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  • Chris Anderson

Music Revision - Appraising 3

In this blog I’ll give you some tips on how to answer certain questions in the appraising exam.

Time Signatures

Listen to the music carefully to decide if the main pulse divides into groups of two or groups of three. Listening to the accents will help with this - remember the first beat of the bar is the strong beat.

Once you’ve done that does the beat sound like it’s dividing into two or three? In other words are you counting 1-& or 1-&-a?

If the pulse is two and the beat is two it’s likely to be 2/4, 4/4 or 2/2.

If the pulse is two and the beat is three it’s likely to be in compound time or 6/8

If you are counting three beats in a bar then the answer is likely to be 3/4


When you’re reading through the exam paper at the very beginning, try to (quickly) work out the different rhythms on offer.

In your head “listen” for similarities or differences that could be easy to identify when looking and listening.

For example

  1. Slow Quick Quick Slow Quick Quick

  2. Quick Quick Slow Quick Quick Slow

  3. Slow Slow Quick Quick Slow

  4. Slow Slow Slow Quick Quick


Atonal - No key centre.

Major - Bright, cheerful

Minor - Sad, serious

Modal - No leading note


This blog will help you understand texture better.

Monophonic - A single line of music, no accompaniment or harmony

Homophonic - Tune accompanied by chords - usually following the same rhythm

Polyphonic - Two or more tunes played at the same time weaving together

Heterophonic - All parts have different versions of the melody

Imitative - Different instruments have the melody with little difference

Filling In Gaps

Always listen to the last note to come before the note you have to fill in and work out the interval. The best way to do this is to sing the major scale in your head. There won’t be any big leaps to worry about. Don’t be afraid to use your fingers to count.


Hearing dynamics and being able to describe them are important. Try to use Italian terms where possible. The question will be asking about the dynamics at the beginning of the piece.


Being able to identify the instrument playing the main melody is important. Try to listen to as much music featuring a wide variety of solo instruments as you can. Identifying the timbres of the different groups will help here too.

Brass - Bold, brassy, loud, muted

Woodwind - Mellow, woody, reedy

Strings - Pizzicato, long notes, vibrato, shrill


In your preparation time look at the options. Are any sections repeated? This will help you narrow down your choices when listening.

When listening, the different sections will be very clear. Listen out for key changes (to a relative minor or major or the dominant), speed changes, mood changes.

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