Curriculum Overview


Key Stage 3 Key Stage 4 Sixth Form

Term 1-2: Blues and Jazz

This unit develops pupils’ understanding of bass lines and chords as a harmonic foundation upon which a melody can be constructed upon and as a foundation for improvisation. Pupils 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. Pupils also explore the effect of adding a melodic improvisation using the Blues scale and the effect on which “swung” rhythms have as used in jazz and blues music. Pupils are introduced to seventh chords and how these are formed and their characteristic sound used in jazz and blues music.

Students perform a 12 bar blues chord sequence and blues scale improvisation. If completed students move on to composing their own Blues style compositon.

12 Bar Blues
The 12-bar blues or blues changes is one of the most prominent chord progressions in popular music. The blues progression has a distinctive form in lyrics, phrase, chord structure, and duration. In its basic form, it is predominantly based on the I-IV-V c

Blues Scale
A musical scale having intervals that mutate between major and minor and used especially in jazz

Blue Notes
In jazz and blues, a blue note (also "worried" note) is a note that—for expressive purposes—is sung or played at a slightly different pitch than standard.

In music, sharp, dièse (from French), or diesis (from Greek) [a] means higher in pitch and thesharp symbol raises a note by a half tone.

A symbol that modifies the pitch of a note, turning it into a sharp, a flat, or a natural; also refers to the modified notes themselves.

Beats in a Bar
In musical notation, a bar (or measure) is a segment of time corresponding to a specific number of beats in which each beat is represented by a particular note value and the boundaries of the bar are indicated by vertical bar lines.

A shift of accent in a passage or composition that occurs when a normally weak beat is stressed.

A wind instrument classified as a woodwind because it is played with a reed, although it is usually made of metal. Saxophones appear mainly in jazz, dance, and military bands.

Drum Kit
A set of drums, cymbals, and other percussion instruments, used with drumsticks in jazz and popular music. The most basic components are a foot-operated bass drum, a snare drum, a suspended cymbal, and one or more tom-toms.

A brass musical instrument with a flared bell and a bright, penetrating tone. The modern instrument has the tubing looped to form a straight-sided coil, with three valves.

A part of music that is sung.

Something that is improvised, in particular a piece of music, drama, etc. created spontaneously or without preparation.

Bass Line
The lowest part or sequence of notes in a piece of music.

Walking Bass
A bass part in 4/4 time in which a note is played on each beat of the bar and which typically moves up and down the scale in small steps.

A short repeated phrase in popular music and jazz, frequently played over changing chords or harmonies or used as a background to a solo improvisation.

  • Spiritual
  • Moral
  • Social
  • Cultural

Develop the individual:
This unit develops the individual keyboard skills of each student plus also taps into their listening and appraising skills.

Create a supportive community:
This unit widens the musical net allowing students to learn about the incredibly harrowing yet important history of the blues. Students work with each other to create compositions and interesting improvisations.

Term 2-3: Musicals

This unit explores songs and music from the stage, beginning with an exploration into “What makes up a musical?” Pupils explore the history and developments of elements of a musical, from their origins in opera, before exploring the impact of an “opening number” (‘All That Jazz’) in terms of chords and vamps, putting together a group performance. Pupils move onto rehearse a full class performance of ‘Cellblock Tango’ (also from “Chicago”), with some great accompanying pupil audio tracks! The unit ends with a choice of pathways - teachers can select whether pupils compose their own scene from a musical based on visual stimuli or whether to continue the performance focus of the unit and allow pupils to work on a group performance of a song from a musical.

Students are assessed on their listening and performing skills. They are introduced to a variety of musical styles and study the history of the musical. They learn a variety of short musical excerpts from given songs.

A sequence of single notes that is musically satisfying; a tune.

In popular music, averse roughly corresponds to a poetic stanza. When two or more sections of the song have almost identical music and different lyrics, each section is considered one verse.

A piece of music for singing in unison. a part of a song that recurs at intervals, usually following each verse; refrain.

A text informing actors of what it is they are to say and when during a performance.

In music, segue is a direction to the performer. It means continue (the next section) without a pause.

The highest range of the female singing voice.

The lowest range of the female singing voice, also called contralto.

A tenor is a type of classical male singing voice whose vocal range is one of the highest of the male voice types.

The bass is the lowest vocal range, below the soprano, alto, and tenor.

The sounding of two or more musical notes at the same time in a way that is pleasant or desired.

In music, a chord is three or more notes that combine harmoniously. You can play chords on a piano or guitar, but not on an instrument that plays one note at a time, like a trumpet. Chord comes from the French word for agreement, accord, so in music it me

  • Spiritual
  • Moral
  • Social
  • Cultural

Develop the individual:
Students take time to appreciate the link between Opera and the developing musical, how these two are linked and where their histories started.

Create a supportive community:
Students can compare knowledge and understanding of musicals, enjoy and appreciate different aspects and songs from a variety of shows.

Term 4: Reggae (off beat)

This unit explores reggae music and the culture it comes from. Pupils learn about the importance of bass lines in reggae music and how offbeat chords are a key feature of music from this genre. Pupils 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. Pupils 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.

Students perform a rendition of 'Yellow Bird' and other chosen Reggae pieces. Then students move on to composing their own group Reggae pieces.

Off Beat
Any of the normally unaccented beats in a bar, such as the second and fourth beats in a bar of four-four time. They are stressed in most rock and some jazz and dance music, such as the bossa nova.

Caribbean music genres are diverse. They are each syntheses of African, European, Indian and Indigenous influences, largely created by descendants of African slaves (see Afro-Caribbean music), along with contributions from other communities (such as Indo-

The word bass has two main meanings with separate pronunciations —bass with a high vowel sound (like base) ironically refers to very low sounds — bass instruments and singers are in the lowest part of the musical range, like the low rumble of a bass guita

A short rhythm phrase used in music, that is often played when a soloist is performing or when chords and harmonies are changing. An example of a riff is a repeated phrase that is used to lead up to an improvisational solo or used behind a solo in a song.

Vocal music is a type of music performed by one or more singers, with or without instrumental accompaniment (a cappella), in which singing provides the main focus of the piece.

In popular music, averse roughly corresponds to a poetic stanza. When two or more sections of the song have almost identical music and different lyrics, each section is considered one verse.

A part of a song that recurs, usually following each verse; refrain.

Song structure or the musical forms of songs in popular music are typically sectional, repeating forms.

Ska is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s and was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae. Ska combined elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues. It is characterized by a walking bass line acce

Beat is defined as a rhythmic movement, or is the speed at which a piece of music is played. An example of beat is the beating of a heart. An example of beat is the rhythmic noise played on a drum. An example of a beat is the tempo at which a conductor le

In music, the speed at which a piece is performed. It is the Italian word for “time.”

  • Spiritual
  • Moral
  • Social
  • Cultural

Develop the individual:
The study of Reggae supports students' understanding of "off beat" rhythms, working within a given musical structure and how to compose within a group.

Create a supportive community:
Students learn to rehearse and perform together and ultimately compose together.

Term 5-6: Hip Hop, Pop and Dance

This unit aims to explore the cultural heritage of Hip-Hop music, how it grew from the Bronx in New York in the 1960’s to becoming what it is today. The music was often used to break down racial barriers and was one of the starting points for many musicians and rappers today. Students will explore the structure and harmony of Hip-Hop, its use of bass lines and often political lyrics and how technology was used to loop rhythms and borrow backings from other songs. This study will continue into Dance music and Pop and bring us up to date with where we are today. Pupils will gain an understanding of where these musical styles develop from, and why; pupils will learn the typical structures for these musical styles.

Pupils will have an opportunity to use music technology software to compose a piece of music in one of these styles.

Students study the history of Hip Hop and Rap, perform given pieces and compose their own rap!

MCing. In the 1970s and 1980s, the term MC (short for Master of Ceremonies, and sometimes misrendered emcee) was generally associated with what is now called rapping in hip hop music.

Stylistically, rap occupies a grey area between speech, prose, poetry, and singing. The word (meaning originally "to hit") as used to describe quick speech or repartee predates the musical form.

Spitting the mic

Single time
Refers to regular speech or singing to music.

Double time
Refers to speech or singing which is at speed.

A type of language consisting of words and phrases that are regarded as very informal, are more common in speech than writing, and are typically restricted to a particular context or group of people.

Words that sound the same e.g. hike and bike.

A strong, regular repeated pattern of movement or sound.

Beat is defined as a rhythmic movement, or is the speed at which a piece of music is played. An example of beat is the beating of a heart. An example of beat is the rhythmic noise played on a drum. An example of a beat is the tempo at which a conductor le

The speed at which a piece is performed. It is the Italian word for “time.”

  • Spiritual
  • Moral
  • Social
  • Cultural

Develop the individual:
This unit creates a window into an aspect of very popular music for many students. The historical context is important as well as interesting and relevant.

Create a supportive community:
This unit invites an appreciation of other cultures and how music crosses many boundaries and continents! Students work, rehearse and perform with each whilst exploring this genre.