (36 marks).

A minimum of four minutes of performance in total is required, of which a minimum of one minute must be the ensemble performance.

This component is 30% of GCSE marks (72 marks).

Non-exam assessment (NEA) will be internally marked by teachers and externally moderated by AQA. Performances must be completed in the year of certification.

Component 3: Composing music

What's assessed


How it's assessed

  • Composition 1: Composition to a brief (36 marks)
  • Composition 2: Free composition (36 marks).

A minimum of three minutes of music in total is required.

This component is 30% of GCSE marks (72 marks).

Non-exam assessment (NEA) will be internally marked by teachers and externally moderated by AQA.

Extra-Curricular Music

Participation in extra-curricular music activities enriches the core curriculum for music and allows pupils the opportunity to share interests and experience performing with others.

Lunchtime clubs available every day:

  • Guitar Club
  • Vocal study
  • Keyboard club
  • Band rehearsal
  • GCSE performance practise