Understanding Music

[Note: page not yet updated for 2017–18 Nat 5 assessment changes]

Understanding Music means what it says, with the understanding presumably key to why it’s been renamed from the old ‘Listening’ (which was never about just sitting back and listening!). But, like its predecessor, it still involves identifying musical concepts both aurally (the contexts for learning) and on paper (the music literacy content). We should also note the increased emphasis on analysis (rather than just recognition) at Higher and Advanced Higher, with the unit actually becoming ‘Understanding and Analysing Music’ at Advanced Higher. So let’s (as we did for Performing Skills and Composing Skills) look at the required outcomes for this Unit at the various levels then explain what this means to you…

Outcome 1

The learner will:
1 Recognise and identify music concepts and styles by:

(At National 4, from Understanding Music (National 4) Unit Specification)
1.1 Identifying level-specific music concepts in excerpts of music
1.2 Identifying the social and cultural influences which have influenced the distinctive sounds of specific music styles
1.3 Identifying and recognising the meaning of music signs, symbols and terms

(At National 5, from Understanding Music (National 5) Unit Specification)
1.1 Identifying and distinguishing between level-specific music concepts in excerpts of music
1.2 Identifying and analysing the social and cultural influences which have influenced the distinctive sounds and structure of specific music styles
1.3 Identifying and understanding the meaning of music signs, symbols and terms

The learner will:
1 Identify and analyse the use of music concepts and styles by:

(At Higher, from Understanding Music (Higher) Unit Specification)
1.1 Identifying and distinguishing between level-specific music concepts in excerpts of music
1.2 Analysing the impact of social and cultural influences on the development of specific music styles
1.3 Identifying and understanding a variety of music signs and symbols and terms

The learner will:
1 Analyse sections/pieces of contrasting music by:

(At Advanced Higher, from Advanced Higher Understanding and Analysing Music Unit Specification)
1.1 Identifying and analysing the use of level-specific and other music concepts, signs and symbols
1.2 Analysing style and form, melody, harmony and rhythm and the impact of social and cultural influences on the development of music

So the ‘understanding’ part’s pretty obvious… you need to understand, but something new since the old ‘listening’ courses is the range of evidence you can collect for unit assessment. Whereas the previous generation units were assessed solely by NABs (exam-style question papers at all levels bar Advanced Higher, where they were replaced by an extended essay), the new units can be assessed by various combinations of quizzes, question papers, research projects/presentations, annotated sheet music, live discussion and so on.

[More guidance on what’s appropriate to the different levels to follow here?]