GCSE Music 'shock'

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Chat' started by Leyfy, Aug 21, 2008.

  1. Leyfy

    Leyfy Active Member

  2. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    I'm with ALW.
  3. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    No problem. We do not allow our students to submit anything other than a bona fide score for GCSE and they have to do a thorough report on what they have done and why. The board doesn't demand it, but you'll notice what I said about results.

    The students have to play two pieces and they have to give a performance like they would in a concert.

    As for the written paper, they are taught how to answer the various questions as thouroughly as we can - but it's sometimes hit and miss - especially if, like the last lot, they suffer from chronic CBA. Unfortunately, these days, we get a lot of guitarists and rock musicians who have no interest at all in the academic side of the subject and even though most of the questions are on modern popular music styles it is still damned hard work to get them to peer out of the box (let alone think out of it!)
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2008
  4. Flutey

    Flutey Active Member

    My music GCSE sounds exactly like what Mike Lyons described and it obviously can't be bad because I got my GCSE results and got an A in Music!
  5. Robin Norman

    Robin Norman Member

    As some of you will know I start my GTP teacher training in just over a week. As part of the run-up for this I had to spend some time in school observing (including some time with 'Leyfy') , the first time I'd really spent any significant amount of time in a classroom since my A-levels in 1991.

    In the final week the head of music spoke to me and explained that students can now get an 'A' without being able to read a note. To say I was shocked was an understatement but the HOM explained the new 'set-up' and said to me "Would you say Paul McCartney and Phil Collins are not musicians and, despite everything they've written, would not deserve a GCSE in music ? Neither can read or write a note !" This made me think a bit; still not entirely sure what I think or where I stand right now but it did make me re-think rather than just saying "that's wrong".
  6. cornet_babe

    cornet_babe Member

    I don't know where to stand on this subject. I'm not saying that guitarists who read tablature or vocalists who can't read music aren't musicians, because they are. It's just that I find it difficult to understand why somebody would choose to study music without learning to read sheet music. To me it's like taking a French GCSE without learning to speak French. It's so difficult to work out what is "right" or "wrong" in an argument like this!!!
  7. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    My stance is based on the fact that I believe that music GCSE should be an academic subject and as such you should be taught the fundamentals of all of it - and that includes notation.

    This isn't about whether or not people are 'musicians'....it's about whether or not people can gain a qualification in a subject. There should IMO be a distinction where something is purely vocational where stuff like theory is just a nice to have. It exists in other subjects. That said, there's rather a lot of inventing courses such that people can 'pass' them anyway - I'm afraid I'm from an era where people could (and did!) fail ;)

    If McCartney and Collins couldn't pass a GCSE exam that involved notation, then I'm afraid that's tough :D.....you don't need a qualification in something to be good at it.
  8. Leyfy

    Leyfy Active Member

    One of the battles I come across is that we all know that that the uptake of instrumental lessons for 'orchestral' instruments in secondary schools is dropping. However, in the schools I have worked in department budgets are determined by GCSE numbers. So we enourage students who sing or play drums and guitar who can't read traditional notation to take GCSE music. The most talented ones do often go through and get very good grades, due to the marking system.

    Its just a diverse subject in so many ways - and some of the airy-fairy topics on the current GCSE syllabus are definitely a hindrance ....
  9. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    With all that's been said about McCartney and others, they all relied on people who could do the notation to produce the sheet music they sell which makes them nearly as many millions as the recordings. Saying you don't need the notation (in any medium) skills is like saying you don't need the grammar and syntax skills to do a language.

    It may be that, in the future, we get the situation like now, where people can't add up without a calculator (or till) or spell without a word processor, in music but at the moment, to pursue an academic career you need the ability to understand the notation of sound in some form and if you have any wish to teach it as a subject you need a solid grounding in the basics of reading and writing music. You should also have a smattering of knowledge about the history, the physics and the simple pleasure of music. Most people can manage the latter, but even graduates, these days, struggle with the rest.

    They also don't realise how difficult it is to get a job in the music industry.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2008
  10. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    You can say that again ;)
  11. leisa

    leisa Active Member

    It annoys me when people say GCSE's are getting easier, the format of them might be for some people, but then again other people do better in exam conditions than coursework situations. Saying they have got easier just belittles thier achievements. Ive had huge rants to my dad about it as he went on about it when i was getting my results and it doesnt make you feel very good about getting good results. Well done everyone who passed by the way!!!
  12. Laserbeam bass

    Laserbeam bass Active Member

    Without wishing to sound like a grumpy almost middle aged man :tongue: Was the set work for this years GCSE music "Star Wars" Trilogy music, cleverly combined with the back albums of the Kaiser Chiefs, and for the classical element the theme from "The A Team".

    On a serious note though, does having qualifications to play an instrument make you any better than someone who has no qualifications at all. I have various Grades on various instruments, but have no formal qualifications in brass.

    Some of my family are gifted in musical ways that I will never be (cue for my brother to say that I have potential but never got round to using it), but this makes me no less of a musician than they are.

    Music and Education are changing, and it would appear from the outside that is now easier to gain a qualification in something that a person is mediocre in. This does not mean that they have not worked towards it, but does IMHO mean that they will be less likely to be able follow a career in certain areas due to the lack of practical skill that is required in order to make a few bob from it.

    If I could've I would've. As the old saying goes those who can do......., and I am not looking for a war of words here, because I would add that I wouldn't make a very good t*****r. No patience.

    My hat is doffed to all who take up the teaching profession. Coming from a long line of Teachers I naturally progressed to the Bookmaking industry, where unsurprisingly enough, my musical theory comes in handy. Basic maths being a prerequisite.

    ***Anecdote alert***
    Set piece for 'O' Level Music Brahms Academic Festival Overture
    Last Monday's rehearsal Brahms Academic Festival Overture
    Still at least it wasn't the absolutely (apologies to any Clarinetists (sp) (sic) who may have played and enjoyed it) the Mozart Clarinet Concerto.
    ***End anecdote alert***
  13. Jimmy_2121

    Jimmy_2121 Member

    As a college lecturer I see the results of this approach to GCSE music. Students who have been successful, often achieving the highest grades with only the minimum of notation reading skills expect the same at AS and A2, but have a real shock with the level of fluency expected from the onset. I think the issue with the GCSE lies in progression and accessibility not a desire for improving results. The majority of GCSE subjects are accessible for students without any support and tuition other than the compulsory school education, with a clear and logical progression from early on. Traditionally GCSE hasn't been in this model, with students taking the subject having had years of private tuition in their instrument and consequently music reading.
    The problems are that the 'old' model is very exclusive and doesn't allow progression through the school curriculum, but on the contrary the step up to AS/A2 is considerable, but needs to occur somewhere in music education as standards in HE and the professional world are not reducing.
  14. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    [personal rant]

    I don't have a problem with coursework - to an extent - so long as it can be proven that it's their own. I also fully appreciate than some people work better under exam conditions that others.

    I'm afraid though that shruken syllabi speak for themselves. I've tutored in O Level / GCSE / A Level maths, physics, chemistry, biology and general science....and I've seen (and even sat) examples of papers where the A level questions were the O Level questions (pretty much verbatim) of yesteryear. I've watched as Group 3 Elements were completely cut out of A Level Chemistry (don't know if they've been miraculously put back - I gave up tutoring ages ago I'm that old ;) )....and so on.

    There are core principles in everything, and to start taking some of them out is undermining the foundations of the education.

    And it's the reason universities are starting to expand 'normal' degree courses into 4 years in order to try and bring the standards back to parity with where IMO they need to be. I'm afraid I don't agree with the concept of everyone deserves Higher Education as all it does is devalues the qualification.....I do agree with the concept that everyone who's capable deserves it though.

    [/personal rant]
  15. Many of the young people that I teach have basic literacy problems. They find it difficult to read English let alone music notation. Many have advanced musical skills, particularly some of the guitarists who seem to be dismissed by some as non-musicians. Why should they be prevented from passing an exam in a subject (probably one of very few that they can succeed in) just because they cannot read traditional notation.
    I would bet that many of my students could wipe the floor with some of you traditionalists when it comes to improvisation and use of harmony and chord progressions.
    If music is to interest more than the elite minority we need to open our minds.
    On that matter, what is wrong with Star Wars and the Kaiser Chiefs? They are the modern equivalent of Mozart and Strauss. Music for the masses.
    Rant over.
  16. leisa

    leisa Active Member

    I 100% agree. You have to face facts that kids arent really given as much opportunity toward music anymore. Alot of kids opting to do music do it because they want to be a 'popstar' very few can actually play an instrument to adecent standard. Im sure she will say herself at some point but a friend of mine teaches music and she actually had to teach some of her class to play basic tunes on keyboard/piano just so they could enter their performance exma.

    My cousin has just done hers, she is grade 4 guitar standard and immensly struggled with composition and written music to the point where she was in tears and for personal reasons was told by her head of year she didnt have to do the composition aspect.

    #As for playing kaisercheifs, is that not just moving on with the times, wouldnt it get boring if all thast was played was mozart forever? I had to listen to the floral dance on my gcse's you could argue that that was favourising the brass players amongst us. At degree level i had to write an essay on madonna for one of my final exams, modern, but i would love to see some of the people who slate exams nowadys attempt it and actually suceed.
  17. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    They shouldn't be prevented from passing an exam but IMO the qualification should be different. I firmly believe that there's a place for both....the issue comes with funding and resource.

    You're quite right that some of these students are remarkable in other areas, but depending on how you interpret what you've written you could almost look at what you're saying as tantamount positive discrimination - why should should you ignore notation in favour of having a good ol' jam when us 'traditionalists' are obviously rubbish at it ;)

    We should be playing and educating to people's strengths which may mean two different 'music' qualifications.

    Interestingly I've just received a Spam email telling me my academic qualification has expired and do I want to buy a degree :biggrin:
  18. leisa

    leisa Active Member

    Its moving with the time you cant expect all qualifications to conform with traditionalists forever
  19. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Did you study her / her impact on music etc etc as part of your course? Or was it a research project? You've got to give it context.

    This concept of giving an old timer like me a blind question / essay from a current examination is pointless. The exams and essays you're set follow either a period of study or form part of a dissertation which is researched. If you allow someone the appropriate period of tuition and time you may be surprised how many people can succeed.

    There's another point to make here - I agree completely that it's very easy to knock candidates and look as if you're being disrespectful to people's efforts by being in the camp that I'm in......but they're working within the framework that they're given by the Government and a year on year increase in expectation of passes.

    When I were a lad - and it really isn't that long ago I'm only 37 - people were still leaving school without doing any exams or being put through a discriminatory system that was appropriate to level.

    Some of those people haven't got a formal qualification to their name - but in terms of standard of living, salaries etc etc are no worse off than me (and in some cases much better than me) even following lots of years of university education.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2008
  20. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Which suggests deskilling, which has disasterous medium to long term effects on everything from the individual to the economy and thus to the Country.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2008

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