In part of the appraising exam you may be expected to compare two pieces of music. Whilst I cannot go into specifics as each board has different set works and requirements, in this blog I give you some tips on how to tackle this type of question.
Possible Question Areas
You may be asked to discuss:
How the musical elements have been used. This can include (but is not limited to) melody, harmony, tonality.
How are the instruments used.
How the pieces compare to each other. This could be about the purpose of the piece, its audience, or something else.
How do the pieces compare in terms of musical, historical, cultural, or social context.
What you think of a piece of music, and why.
Often you get to see the score of both pieces of music as well as hear the extracts that you’re writing about.
The more information that is supported by musical examples you can give the better.
The more musical language you can use the better.
Don’t forget about DRSMITH either! He can be quite handy!
Tips For Approaching This Type Of Question
Write in full sentences
Use musical vocabulary. For example don’t use “clashy” when you could use the word “discordant”. Don’t say “tune” when you could say “melody”.
Don’t be afraid to start a sentence (or part of one) with “I think”.
Use the PEEL structure (see below).
Be specific when giving your evidence. If you can’t remember the bar number don’t panic…just mention the section instead (Verse one, chorus two (for example)).
If you are asked to evaluate something they are specifically asking for your opinion. Don’t be afraid to be critical (hence the “criticise” above) - but back up your argument with evidence.
Sometimes a question will ask how effective something is. In these cases think about what the purpose of the piece is. Things to think about are: the mood it’s trying to convey, a word or lyrics standing out. Identify how effective the pieces are at doing their purpose.
Evaluate all the way through your answers, don’t just lump it all together at the end.
Always discuss both pieces if the question says to. Talking about just one piece is unlikely to give you half marks.
Discuss both pieces throughout your answer. Even if you run out of time by discussing stuff throughout your showing that you’re thinking about the pieces.
Come to a conclusion at the end of the question. Think about your discussion points and decide which piece is more effective and why. If you can’t say that one is more effective than the other that is fine too, as long as you can back up your argument. There’s no such thing as a wrong opinion as long as you can back it up.
The PEEL Structure
This structure enables you to structure your paragraphs well.
Point - Make a point you wish to go into detail about.
Evidence - Give and example from the music. Give bar numbers and/or instruments where possible
Explain - Go into detail making sure it relates to the question that’s been given.
Link - Always link back to the exam question. If you’re evaluating a piece state whether your points make the piece successful or not.