Aside from its extra-curricular importance to the life of the College, music is also studied as an academic subject.  

All members of the Second and Third Form attend one class music lesson in the two weekly cycle.  GCSE and A level Music is offered as an option in the other year groups, along with A level Music Technology in the Lower and Upper Sixth Forms.

Department Head - Dr Tim Ridley  GRSM, PhD, LRAM, FRSA

Mrs Jasmine Nicholson, BEd, BMus

Mr Brian Elrick, LLB

Mrs Tracy Doig, Music School Administrator

"Glenalmond is highly regarded both internally and externally for its music. We take pride in making music accessible to all, but also enjoy the fact that, as a small school, committed musicians from any year group are big fish in a small pond and can benefit from remarkable solo and ensemble performance opportunities." Dr Tim Ridley, Head of Department

Follow us on Twitter: @GlenalmondMusic
Listen to Glenalmond music on the Soundcloud



All members of the Second and Third Form attend one class music lesson in the two weekly cycle.  GCSE and A level Music is offered as an option in the other year groups, along with A level Music Technology in the Lower and Upper Sixth Forms.

The new Edexcel GCSE in Music comprises three components.  The composing and listening units relate to four Areas of Study:

AoS 1:   Instrumental Music, 1700-1820

                Set Works –        J. S. Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 (3rd Movt)

                                         Beethoven, ‘Pathetique’ Piano Sonata (1st Movt)

AoS 2:   Vocal Music

                Set Works –        Purcell, Music for a While

                                          Queen, Killer Queen

AoS 3:   Music for Stage & Screen

                Set Works –        Stephen Schwartz, Defying Gravity (from ‘Wicked’)

                                          John Williams, Main Title (Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope)

AoS 4:   Fusions

                Set Works –        Afro Celt Sound System, Release

                                          Esperanza Spalding, Samba Em Preludio


Component 1: Performing Music
Internally assessed, externally moderated – 60 marks, 30%


  • One solo performance, at least one minute duration
  • One ensemble performance, at least one minute duration
  • Recordings of both solo and ensemble performances (submitted on CD)
  • Scores, professional recordings or written commentary (for Realisation) for both performances
  • Ideal standard at around Lent Term in Fifth Form no less than Grade 3
  • Total performance time of at least four minutes (solo and ensemble combined)


Component 2: Composing Music 
Internally assessed, externally moderated – 60 marks, 30%


  • One composition written to a brief, at least one minute duration
  • One free composition, at least one minute duration
  • Combined composition time of at least three minutes
  • Recordings of both compositions (submitted on CD)
  • Some kind of notated score or written commentary for each composition


Component  3: Appraising
Externally marked – 80 marks, 40%

Overview of content

  • Knowledge and study of the four Areas of Study
  • Detailed knowledge and study of the eight set works, two from each Area of Study


Overview of Assessment

  • A 1 hour and 45 minutes written paper
  • The paper will be in two sections
    • Section A: six questions related to six of the eight set works, one short melody/rhythm completion exercise and one question on an unfamiliar piece
    • Section B: extended response comparison between a set work and an unfamiliar piece

A total of 200 marks for the paper.


The GCSE course is suitable for anybody who has a genuine interest in music.  It is certainly not aimed at specialists, nor solely at music scholars, although all music award holders are required to study the course to support their musical development.  However, anybody taking GCSE music will be required to perform to a level of, ideally, around or just above ABRSM Grade 3 by the Lent Term in the Fifth Form.  This performance could be in any style and is certainly not restricted just to those playing the more established, traditional instruments.  Studying GCSE music will provide a window into the musical world which will be of lifelong benefit to those who enjoy listening to and/or playing music.

GCSE Music (or an equivalent qualification) is a prerequisite for subsequent Sixth Form study of both A Level Music and/or Music Technology.

At Glenalmond, we prepare pupils for A Level music to the Edexcel specification.  This is an excellent course which combines academic rigour with creativity and musicianship.  During the course, pupils will learn to perform, compose and appreciate different styles of music, developing critical and creative thinking, cultural, aesthetic and emotional awareness. 


Course Description

The Edexcel A Level Music course takes place over two years and is comprised of three musical components:

Component 1:  Performing (30%)

  • Pupils must give a public performance of one or more pieces, performed as a recital
  • Performance can be playing or singing solo, in an ensemble, improvising, or realising music using music technology
  • Performances are externally assessed

Component 2:  Composing (30%)

  • Pupils must produce two compositions
  • One composition must be from either a list of briefs related to the areas of study, or a free composition – this composition must be at least 4 minutes in duration
  • One composition must be from a list of briefs assessing compositional technique – this composition must be at least 1 minute in duration
  • The total time across both submissions must be a minimum of 6 minutes

Component 3:  Appraising (Written Examination) (40%)

  • Pupils develop practical methods to analyse and evaluate music and its features
  • Knowledge and understanding of the musical elements, contexts and language is refined
  • Application of knowledge through the context of the following six areas of study (three set works for each) will be assessed:
    • Vocal Music
    • Instrumental Music
    • Music for Film
    • Popular Music and Jazz
    • Fusions
    • New Directions
  • Pupils will sit a written paper comprised of two sections, evaluating their listening and appraising skills and their written evaluation skills


Recommended Entry Requirements

Pupils wishing to take Music should have taken GCSE Music, Grade 5 Theory and be a minimum of Grade 5 standard on their first study at the start of the course.


Careers and Higher Education

A Level music is excellent preparation for a wide range of degree courses and careers, not just music.

Glenalmond follows the Pearson/Edexcel Music Technology course. This course (new for teaching in September 2017) marries musical skills together with a practical use of IT to produce recordings and compositions.  This course is a highly relevant programme of musical study to musicians of all disciplines – classical, rock/pop and jazz.


Course Description

Component 1:  Recording (practical work, non-examined assessment) – 20%

•     One recording, chosen from a list of 10 songs provided by Pearson, consisting of a minimum of five compulsory instruments and two additional instruments, released on 1st June in the calendar year preceding the year in which the qualification is to be awarded

•     Compulsory instruments: drum kit, bass, electric guitar, lead vocal, backing vocal

•     Optional instruments: at least two of: acoustic melody instrument, acoustic guitar, keyboard

•     Keyboard tracks may be sequenced

•     Total time must be between 3 minutes and 3½ minutes

•     Logbook and authentication form must be supplied


Component 2: Technology-based composition (practical work, non-examined assessment) – 20%

•     One technology‐based composition chosen from three briefs set by Pearson released on 1st September in the calendar year preceding the year in which the qualification is to be awarded

•     Synthesis and sampling/audio manipulation and creative effects use must be included

•     Total time must be 3 minutes

•     Logbook and authentication form must be supplied


Component 3:  Listening and analysing (90 minute written examination) – 25%

This paper will test knowledge and understanding of recording and production techniques and principles, in the context of a series of unfamiliar recordings.  The three Areas of Study to be tested are [1] Recording and production techniques for both corrective and creative purposes, [2] Principles of sound and audio technologyand [3] The development of recording and production technology.

  • This paper comprises two sections: A and B and all questions are compulsory
  • One audio CD with the unfamiliar commercial recordings to accompany questions on the paper will be provided per student
  • Section A: Listening and analysing (40 marks) – four questions, each based on unfamiliar commercial recordings supplied by Pearson (10 marks each)
  • Section B: Extended written responses (35 marks) – two essay questions. One comparison question, which uses two unfamiliar commercial recordings from the CD (15 marks). The second essay uses the final unfamiliar commercial recording on the CD (20 marks).


Component 4: Producing and analysing (2½ hour written/practical examination) – 35%

This paper will test knowledge and understanding of mixing, editing and production techniques, to be applied to unfamiliar materials, in addition to the application of knowledge related to Areas of Study 1 and 2 above.

  • This paper comprises two sections: A and B and all questions are compulsory
  • Each student will be provided with a set of audio/MIDI materials for the practical element of the examination, to include:
    • audio files relating to three instrumental/vocal parts.
    • a single MIDI file from which a fourth instrumental part will be created or synthesised

•     Students will correct and then combine the audio and MIDI materials to form a completed mix, which may include creating new tracks or parts from the materials provided

•     Section A: Producing and analysing (85 marks) – five questions related to the audio and MIDI materials provided that include both written responses and practical tasks

•     Section B: Extended written response (20 marks) – one essay focusing on a specific mixing scenario, signal path, effect or music technology hardware unit


Assessment Methods

Non-examined Assessment [Coursework] (40%)

Written examinations (60%)


Entry Requirements

This course is not suitable for pupils with merely an interest in the subject areas – pupils must demonstrate existing competent, proven musical/instrumental skills.  GCSE music study is a prerequisite, except in exceptional circumstances where musical ability to a level agreed as acceptable by the Director of Music is offered.  Keyboard ability is also necessary for the input of data, minimum piano level of around Grade 3.


Subject Combinations

Oddly, for those looking to read music at university, Music Technology offers no duplication whatsoever with Music, so the two A Levels offer a full and balanced approach to contemporary music thinking.


Careers and Higher Education

University courses offer both BA and BSc degrees, indicating the line this subject treads between the arts and sciences.  Anybody looking to follow a vocational pathway in music may find this course of more practical benefit than the straight Music course.  Music Technology is suitable for those looking to go to conservatoire as performers, for those looking to become composers or for those interested in keeping their options open but wishing to retain a highly creative approach to their musical development.

Both A Level and Higher Music are based around three core elements – Performing, Listening & Composing.


A Level



30% - public performance minimum 8 mins, standard level ~Grade 6-7

1) 60% - Performance on two selected instruments for 12-13 mins, standard level ~Grade 4+

2) 40% - written paper testing music concepts and music literacy

Combined = 6 SCQF credit points


30% - 2 compositions, one to a set brief assessing compositional techniques (>1 min), one either from a list of briefs or a free composition (>4 mins)

Continual assessment – no fixed composition requirements, journal kept to record the study and understanding of the compositional process, plus workshop style, teacher-assessed compositions

6 SCQF credit points


40% - written exam analysing and applying knowledge of three set works from each of the six Areas of Study (so 18 set works in total)

Understanding Music – written 1 hour paper testing broad understanding of music concepts and musical analysis of unprepared excerpts

6 SCQF credit points


As in other subjects, A Level provides depth, Higher provides a very broad approach, with the composition element allowing for a less academically intense pathway.  Although Higher performance actually requires a longer playing time, and on two instruments, the level of musicianship required to meet standard level requirement is 2 to 3 grades lower.  The Listening elements reflect the depth/broad differences, A Level going into detail regarding 18 set works, Higher examining broad musical concepts and testing that candidates can identify these concepts in unprepared listenings.