Category Archives: How to Teach Music

A crisis in music education around one-to-one instrumental teaching?

Is there a crisis in our schools surrounding the teaching of music in a one-to-one instrumental setting? I’m not sure that there is, but there is an interesting discussion here from a distinguished panel including MMU’s Professor Heather Piper. I’d skip to around eight minutes in to avoid a long, boring and rambling introduction from the chair:


Key Stage 3 materials: A complete programme of work for music technology with Years 7 – 9

I’m pleased to make the following 9 units of work for Key Stage 3 music available to readers of my blog. These were written a couple of years ago for Roland UK and I’ve been asked by many teachers for copies – so here they are! You might want to read the following detailed descriptions prior to downloading the units. If you enjoy using them, please leave a comment here so that others can be encouraged.

Unit 1: An Introduction to Vocal Recording, Sampling, Looping and Effects: ‘Students will explore and learn the skills required to create music using new sampling, effects and looping technology’. 8.3MB

Unit 2: Vocalise: ‘Students will learn how to use their voices as musical instruments in conjunction with a range of performance and sound processing technologies’. 0.25MB

Unit 3: An Introduction to Film Music: ‘Students will apply the key principles learnt in Unit 1 to the production of a soundtrack for a piece of film’. 63.1MB

Unit 4: Music and Image: ‘The main focus of the Unit  is to explore the various ways in which music can be linked to the visual domain in a live performance setting’. 14.3MB

Unit 5: Music for Computer Games: ‘Students will explore the processes behind composing music for computer games’. 122.1MB

Unit 6: Creating a TV Programme: ‘Students will explore how music reinforces the visual content of a television program’. 6MB

Unit 7: New Performance Environments: ‘Students will consolidate and develop their knowledge and skills from previous units (in particular Unit 1 & Unit 4)’. 0.6MB

Unit 8: Dance Music and the Club Experience: ‘This unit  is an introduction to traditional Trance music parameters and their links to visual material that enhance an audience’s experience’. 252.3MB

Unit 9: Music and the Web-based Radio Station: ‘Students will create and manage a web-based radio station, developing a knowledge and understanding of audio imaging and identity’.  26.3MB

Music and the Cross Curricular Dimensions

The cross-curricular dimensions of the previous National Curriculum presented some of the most exciting opportunities for music education. They provided the unifying areas of learning that helped pupils make sense of the world and gave their music education relevance and authenticity.

Skilful teachers used these dimensions to link together musical learning with learning in other subjects and across the curriculum as a whole. Although the dimensions were not a statutory part of the National Curriculum, many music teachers found them helpful and constructive in designing and planning a music curriculum that engaged and excited pupils.

In this document, written in 2007, I examined the seven cross-curricular dimensions. Each was briefly defined and then illustrated with reference to how they underpin and facilitate pupils’ musical learning.

Although the notion of cross curricular dimensions is, sadly, completely absence from the current National Curriculum I hope that this document will inspire you to continue to make links across the curriculum in imaginative ways. In my view, a high quality music education is always rich in context and cross-curricular activity.

The ‘Hard2Teach’ Project: Attentive Listening & Imaginative Composition

Back in 2008, the National Association of Music Education received some funding from Becta under their ‘Using ICT effectively in subject teaching’ initiative. The outcome was a range of teacher support materials in areas of the KS3 music curriculum that were perceived as being ‘hard to teach’. These areas were identified through consultation with a number of teachers.

I was involved in working on a couple of units for this project, under the direction of Andy Murray (not the tennis player!). Unfortunately, all these materials have long since disappeared from the NAME, and now Music Mark, websites. So, in the spirit of trying to be supportive of the new National Curriculum, here are the links to a couple of .zip files that contain the resources that were produced for:

1. Attentive Listening

2. Imaginative Composition

‘How to Teach …’ using Digital Technologies in the Music Classroom

Digital technologies are increasingly being integrated into the fabric of human society. As part of this trend, they are increasingly being used to support and restructure education in schools. Recent research also demonstrates that many digital technologies are being used to support the implementation of musical curricula.

The aim of the Phil Kirkman’s guide was to demonstrate a working out of the key concepts from the National Curriculum into realistic classroom activities that promote learning through the integration of Digital Technologies.

Phil went on to complete a fantastic doctorate in this area at the University of Cambridge where he currently works supporting the PGCE in Music course.

For other guides in this ‘How to Teach …’ series please click on this link.

‘How to Teach …’ with the Cross Curricular Dimensions

This guide, written by my superb colleague Jane Petrie, explores the aspects of teaching and learning that can be developed through the Cross Curricular Dimensions. It focuses on developing approaches that increase pupils’ engagement, motivation and commitment to their learning and uses a model of working with outside agencies as identified in the Curriculum Opportunities section of the revised Programme of Study.

I have to say that this topic intrigues me greatly. My work with Jane on this resulted in my writing and editing a series of books for Routledge on this topic. You can find further details of these in my publications page.

For other guides in this ‘How to Teach …’ series please click on this link.

‘How to Teach …’ Developing Thinking Skills

In recent years there has been a growing interest in how to develop thinking skills. This interest has been fed by new knowledge about how the brain works and how people learn. The particular ways in which people apply their minds to solve problems are called Thinking Skills. This guide written by Dr Fern Chantele-Carter defines what thinking skills are and considers how they can be developed through the Key Stage 3 music curriculum.

For other guides in this ‘How to Teach …’ series please click on this link.

‘How to Teach …’ Personal Learning and Thinking Skills (PLTS) through Music

I don’t think that this guide would find favour with our current Secretary of State for Education! Written by Carolyn Cooke, it helps us think about how music contributes to and can be taught explicitly to develop PLTS. It provides a starting point for evaluating your curriculum, give ideas on how to integrate PLTS fully into teaching and learning, and establish the links between PLTS and the new National Curriculum Key Concepts.

For other guides in this ‘How to Teach …’ series please click on this link.

‘How to Teach …’ Critical Understanding

Critical Understanding is the cognitive, knowledge based aspect of learning music. It is the knowledge of, and about, music.  Most importantly, it is the ability to express this in a musical way. This would include the use of prose, musical notation, musical vocabulary, instrumentation, form and structure, and analytical skills. This guide, written by Nicola Smith, explain the difference between the new National Curriculum for Music and the previous curriculum orders. It gives guidance on how best to tackle this important Key Concept. There will also be reference to resources which help to explain aspects of Critical Understanding in more detail.

For other guides in this ‘How to Teach …’ series please click on this link.

‘How to Teach …’ Providing Opportunities for Pupils to Work with a Range of Musicians

Opportunities to work with accomplished musicians who can model creative processes can be inspirational and motivating for pupils. It can help them to develop their own creative work as they observe and work with musicians to generate ideas, explore possibilities and take risks. It is an important part of helping pupils to connect with the role of music and musicians in society and to gain a deeper understanding of the music industry.

In this guide, Jayne Price and Fran Hannan explore these issues and give some  helpful practical advice for moving your practice forward in this essential area of effective music teaching.

For other guides in this ‘How to Teach …’ series please click on this link.