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The DJEMBE is the main drum used in African music. Different sounds can be
achieved on it such as bass, tone and slap.

DUN DUNs are larger drums. They are like bass drums and are hit with sticks.

The TALKING DRUM is put under the arm whilst being played and is squeezed. This
changes the pitch of the drum. It is hit with a stick or beater.

AGOGO BELLS are found in other types of music too. They usually have two pitches
but sometimes in African music this might just be a cowbell.

The SHAKERE is a shaker made of beads.

The MARIMBA is very similar to a xylophone. It plays different pitches and provides
the melody in African music.

The MBIRA is a 'thumb piano'. It is made from different lengths of metal and is
plucked with the thumbs.

Ostinato - repeated pattern
Polyrhythm - two or more different rhythms played at the same time
Syncopation - playing on the off beats
Cross Rhythm - conflicting rhythms played together
Triplets - playing three notes in the time of two

African singing often has a lead singer and a group of backing singers. They use call
and response, hand actions and they make animal sounds to mimic the environment
around them. It is often acapella, which means there is no other musical
accompaniment other than voice.

Instruments you need to know...

- Djembe
- Dun Dun
- Talking Drum
- Agogo Bells
- Shakere
- Marimba
- Mbira
Take Aways
Ostinato - repeated pattern
Polyrhythm - two or more different rhythms played at the same time
Syncopation - playing on the off beats
Cross Rhythm - conflicting rhythms played together
Triplets - playing three notes in the time of two

Singing is often acapella and has call and response between lead singer and
backing vocals
Baroque Concerto



Melodies were built on motifs (short patterns of notes). The harmonies were simple,
using only a few chords.

The melodies were packed with ornamentation. These are embellishments and
flourishes that make the music more interesting.

The music often involved counterpoint or polyphony. This is where two or more
different melodies are being played at the same time.

Dynamics would change suddenly in Baroque music. Sections will either be loud or
quiet. This is known as terraced dynamics.

String instruments were the dominant section in Baroque music. This includes
violins, violas, cellos and double basses.

The keyboard instruments at the time were either a harpsichord or an organ and
were very important to the music. Woodwind instruments of the time included the
flute, recorder, oboe and bassoon. Simple versions of the trumpet and horn from the
brass family were also used.

Orchestras were much smaller than Classical and Romantic orchestras. Baroque
music was often performed by chamber ensembles, which are smaller groups.

Solo Concerto
In a solo concerto, a single instrument is showcased, allowing the performer to show
off their own skills and the capabilities of their instrument. The soloist is
accompanied by an orchestra. Baroque concertos typically had three movements, or
large sections - a fast one, followed by a slow one, followed by another fast one. This
structure became standardised in the Classical period.
Concerto Grosso
The idea is the same as the solo concerto but this time it's written for a group of
instruments. This is called the concertino. The rest of the orchestra is called the
ripieno. The bass parts are called basso continuo. Musical ideas are passed
between the concertino and the ripieno.

The bass parts and chords were called the basso continuo. This would be the
harpsichord playing the chords and a low instrument such as the cello playing the
bass line.

Binary and Ternary Form

Binary means 'in two parts', therefore binary form has two sections. Each section is
repeated, so you get A twice then B twice, or AABB. Section B contrasts section A.
This is often achieved by changing from major to minor, or vice versa.

Ternary has three sections, also often repeated to create AABBAA. Section B is also
often a change from major to minor, or vice versa. The return to the A section will be
in the same key as the first time. Sometimes it is varied slightly.

Take Aways
- Motifs used to build melodies
- Simple harmonies
- Ornamentation
- Counterpoint or Polyphony
- Terraced dynamics
- Small Orchestra
- Use of Harpsichord or Organ
- Concerto Grosso - written for a group of instruments known as the concertino
- Basso Continuo - chords and bassline (usually provided by harpsichord and cello)
- Binary and Ternary Form - AABB and AABBAA

The CHAAL rhythm

This is the traditional Bhangra rhythm. It can be played on many instruments and is
the core rhythm in Bhangra music.

The DHOL drum is the most used drum in Bhangra music. It is a double headed
drum, struck at both ends.

The HARMONIUM is a keyboard instrument that works by pumping air into it with the
unplaying hand, a bit like an accordion.

VOCALS are usually male, with a soloist and a backing chorus. They often use call
and response and sing in the Punjabi language. Microtones are sung between
'western notes' so, for example, there will be an extra note between C and C#. They
shout 'Hoi' often on the off beats.

Modern Vs Traditional
Punjabi Bhangra was modernised with a mixture of British culture. Modern Bhangra
has a lot more electronic instruments such as drum machines, synthesizers and the
use of computers. It has more effects and can use modern hardware such as
samplers and loopers.
Take Aways
- Chaal rhythm
- Dhol drum
- Harmonium is a keyboard instrument

Vocals are:
- Male
- Punjabi language
- Lead singer and backing chorus
- Shouts of 'hoi'
- Use of microtones
Classical Concerto




Moved from polyphonic texture (lots of interweaving musical lines) to a more

homophonic texture (melody and chord accompaniment).

Clear and balanced phrases were used. The first 4 bars are like a questions and the
next bars are like an answer. The melodies are balanced.

Dynamics became subtler and changed gradually compared to the previous Baroque
era. There would be long crescendos and diminuendos through phrases.

The piano hadn't been invented until the classical era. It was the first keyboard
instrument that could play quietly and loudly. This had a big impact on how
composers wrote their music.

The orchestra grew larger (but not as large as romantic period). The clarinet was
invented so this was very popular with composers. Percussion was more widely
used too - the timpani was used a lot more.

The Classical Concerto

This is where a piece of music is written specifically for a solo instrument. The
orchestra would still play a large part in this by accompanying the solo instrument
and having its own sections in a piece... but the main focus was on the lead
instrument. This lead instrument would have most of the melodies and themes and
would really show off the capabilities of both the instrument and the musician.

When the orchestra stops and the lead musician plays alone it is called a CADENZA.
It's usually technically difficult and gives the chance for the musician to show off a
Sonata Form
This became very popular in the classical concerto. It is how the sections of a piece
are organised. It is as follows...

EXPOSITION - We hear the theme for the first time (they are being exposed)
DEVELOPMENT - There's an interesting change (this keeps the piece interesting)
RECAPITULATION - We hear the theme again with some slight changes (it is a

Take Aways
- Mostly melody and accompaniment
- Clear melodies that are well balanced phrases, almost like question and answer
- Subtle dynamics that changed gradually
- Medium sized orchestras - the piano and clarinet had been invented
- Sonata form was used
- A cadenza is a bit where the orchestra completely stops and the soloist performs
Film and Video Game
1930s onwards

John Williams
Hans Zimmer

The main role of the film or video game composer is to create a mood or atmosphere
using music without distracting too much from what is happening visually on screen.

Think about all the types of different scenes and situations there are in a film. Then
ask yourself how would the music best complement the action on screen - what
would the composer need to do?

A love scene might have...

- A major key - the notes sound optimistic, positive and happy.
- Use of legato - overlapping smooth notes
- Crescendos and diminuendos - gradually dynamic changes
- A strong, clear melody
- Use of piano and string section

A horror scene might have...

- A minor key - sounds pessimistic, negative or sad.

- Use of staccato - short, detached notes that make it sound panicky
- Sudden dynamic changes - to shock or scare the audience
- Use of dissonance - clashing notes that make the listener feel uneasy
- Tremolo strings - playing the notes rapidly back and forth to create urgency

A death scene might have...

- Use of minor key - it needs to sound sad

- Long notes
- Slow tempo - death is a mournful time so therefore needs to be slow
- Use of a choir - has religious connections with heaven or funerals

Film/video game music can be pretty much anything as there are so many different
situations that occur in films and video games. You won't be able to revise every
single type of scene that has happened on screen! You need to look for clues in the
question at what the examiners are looking for. For example if the question was...
Q) The following extract is used behind a scene where there are war planes bombing
an army base that will lead to victory and the end of the war. Describe how the music
portrays this.

You need to be instantly thinking "I bet it has....

- Lots of brass as this sounds heroic

- A snare drum as this makes me think of a military band
- Fast tempo as the planes will be moving fast and there's lot of action
- Loud dynamics as there would be lots of explosions
- Ostinato as the repeated patterns would make it exciting and frantic
- Short notes to give a sense of panic
- It might be in a minor key and have dissonance at the beginning to show the
struggle of battle but it will probably end in a major key as they have won the battle
and the war is over.

It might not have all of these but you can be in the right frame of mind before you
have even heard the extract.

Do not write anything waffly like to create tension/suspense or it makes it more

dramatic. You need to use music terminology to say why it is doing this.

Take Aways
- You need to know lots of general music terminology (look at this in the glossary
- Use the question to find clues in how to answer it
- The elements of music are you friend. Always revert back to these. You need to
know them like the back of your hand for all parts of the exam...

- Dynamics
- Tempo
- Pitch
- Timbre (instruments)
- Texture
- Duration
- Do not write - to create suspense/tension, make it dramatic.
Mediterranean and Middle East
This music includes Greek, Israeli and Palestinian music. Although they are all
slightly different to each other, they share very similar characteristics and can be
studied as one topic. We will start this page with the main features of all of them and
then split the instruments into country specific sections.

They all use irregular time signatures such as 5/8 or 7/8. This means there are 5 or 7
beats in a bar, when usually we are used to 4.

Syncopation is often used with emphasis on the off beat.

Israeli and Palestinian music are often quite sad to show the hardship and struggles
of their people. Greek can be sad too but they tend to have more lively pieces when
celebrating good occasions. Most pieces slow and get gradually faster.

They use improvisation a lot and it is often based on modes. This is different to minor
and major.

They use ornaments in their music to add more interest to the melody.

They all use 'western' instruments such as guitars, tambourines, harps, violins, flutes
etc but they also have specific instruments...


The OUD is like a lute and is plucked.

The DARBUKA is like a metal and plastic djembe.

The ACCORDION is often used

Palestinian music also uses both the OUD and the DARBUKA (although sometimes
it is called the doumbek) to play rhythmic patterns. To popular ones are the Maqsum
and the Saidi.

The ZITHER is a stringed instrument.

The main Greek melodic instrument is the BOUZOUKI. It is high pitched and similar
to a guitar.

Other traditional instruments will be used too such as tambourine, harp, guitar and

Take Aways
- Irregular time signatures, for example, 5/8 and 7/8
- Use of syncopation
- Based on modes
- Use improvisation
- Use ornaments

Israeli Instruments - Oud, Darbuka, Accordion

Palestinian Instruments - Oud, Darbuka, Zither
Greek Instruments - Bouzouki
Pop Ballads

Ballads have been around since the fifteenth century. Originally it was a long song
that had lots of verses and told a story. Modern pop and rock ballads tell stories.
They're often slow and sad and tell some kind of love story. Songwriters like to put a
romantic or spooky twist near the end to keep people listening. They often follow a
variety of structures. Rock ballads are usually accompanied by heavy drums and
amplified guitars, folk ballads would be played on an acoustic guitar.

Singer-Songwriters are artists who write and sing their own songs. They tend to
accompany themselves on guitar or piano.

Bob Dylan's most famous ballad is 'Blowin' in the Wind'. It has a simple tune in a
major key and he accompanies himself on guitar. All verses have the same melody
and the same last line. The repeated line works like a mini-chorus.

Sting accompanies himself on bass guitar, but is also backed by his band. He takes
a lot of inspiration from soul and jazz. 'Seven Days' is particularly jazzy. It used
additional notes in chords as well as notes from the blues scale.

Kate Bush bases the story of her ballad 'Wuthering Heights' on the book of the same
name. She sings in a wailing, ghostly manner.

Elton John has written many famous ballads. He accompanies most of his songs on
the piano. He uses rhythmic chords and snippets of the tune in his accompaniments.
'Your Song' was his first pop success. In this song he blends soul, folk and jazz
Accompaniment complements the Voice
The story is the most important part of a ballad. Vocals are clear and unhidden by
the accompaniment. Singers often hold long notes and use rubato to add emotion.
The accompaniment generally reflects the themes of the vocals. There is usually a
lot of repetition of motifs from the main melody. The texture often varies to make the
dynamics more dramatic. Sometimes an instrumental section will feature an
instrument (often saxophone of electric guitar) playing a variation of the tune.

Take Aways
- Ballads were originally long songs with lots of verses to tell a story
- Romantic or spooky twists near the end keep people listening
- Rock ballads are normally accompanied by heavy drums and amplified guitars
- Folk ballads are normally accompanied by acoustic guitar
- Singer-songwriters normally accompany themselves on either piano or guitar
Solo Artists

- Michael Jackson
- Bryan Adams

- Kylie Minogue
- Britney Spears

- Adele
- Ed Sheeran

Solo artists are found in almost every genre of music. Their styles reflect the type of
music that is popular at the time. Solo artists whose career lasts for a long time will
often adapt their style to follow current trends. They often make use of developments
in technology.

The Singer's Voice

Many solo artists have distinctive vocal features that make their songs instantly

Michael Jackson was known for his high singing voice, use of 'vocal hiccups' (short
intakes of breath) and vowel sounds ("ah" and "hee hee").

Whitney Houston had an impressive vocal range and was capable of producing a big
sound. She was famous for melisma (singing many notes per syllable) and riffing.

Adele's voice is capable of producing a range of timbres, from a gentle rasp to a big,
powerful sound.
Accompaniment and Structure


'Black or White' by Michael Jackson uses a typical rock band of electric guitars and a
drum kit. It has a number of sections starting with an intro, verse, mini chorus, a half-
chanted section, a rap and an outro with guitar interludes between each section.

Bryan Adam's 'Everything I Do' starts with simple piano accompaniment, before the
rest of the rock band comes in, building the texture. There is a guitar solo in the
middle. Watch the videos below to see.


'Can't get you out of my head' by Kylie Minogue has two memorable hooks. The
repeated 'la la la' and the line 'I just can't get you out of my head'. The song does not
follow a standard structure, the choruses with long, held notes are broken up by the
'la la la' sections. The song uses synthesized instruments and has a strong

Britney Spears' 'Toxic' also uses synthesized instruments, distorted guitars and
wailing strings to create a futuristic sound. It has a strong, driving beat. Watch the
videos below to see.


'Someone like you' by Adele has a simple accompaniment of a piano playing broken
chords. The song has a verse-chorus structure, but the verses are different lengths
and one repeated verse has a different melody. There is a bridge with backing
vocals sung by Adele. The verses are quiet quiet and the verses are louder and
more emotional. The piano plays block chords in the second to last chorus.

Ed Sheeran accompanies himself on the acoustic guitar in 'Sing', but the song also
has electric guitars, percussion and backing vocals. There are several different
sections, including falsetto sections, repeated oh's and a half sung, half rap verse.

Many solo artists use different forms of technology and vocal effects to add variety.
These include MIDI technology, overdubbing, delay, reverb, pitch bends and
Take Aways

- Solo artists adapted to music that was popular at the time

- Each artist had distinct vocal qualities, such as 'vocal hiccups' and big sounds
- The 1990s featured a lot of rock band setups
- The 2000s featured hooks and different structures
- The 2010s featured even more music technology