Teacher Area

The Studio - Dance

 GCSE and A Level set works | GCSE and A Level composition | Composition starting points

In The Studio’s Teacher Area, we bring together the most relevant resources from across The Studio, alongside bespoke curriculum-based material, to support music teaching at Key Stages 3 to 5. Resources cover:

  • exploration of repertoire with a particular focus on GCSE and A Level set works and themes, including our BrightSparks resources
  • wider background to the use of music in film, dance and theatre, unpicking techniques and terminology
  • creative ideas to support composition in the classroom and for individual student projects, linking to the GCSE and A Level composition ‘set brief’ model
  • insights into composing as a profession, hearing from lead artists currently working in the field

 We would love to know how you use these resources, and any ideas you have for material you would like to see developed in future. We are also keen to showcase any student compositions inspired by The Studio resources. You can contact us with ideas or compositions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


GCSE and A Level Music: set works and general themes

Our GCSE BrightSparks concert in February 2019, Isle of Noises, featured music composed by British composers or inspired by Britain (or the London Philharmonic Orchestra itself!). The resources below focus on the pieces featured in the concert, including Purcell's Music for a While (Edexcel), Haydn's 'Clock' Symphony (AQA) and Shore's Lord of the Rings (Edexcel wider listening), as well as other repertoire that supports AQA "Western Classical traditions since 1910" and OCR "Baroque style and structure", and "Film music". The pack includes analysis and ideas for activities in class.

Download resource pack: Music for a While, Clock, Lord of the Rings (pdf)  

Playlist: focus on set works - Star Wars and Psycho
In this playlist, film composer and academic Dr Vasco Hexel explores the background and context the film scores for Star Wars (John Williams, Edexcel GCSE set work) and Psycho (Bernard Herrmann, Edexcel A Level set work).

Focus on set works: Star Wars and Psycho

Videos in the playlist:

• Star Wars: musical influences
• Star Wars: background and musical themes
• Psycho: overview and musical styles
• Psycho extra: The City

Playlist: Introduction to Narrative Film Music
What are some of the practical functions music can achieve in a narrative film (that is, any film that tells a story)? In this video playlist, Dr Vasco Hexel gives a lively overview of all the ways music can be used in a film, from setting the scene to creating characters. This is an excellent starting point for any students looking at film music for the first time.  This talk was recorded live in 2016.

Introduction to Narrative Film Music

Videos in the playlist:

• Introduction to narrative film music
• Setting the scene
• Linking scenes
• Emotion and meaning
• Creating characters



GCSE and A Level Music: composition and creative work

In this video, composer, teacher and researcher Dr Steven Berryman discusses how a composer might approach writing music for a chase scene in a spy movie – one of the Edexcel GCSE Music composition briefs for 2019. Steven offers tips and questions to consider if composing to this brief, or when composing for any dramatic film or narrative in general. Musical examples are performed by a string quartet formed from members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Composing music for a chase scene in a spy movie

Dr Steven Berryman presents how you might compose music for a chase scene in a spy movie, including leitmotifs and other musical elements to consider. Featuring musical examples performed by members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, this brief is one of Edexcel's GCSE composing to a brief tasks for 2019.

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  • • If you'd like your students to practise composing for film, take a look at our Film Creative Briefs on The Studio Film page.  Each Creative Brief playlist contains a short, silent clip to be composed to, a "How to approach the Brief" guidance video from professional film composer Alex Harwood, and material created by young composers in response to the Briefs. 
  • • There are more Creative Briefs to be found on our Dance and The Stage pages, where students can compose for silent choreography or to theatre scenes.
  • • What did your students come up with? We would love to showcase their compositions on The Studio, and can feature submitted works in our video playlists, synced to the stimulus film clips. If you would like any of your students' music to be featured on The Studio, send their compositions as audio files to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. including the student's name, the names of anyone else playing on the track, the student's age/school/college if relevant and any comments about their piece they’d like to share
  • • You can find out more about the film music industry by watching videos in our Film Music - The Industry playlist 
  • • We ask all the composers we meet for their top tips for aspiring young composers. You can find out what they said by watching our Tips for Young Composers playlist
  • • Further reading/listening: A Field Guide to the Musical Leitmotifs in Star Wars (New Yorker)Complete catalogue of motivic material in Star Wars (Frank Lehman)NPR audio interview about Herrmann's Psycho with musical extracts


Composition starting points

At GCSE and A Level, students are required to compose, both freely and to a set brief. But how do you begin composing if you’ve never done it before? A blank page can be very daunting, not just for inexperienced composers. In the resources below, we offer starting points for composition, that we hope will build your students’ confidence and familiarity with composing, from Key Stage 3 up to A Level:

  • In  Melody 123 (pdf), composer Ailie Robertson has broken down three methods she uses to overcome the curse of the blank page and get some musical ideas flowing. This resource is suitable for students who have a basic grasp of musical notation, and some ability on an instrument (recommended for Key Stage 4).
  • In  Using war poetry to compose songs (pdf), music director and educator Ros Savournin offers a creative composition project, using poetry from the First World War as inspiration. This resource is aimed at teachers to lead a 5-7 session project for Key Stage 3.

Video: composing for strings
Presented by Dr Steven Berryman, this video offers an overview of some typical playing techniques for string instruments: from arco to pizzicato, sul ponticello to sul tasto and beyond. We hear each string instrument in turn, then hear how they sound playing together with different techniques in isolation and in combination.  Finally, we hear the quartet perform music with different textures, and how you might combine these in your composition. Whether you are composing for GCSE, A Level or just for the joy of composing, this video offers starting point for thinking about writing thoughtfully for strings.


Composing for strings: an introduction to typical techniques and textures

An overview of some typical playing techniques and ensemble textures for string instruments, with examples performed by members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

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