Category Archives: Unit 2

Writing your Unit 2 Composition Brief

There are three criteria that apply to all of your Unit 2 compositions. Each piece must:

  • be between 2:30 and 4 minutes long.
  • include at least FOUR instrumental parts (one could be a vocal part).
  • use “real” instruments, either recorded or played into Garageband using the keyboard – software instruments. So, no synths.

It is also crucial to write yourself a composition brief to provide a starting point. Your creativity can then set sail and may well develop in many varied and unplanned ways, but the “blank page” situation can be unhelpful, so giving yourself some guidelines is a great way to kick off the compositional process..

So, what makes a successful composition brief? There are three important steps:

1. Choose a musical genre to compose in. You must also find two reference tracks that are in this style. Choose from the following list:

  • Pop song – this can be in any style i.e. R’n’B, acoustic pop, indie, etc.
  • Rock song or Rock instrumental piece.
  • Jazz instrumental
  • Instrumental movie theme
  • Classical instrumental

2. Choose one link to the strand – this year’s strand is The Western Classical Tradition. Click HERE FOR A LIST OF LINKS TO THE STRAND FOR YOU TO CHOOSE ONE FROM. It is important that you pick a link that will fit with your chosen genre/style.

3. Pick TWO Areas of Study from the following list. These will then provide the focus for how your composition develops. Below are some suggested starting points for each Area of Study:

  • AoS1 Rhythm & Metre – Your piece might start by establishing a clear sense of pulse and develop to include: variety of rhythmic grooves, drum fills, syncopation, polyrhythm etc.
  • AoS2 Harmony & Tonality – Your piece might start with a diatonic chord sequence and develop to include chord inversions, 7th chords, modulation, etc.
  • AoS3 Texture & Melody – Your piece might start with a monophonic texture or by using melody with accompaniment and develop to include polyphonic (also called contrapuntal) textures, layered textures, octaves, doubling in unison, harmonised melody, etc.
  • AoS4 Timbre & Dynamics – Your piece might feature strings and include legato, pizzicato and staccato sections. This could also apply to the use of guitars – picking, fingerpicking, strumming, single line melody, use of FX.
  • AoS5 Structure & Form – If your composition is instrumental then you might explore Ternary form or Rondo form, begin by writing a strong A section. If you are writing a song, consider standard song form using verse/chorus structure, possibly with a bridge, middle eight and intro/outro sections.

Now you can consider your initial instrumentation. You must use “real instruments”, these can be garageband software instruments, i.e strings, drums, guitars, piano, woodwind, brass, etc. but not synths. Think about what the typical instruments are in your chosen style, this is where your reference tracks will come in handy.

Unit 2 Appraisal Help

Hello wonderful people!

Now, first of all, don’t panic. I know that up until now, 99% of your music lessons have been practical, composing and performing etc. But we need to explain to Mr Examiner how amazing your compositions are. We need to explain how your compositions relate to the strand of World Music.

You should all have a Google Doc set up. If you don’t, let Miss Glover or Mr Fisher know so that we can sort that out ASAP.

The FIRST thing you need to do is SHARE it with Miss Glover AND Mr Fisher. We want to know how you are doing.

The appraisal template SHOULD be straight forward. If you are stuck on a section, enter a COMMENT into your Google Doc (Insert – Comment) and explain what you don’t understand. Then Miss Glover or Mr Fisher can help you.

Click HERE for an EXEMPLAR UNIT 2 APPRAISAL – this one received 18 marks (out of 20).

REMEMBER: you have SO MANY amazing resources on the blog. They all link to the Areas of Study. Don’t ignore all the fantastic resources on the blog!

Here is a copy of the Google Doc you should have:

Name: Candidate number:

Q. 1 What Areas of Study did you choose and what is the focus of your composition within the given strand?

NOTE: You should also mention your chosen style in your response to the question.

I have chosen the following areas of study:

The link to the World Music strand is……

Q.2 Why did you choose these Areas of Study and the particular focus within the given strand?

The first area of study links to my composition because….

The second area of study links to my composition because….

I chose the focus within the World Music strand because….

Q.3 How did you go about composing your music and how was the final recording achieved?

NOTE: Please include detailed and specific information, including:

  • precise chord progressions
  • how the melody was created
  • the process of deciding on accompaniment styles / patterns
  • how did you ensure there was contrast between sections?
  • how did you ensure the whole piece sounded ‘finished’?
  • consideration of instrumental techniques and how they are used in your piece

I composed my piece in the following way……

NOTE: You must outline which parts you played and those recorded by other musicians.

  • Outline how the tracks were entered, was it in step-time, real-time, by yourself or by other musicians?
  • If you have “live” tracks (i.e. vocal, guitar etc) you must indicate if they were recorded by yourself or by other musicians.

The final recording was created using Garageband with …

Q. 4 What difficulties did you encounter during the task and how did you overcome them?

When composing my piece, I had the following issues….

Q. 5 What makes your composition successful in relation to the Areas of Study and the focus chosen within the given strand?

My first area of study chosen was ….  and my piece fits this area of study because

My second area of study chosen was ….  and my piece fits this area of study because

My link to the strand  of World Music was… you can hear this in my piece through the use of…

Q. 6 What is the relationship of your composition to its context?

Here you will outline your chosen style(s) and why you feel that your finished composition meets the musical “fingerprints” of that style

The intention of my composition was to be a ….

Include any relevant notes to help complete the appraisal….

Unit 2 compositions – what you are aiming for

Here are some examples of Unit 2 compositions, and the marks they gained.

Example A – Big Band / Jazz composition

This gained 20 out of 20 for the composition. Why? Well…..

  • It was imaginative.
  • It felt complete as a composition (it felt finished)
  • The writing for the instruments sounded like it was meant to be performed on those instruments
It was also good for other reasons, and these are reasons you can include in your compositions:
  • It was based on several riffs. However, when a riff was repeated, something was added or changed – another instrument, a line of harmony, a different drum beat
  • The piece was constantly developing and changing within the style. Nothing stayed still for too long, providing interest for the listener. However, the different sections had a common sense of unity, belonging to the same piece. They were not different ideas in the same piece.
  • The drum part was interesting, not just the same thing throughout the piece.
  • The music, designed as a big band jazz piece, was playable and did what it said on the tin. It was supposed to be a big band piece and sounded like a big band piece.
The appraisal (below) gained 14 out of 20 marks. It showed that the composer had thought about what he was composing, and how his composition fitted his initial plan. He understood what chords he had used, and how they fitted in his composition. He understood the structure of the piece.
Example B.
This is a much simpler composition. 15/20
Again, it is riff based. It is meant to be a piece of dance/techno music, and again fits the bill exactly. In her appraisal, the composer has detailed:

  • why she chose this style
  • how it fits this style
  • How she composed it.
  • What problems she had composing it and how she overcame these problems.
The composition is very repetitive. However, this is in keeping with the style of music. Despite being repetitive  the music is continually developing, changing, again within the style.
So, key points to remember when composing.
  • Don’t have too many ideas. 2 or 3. It is how you use these ideas that is key (varying them with texture, instrumentation).
  • Keep your composition simple
  • Use texture to make it interesting – instruments do not continue all the time, there is variety.
  • Keep a record of what you have done and how you overcame any problems (I couldn’t think up a new tune so I….)
  • Make sure your composition fits your intended (or accidentally intended) style. Listen to 2 tracks in that style and copy their ideas of development and interest and structure.