Category Archives: Upper

Song writing from scratch

With Move Up Day happening this week, students all moved up to the year they will be coming back into in September to get a feel for what it will be like. Year 9 students were able to go to some of their option choices including music. We jumped straight into the musical action with a composing challenge: compose a song (a verse or chorus) from scratch including a chord pattern, melody, bass line and beat. Impressively, here’s the collaborative result which took just under an hour to create:

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Rapping it up

Year 9 have been learning about Rap, not only its history but also the technical ins and outs – the flow, delivery, enunciation and style. After spending some time listening to classics such as Grandmaster Flash and Puff Daddy, they set about writing their own rap from scratch, starting with devising their own lyrics. Subjects varied from Communism and Feminism to Trump and rabbits… – you can never tell where inspiration will strike! They then had to compose a backing track and rap their lyrics over this. The whole process showed them that rap is a lot more complicated than it might appear. Here are some examples of their work:

Drum Duet

The Prep School had a rousing start to their week recently when two drummers from Year 9 performed a duet for them. The students, who are both set to do GCSE Music, devised the whole thing themselves, drawing on rhythms they had learnt in drum lessons and material they had experimented with in their jamming sessions at school. They thought carefully about how to make best use of the entire kit, including two snare drums and they included a section which exploits the different timbre (sound) that can be achieved through rim shots. The texture of the piece is varied and the tempo also changes to help create a sense of build up and excitement. They even thought about the visual aspect of their performance by swapping places halfway through whilst still keeping the rhythms going! Unfortunately you won’t be able to see this but you can listen to an audio clip of their impressive piece here:

Post-Christmas Blues

Year 9 have had the blues since coming back to school after Christmas. They have looked at the origins and development of blues music and focused on the chord structure as well as identifying ‘blue’ notes and a walking bass line. After listening to some early blues by Robert Johnson and a blues standard, ‘Everyday I have the blues’, performed by B. B. King, they embarked on their own blues pieces. There are two examples of their work below – the first is a live performance combining a digital drum kit and a drum kit created through Logic Pro and played on a midi keyboard. The second was created on GarageBand and could be described as blues with a psychedelic twist!

Cabaret Evening

The Cabaret Evening showcased talent in the performing arts from Year 8 through to Year 11, not forgetting our lovely poetry reading quartet of Year 5 and 6 students who extolled the benefits of music and drama in verse they had written themselves. For Year 10s and 11s it was an opportunity to air examination material – drama students performed their monologues and music students performed some of their solo and ensemble pieces. Year 8 and 9 students auditioned to provide supporting acts and it was really exciting to see the performing potential already developing amongst the younger years.
We can’t show the monologues as they are coursework submissions but, suffice it to say, there were some stunning and tear-jerking performances. Below you can find musical highlights from the evening as well as some rehearsal clips from the day.


Feeling Good, performed by our Year 11 band who have been playing together since the end of Year 8


Composed and performed by Oscar and James in Year 11


God Help the Outcast, sung by Jessica in Year 11


I see Fire, chosen and sung by Fraser in Year 8


Blackbird, played by Oscar (Yr11) and a budding new band in the form of Year 8 boys singing Locked Away


The Power of Love, chosen and sung by Phoebe and Sapphire (Year 9)


Asturias by Albeniz, performed by James in Year 11


Martha and Rose in Year 8 performing a piano duet


Chopin Waltz performed by Toby in Year 11


Senior Choir, A Thousand Years

Music on the hoof

Year 9 are trying their hand at improvisation which the Encyclopaedia Britannica defines as ‘the extemporaneous composition or free performance of a musical passage, usually in a manner conforming to certain stylistic norms but unfettered by the prescriptive features of a specific musical text’. Interesting that musical text or notation should be, by implication, restrictive and perhaps curbing creativity.

This is what one group have put together so far – the first piece you will recognise as a version of Seven Nation Army but the second is all theirs and most definitely ‘unfettered by the prescriptive features of a specific musical text’.

Sound into music

Year 9’s skirmish with experimental music continues as they explore music concrete. This took off with the invention and development of recording techniques in the 1950s which opened a whole new world to composers, a world which we 21st century-ites take for granted. Music concrete takes raw sounds and then manipulates and combines them into a musical composition.

The students’ first task was to collect a bank of sound samples using the Sampler in GarageBand. They then had to work out how they wanted to manipulate and combine them to create a piece of music. A lot of imaginative work went into this and you can hear some of the results of their labours below:

This piece combines samples and pre-composed loops – spot the topical content of one of their samples!

This is an imaginative remake of a song by The White Stripes in which the students use samples of their voices to realise the parts:

This, at times quite terrifying, piece uses a mixture of vocal samples and sounds recorded from around the school:

Take a chance – Aleatory music

Year 9 were faced with the musical uncertainties of interpreting an aleatory score where key decisions affecting timbre, harmony and pitches are left up to the performer. Here’s the score they were all working on:
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They came up with widely differing versions of the piece and definitely put their own stamp on it. Every one had a distinct character and was musically convincing in its own way. You can listen to a sample of their work below: