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Examiners' Reports: August 2011 Music Craft 

Preliminary Music Craft

Aural section

There were few problems with the aural section but the most common included: writing words instead of signs for Dynamics; writing signs instead of words for the Articulation question and/or writing them below instead of above, the music as directed. The Timbre question asks for an instrument family – in this case the string family – not the name of an individual instrument.

Written section

In the Rhythm and metre section, most candidates failed to realise that the rest needed for the last bar of the first question was a full bar rest which hangs from the 4th line. Placed anywhere else, the rest was marked as incorrect. There was little problem in using paired quavers and nearly all candidates recognised the two time signatures.

Pitches, scales and keys brought forth the usual problems including the placing of accidentals which must be on the left-hand side of the note to which they refer and in the correct position in relation to the note. As the Helmholtz system was not specified when naming the given notes, either the traditional or Helmholtz systems were accepted but it is best not to mix them. Scale writing and recognition was adequately prepared. Writing scale degrees in the Integrated question was mostly well handled, although a few candidates were unable to recognise the key as F major and therefore wrongly numbered the scale degrees. Once again, half the mark for that part of the question was removed if the carets were not written over each degree number.  Candidates must realise that it is the caret that defines the number as a scale degree. All but six candidates recognised that the passage of music contained the interval of a 5th which occurred between the C of bar 4 and the F of bar 5.

Explaining the time signature gave a mixed result but the answer was simply ‘simple duple, 2 crotchet beats to the bar. There is a difference between naming and explaining various terms and this holds for all grades.

While no marks were removed, candidates are expected to name Intervals by ordinal (eg 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc) not cardinal (eg 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc) numbers. When writing Triads, take care to read the question carefully – the question called for an arpeggio, not a chord.

The principal problem in the Terms question was in correctly placing the staccato dots which had to go under the heads of the first two notes. A mark was lost if they were positioned incorrectly. Surprisingly, several candidates were unable to recognise the piano as a keyboard Instrument, naming it as a member of the string family.

Only one candidate in the current cohort scored 100% in this examination but most were able to achieve an honours result.

Music Craft Grade 1

Aural section

Nearly all candidates answered the first two sections of Pitch correctly, but few identified the interval (c) as minor. Similarly, in Rhythm and metre, while virtually every candidate wrote the correct rhythm, far fewer were able to recognise the metre (b) as simple duple. Some were able to produce the Melodic contour quite accurately, while others struggled with this concept.

The most significant error in Dynamics and tempo was failure to follow instructions. Candidates were asked to write crescendo or diminuendo – not to write the signs for those dynamics. They were also instructed to write the words below the music – not above. If the instruction is specifically to write above or below the music, candidates lose marks when they fail to do so.

There were few mistakes in the rest of the paper with the majority of candidates correctly marking the staccato and slurs in Phrasing and articulation, accurately identifying the flute in Timbre, and ‘Jamaican Rumba’ and ‘Botany Bay’ as the Set works.

Written section

There were few incorrect answers in the first section, Rhythm and metre. These mainly arose when candidates wrote notes instead of rests, although the dotted crotchet rest occasionally proved a challenge. In 1(b) some candidates inserted bar lines for simple quadruple time, instead of simple triple, and the double bar line at the end was sometimes omitted. The question on compound duple showed many students are confused about this time signature. Syncopation was generally well recognised.

In Pitches, scales and keys, the harmonic minor scale was well done, with few incorrect key signatures or failure to raise the 7th scale degree. The question of whether a semitone was chromatic or diatonic presented the most difficulty and many students clearly do not understand the difference.

The major problem in Triads and intervals was failure to raise the 7th scale degree in (d) as well as the omission of key signatures for F and G major. In (c), those candidates who considered the circled notes did form the dominant triad of E minor most probably failed to read the question properly.

In Terms, few candidates gave the correct Italian term for lively and spirited (vivace), with most opting for allegro. The meaning of accelerando was also incorrect if ‘gradually’ was omitted, leading to the loss of half a mark. There was some confusion about what represented Contrast and what represented Repetition in (b).

Most candidates were unable to achieve full marks in Instruments because the production of sound in the flute was not well defined. The answer needed to mention not only that the player blows through the embouchure hole, but also that the sounds can be changed by closing finger holes, holding down keys, and variations in the player’s embouchure.

Marks were mainly lost in Set works when candidates wrote crescendo as the rhythmic device instead of syncopation in (a)(ii), omitted ‘gradually’ in explaining crescendo in (iv), and failed to recognise the dominant triad in (vi). Many achieved full marks in the (b) section, though some failed to recognise the tie.

Music Craft Grade 2

Aural section

The principal problems encountered in the aural paper concerned Interval recognition and Rhythm and metre. There was some confusion recognising the perfect 5th and perfect 4th (played in that order) whilst very few candidates were able to recognise the metre as simple triple; most were able to successfully write the required rhythm but it should be noted that the time signature is given and cannot be changed. Placing the Dynamics correctly on the given melody caused some problems: firstly the question asked for the words cresc and dim not the 'hairpin' signs. Marks were lost if those particular signs were used; similarly, if the answers were placed above, instead of below, the music as directed. Curiously, several candidates identified the second Instrument as a harp – in fact it was an acoustic guitar. When naming Set works, candidates should give the correct name of the work, just writing 'Mozart' received no marks.

Written section

Overall, the Rhythm and metre questions produced a mixed result. Few candidates were able to both name the time signature as 9/8 and place the bar lines correctly. Ensure that the question is carefully read; if rests are required then using notes loses marks. Also, candidates need to be specific when placing dots after crotchet rests etc. Explaining 12/8 caused many problems – the correct answer, ‘compound quadruple: 4 dotted crotchet beats to the bar attracted very few full marks but did result in some very convoluted and strange definitions. Writing and recognising Scales and Key signatures was mostly handled well. Placing the required notes in specific places in order to create intervals created a few problems for some – the key signature contained a Bb so placing an accidental next to the B in bar 2 was redundant and lost half a mark as did not using the named note values.

Identifying Intervals by number and quality and then deciding on 'yes' or 'no' as to whether they are consonant or dissonant, resulted in a mixed result. If the quality was omitted, no mark was awarded. Candidates should note too, that the actual words 'consonant' and 'dissonant' were not required. Writing key signatures and completing the given Triads presented problems to many candidates, often due to misplacing the order of the sharps or flats of the key signs. Marks were also lost if the notes were written below, instead of above, the given notes.

But the greatest area of concern in the entire paper was the Four-part harmony. Overall, this question that simply consisted of writing 4 chords including a cadence, was very poorly handled. Only three candidates were awarded the full 8 marks for this question whilst only four could write the cadence correctly.

The given key was stated as minor (G minor) yet some tried to do it in a major key, losing all 8 marks; if chords were labelled as requested, many labelled them as major thus losing a mark; chords were inverted even though the direction clearly stated root position; some used augmented and diminished chords, although the question requested chords i, iv and v only; the usual grammatical problems also occurred eg. consecutive 5ths and 8ves and spacing problems. The raised leading note in the dominant chord was entirely ignored (except by six candidates) and many chords were misspelled. Style presented another problem and many simply do not know what 'four-part vocal style' means. Writing in piano or two-part style lost all marks. Above all however, the principal problem came with writing the cadence which produced a startling number of configurations all except four of which were incorrect. Most candidates were unable to score more than 4 marks for the entire question and several scored zero.

On the other hand, the questions relating to Terms presented few problems, except for placing the staccato dots correctly ie. at the head of the respective notes. No mark was awarded if the dots were misplaced. The two questions on Instruments produced a mixed response. The viola needed to show both the alto and treble clefs (in that order); for the table, both high and mid-range was accepted for the violin but only mid-range for the viola.

The final question involving the Set works was reasonably well handled but it should be noted that unless 'perfect' was included in naming the octave interval, the mark was lost. The Transposition question – to write the melody 1 octave lower and in the bass clef – included some very confused answers that were written 2 or even 3 octaves lower than requested or at an 11th or 14th lower.

Overall, advice to students is to read the questions carefully. Many marks were lost simply because of questions not being read properly and directions not followed.

Music Craft Grade 3

Aural section

This section gave a mixed response and the difficulty lay in the question on Melodic dictation which was allotted 10 marks. Only four candidates were able to successfully achieve this mark. Recognising Scales and Triads did not cause too much of a problem but recognising the three Intervals did. Most could write the 4 bars of Rhythm, although many found the first bar that began with dotted crotchet/quaver, troublesome. Most candidates recognised the polyrhythmic Texture; however, recognising the trumpet and trombone were a little trickier. Naming the Set works – an easy 4 marks – gave a mixed result. A surprising number of candidates failed to recognise at least one of the set works; candidates should note too, that just writing 'sonata' or 'Beethoven' was not the required answer.

Written section

Rhythm and metre presented only one real problem, ie completing one bar of 4/2 with one rest. While the majority of candidates did in fact use some version of a ‘black’ rest, this was placed anywhere at all instead of hanging from the 4th line. Consequently, the mark was lost. The second time signature was 3/2, not 6/4.

Pitches, scales and keys – mostly well done, although a few wrote the scale in the wrong register or in the wrong direction. The principal problem was in adding accidentals to the scale of C harmonic minor and then circling the interval of a minor 2nd. Some candidates lost the mark allotted to adding scale degrees to the given melody if carets were omitted, while not all were able to successfully transcribe the melody at the same pitch. However, one mark was given if the clef and key signature were written correctly.

Most candidates were able to successfully answer the Intervals and triads questions but it should be noted that both the inversion and its name needed to be correct for the 2 marks allotted. Nearly all candidates scored full marks for the Terms questions, although stringendo was the answer needed for the Italian term.

At this level it would be expected that candidates could recognise and realise the cadential cadence according to the given figuring for the Harmony question. The common problems included weak voice leading in the first bar with consecutive 5ths and 8vas and a static soprano; misspelled chords, overlapping parts and large leaps.  The greatest concern, however, was in writing the cadence figure itself and nearly all candidates lost marks in this area. Only two candidates scored the full 7 marks for the harmony question which was a very disappointing result. It should also be noted that the question required adding the three upper voices, not just the soprano. No marks were awarded if this occurred.

Most candidates identified the key of Eb major and scored well for recognising and writing the full figuring for the given passage.

Adding the soprano part to the given bass figure presented its own problems. In such a short Melody, repeated notes tend to stagnate the flow and make for a very 'flat' shape. Not all pitch choices were successful and the absence of a leading note, even though two opportunities were given for using it, gave little conviction to the tonal sense. A surprising number of candidates were unable to complete a satisfactory cadence which was simply leading note to tonic or, supertonic to tonic. Leaps to the leading note were common as was omitting that note's sharp sign. If the answer to this question was realised as a 4-part harmony, then no marks were awarded.

Completing the Instruments table received a mixed response – few were able to put four ticks in the correct columns, conversely most could recognise that the horn and tuba were the answers required for the last part of that question.

For the questions on Set works the first elicited an almost universal incorrect response. It was obvious that the bars in questions were repeated yet all except a small handful of candidates thought they were contrasted. Similarly, the question pertaining to syncopation in Pange lingua was missed by most candidates.

Music Craft Grade 4

Aural section

This section was generally well handled by most. The weakest areas were unsurprisingly in the Melodic dictation, followed by Triad and interval identification, but the standard was still quite good overall.

Written section

Rudiments in questions 1 and 2 proved little problems for most.

Question 3(c) of the Terms question requested a detailed explanation of 2 terms chosen from a list of 5 terms all relating to structure – here some of the answers were rather too brief, and, given that the question specifies ‘detailed explanation’, it is better to err on the side of saying more rather than less here.

Harmonisation of the partially figured bass – this question was set in the minor mode, which caused all sorts of problems with voice leading, chord quality and even tonality where the leading note was concerned. Forgetting to raise the leading note (even only some of the time) can spoil the entire setting by invoking false relations and weak minor dominants. When raised, the leading note was all too often doubled, exposed melodically, or involved in augmented second motion between the 6th and 7th degrees. It should also be noted that if chord III involves the raised leading note it becomes an augmented chord (III+), and usage differs vastly from III as a major triad. Use of the dominant seventh chord was expected here, and most managed to use it, but few were able to resolve it properly. This area needs improvement for most candidates.

Figuring a given progression – the analyses provided here were mostly fine. The most common issue was using the wrong case for chord V, suggesting a minor quality. It is best to use horizontal lines in the handwritten form of V to distinguish upper and lower case (V and v). Indicating the modulation was well handled by most, though a few failed to indicate any change of key, even though the figuration seemed to take the modulation into account, and for some it came a little too early.

Please note that when identifying cadences, ‘Authentic’ is not enough information and is not an acceptable answer. Either ‘Perfect Authentic’ or ‘Imperfect Authentic’ is required to distinguish between the two forms of authentic cadences in order to be awarded the marks.

Instruments – with regard to the range of the standard xylophone, most candidates failed to indicate that it sounds an octave higher than written. Had the question asked for the ‘written’ range then this specification would not have been necessary.

Set works – identification of keys and intervals was weak here. In the first excerpt, many candidates indicated a diminished 5th on the score where an augmented 4th was required. Not all candidates were able to find a 9-8 suspension in the second excerpt.

Music Craft Grade 5

Aural section

By far the most challenging question in this paper was the Melody dictation. Sufficient regular practice is recommended to attain proficiency in such a task at this level and beyond. In the Chord progression question, the Perfect Authentic cadence was sometimes identified only as an ‘Authentic’ cadence, which does not differentiate between ‘Perfect’ and ‘Imperfect’ Authentic cadences and is therefore incorrect.

The wording of the question in the Set works question did not ask for the works to be identified, only to list any significant features of the work heard in the corresponding excerpt. A few candidates were so focused on identifying the section in quite some detail, either forgetting the features or running out of room to write anything else. No marks were deducted for identifying the works, but the requested description of features was necessary in order to score the marks. Read all instructions and the wording of questions very carefully.

Written section

The Rhythm and metre section was mostly well handled, as were the Scales and keys questions.

Form – identifying keys in the score was a weak point, and the same issues with identifying cadences discussed in the aural paper applied here (Perfect/Imperfect Authentic Cadences).

Harmony and Voice Leading

Figured Bass – this was the most popular option, but the voice leading on the whole was poorly handled.  It is imperative to plan a good melodic soprano line – once this happens the inner parts will then often fall into place. Disjunct voice leading, and improper handling of the leading note were unfortunately all too common here. Preparation and resolution of the various forms of seventh chords was the other area that needs better attention.

Harmonising a given melody – the smaller number who chose this question did reasonably well, which is commendable given that it requires a good imagination for harmonic direction, chord inversions and bass melody. Once again the various seventh chords were not always handled properly in terms of preparation and resolution.

Species Counterpoint – adding a second part in second species counterpoint was not always done according to the strict rules of this particular species. Further study is needed by most here. The analysis question (fourth species) was much better and provided few problems.

Set works: In the Beethoven excerpt, there were problems with key, interval and cadence identification. The Handel excerpt was well handled, however the requirements in the Monteverdi excerpt were not, especially with regard to labelling implied harmonies.

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