Course Outline

Lower School

The Shell (Year 9): the course covers a wide and varied diet of music. The students will explore the basic elements of music through the study of Gamelan, Bhangra, Film, Popular, Jazz and Classical music. The aim is to increase their musical knowledge in terms of playing, singing, researching and composing and therefore the students should be well-prepared for GCSE music, if this is desired. Students will experience different teachers through the year, each exploring their own chosen passions and specialisms. Simple keyboard skills and learning of basic musical notation will be explored by every student.

IT is incorporated into both research as well as composition (using Sibelius and Cubase)

'Sound Design' introduces every pupil to Music Technology. This course looks at using sequencers for MIDI and audio recording, together with simple editing processes. If a pupil wishes to keep their interest in this area of the subject at a purely extra-curricular level they can join the Music Technology Society. This allows any member of the school the freedom to use the Music Technology MIDI and audio sequencing facilities for their own projects.

GCSE (Edexcel): There are three components to this examination: Listening (a one and a half hour written paper containing questions based on four 'Areas of Study' - 40%; Composing (One being chosen from a selection of briefs and one free composition, which can be tailored towards a student’s interests - 30%); and Performing (the performance of one solo piece - 15% and one ensemble - 15%).  These will be recorded at some time during the two years, to fit in with a student’s readiness. The course is largely practical and underlines the department's philosophy on creating an environment where practical performance opportunities are the norm.

Visiting music teachers also provide valuable coaching in these areas. It is possible to utilise Music Technology as a compositional tool. Work at this level is limited to the use of computer MIDI and audio workstations.

Upper School

The Department offers separate courses to A Level in both Music and Music Technology. It is possible to study both A levels together, as each subject complements the other. A level Music (Edexcel): The course aims to develop pupils' performing, composing and listening skills in a range of styles and these are covered  through a series of 'Areas of Study' which include: Vocal and Instrumental music’, ‘Music for film’, ‘Popular music and jazz’, ‘Fusions’ and ‘New Directions’. The traditional areas of aural, compositional techniques and history and analysis are all addressed. This will be examined in a two hour written paper (40%) in June of the final term.The course is especially suitable for candidates who play an instrument or sing to a high level and who have a keen interest in creating and listening to different styles of music and who wish to broaden their knowledge further. Performing (30%) is judged by a 10 minute performance, which will be recorded in the Lent term of the final year. This will be marked internally and then sent to Edexcel for moderation.Composition (30%) is made of two sections. The first will be a composition in response to a brief (which is released on 1 September of the second year). The second will be the completion of two Bach chorales, using 4-part techniques studied throughout the two year period. These will be completed under exam conditions during April of the final year.

Music Technology: Candidates produce two sequenced arrangements in contrasting styles, one of which is submitted together with a desktop published full score and parts. A direct-to-stereo recording using ambient microphone techniques and a multi-track studio recording completes the coursework requirements. A two hour written Listening & Analysis paper is taken in the Summer Term. Pupils are required to submit five pieces of coursework: a sequenced backing track, a remix of the backing track with added live audio tracks, a multi-track recording, a composition from a brief of the candidate's choosing and a composition to a brief set by the exam board. Candidates also study two set films as part of the Music for the Moving Image Area of Study and a one hour written paper will be taken in the summer, together with a further one hour Controlling and Editing MIDI paper. Those involved in Music Technology are musicians of widely varying abilities who use technology as part of the creative process; ability on an instrument is not a pre-requisite. The skills developed in this subject are applicable equally to those interested in "classical" music and those whose leanings are more towards rock, pop and jazz.


It is what goes on outside the classroom that enhances all that is contained within and gives the practical focus and fulfillment to all musical expression.

The Music Department at Marlborough offers some unique opportunities for young talented musicians. Our professional orchestra in partnership is the dynamic Southbank Sinfonia who visit the College periodically to give workshops, classes, one-to-one tuition and the unique side-by-side orchestral programme in which the College Symphony Orchestra rehearses and performs alongside the Southbank Sinfonia in an annual concert. Appointed visiting musical figures of international distinction also periodically visit the College to offer concerts and classes and consultation lessons to music scholars. These include Julian Lloyd Webber, Tasmin Little, Emma Kirkby, Ronan O'Hora (Head of Keyboard, Guildhall School of Music and Drama), James Watson (Head of Brass, Royal Academy of Music) and Ioan Davies (Head of Chamber Music, Yehudi Menuhin School).

Chapel Choir participation in services includes weekly Sung Eucharists and termly Choral Evensongs in Chapel and at local Cathedrals. Other highlights include the Advent Carol Service, three annual Carol Services as well as special services for Ash Wednesday, Ascension Day, Confirmation and Commemoration. Instrumental concerts include: the Orchestral Concert, Concerto Concert, Summer Serenade Concert, Wind Department Concert, termly Advanced Pupils' Recitals and Junior Informal Concerts as well as the Junior Jamboree Summer Concert. In addition, the department runs a weekly Lunchtime Concert Series.

There is also an annual Music Technology Coursework Concert. Each year, the Marlborough College Concert Society presents five concerts attracting world famous artists to the College. This incorporates the annual Choral Concert given by the Choral Society, Chapel Choir and Choral. Other recent special events have included a Songs of Praise Recording, a joint Concert with Yale University Choir, USA, the 800th Anniversary Civic Service and the Cotswold Community Trust Concert.

Festivals, Competitions and Workshops include: the House Music Competition (Harmony & Unison Song), Strings Day, Singing Day, Piano Day and the New Instrumental Music Festival. The Music Society host termly Lectures/Workshops and Chamber Musicians enter both the National Chamber Music Competition and the Midsomerset Festival. The department regularly puts on trips to concerts, operas and musicals. Work towards the Associated Board music examinations (Practical and Theory) and the Trinity Guildhall (Singing and Percussion) examinations, forms a large part of our weekly programme.

Music Technology pupils are taken to concerts and shows to see Music Technology at work. Recent trips have included Toto, Anything Goes, Dream Theater, The Woman in White, Jools Holland, The Producers, Earth Wind & Fire, We Will Rock You and Mama Mia. Where possible, these trips are also made available to anyone with an interest in these areas.