Students are offered a broad and balanced programme. They should be able to:

•express their musical ideas and feelings use their creativity, imagination and intuition

•develop their skills, knowledge and understanding

•reflect on and evaluate their progress


Programme 1 NQF Entry Level/Pre-grade 1

During programme 1, pupils aim to control sounds on their instrument. They start to develop technical and musical skills. They learn how to play simple pieces, enjoying their experiences and building on them with increasing confidence. Pupils play a variety of short, simple pieces (including studies) with fluency and some expression. When playing with others, they listen and watch, keeping in time with the group. In performing to others, they show awareness of the character of the music. They play with an appropriate, balanced and relaxed posture, technical control and a pleasing musical sound. They display aural awareness in their control of musical elements (pulse, rhythm, tempo, dynamics and quality of tone) and begin to internalise musical patterns in their heads. They play short phrases by ear, from memory, and from notation where appropriate. They improvise simple musical patterns (both rhythmically and melodically) with expression and use their instrumental skills when composing. They talk about the quality of their playing and suggest ways in which they can make improvements.

Programme 2 (building on programme 1) NQF 1 Foundation Level/Grade 1

During programme 2, pupils build on the skills, knowledge and understanding acquired in programme 1. They extend their musical and technical skills, play a wider range of repertoire and communicate the expressive character of the music. Pupils play simple pieces from a variety of styles with fluency and expression, internalising the sounds and conveying the character of the music. When playing with others, they help to maintain a separate part with an awareness of their own role in the ensemble. They perform to others with a sense of occasion, acknowledging audience appreciation and applause. They maintain an appropriate posture in a manner that facilitates freedom of movement. They build on their listening experiences, making distinctions in articulation, dynamics, tone quality, etc. They recognise simple structures in their pieces and use these in their own improvisations and compositions. They also improvise and compose using a limited number and range of notes, or with more freedom. They play by ear easy pieces in simple keys, recall short rhythmic and melodic phrases from memory and use notation, sometimes at sight. They make choices about their playing in relation to musical elements and talk about the quality of their performances.

Programme 3 (building on programme 2) NQF 1 Foundation Level/Grade 2-3

During programme 3, pupils continue to develop their skills, knowledge and understanding. Through consolidating their technical skills they perform with increasing confidence, demonstrating more understanding of structural relationships and musical devices. Pupils play a variety of moderately easy pieces from different styles, conveying the expressive intentions of the music. When playing with others, they maintain an independent part individually, showing awareness of their role within the ensemble. They play with assurance when performing to others, communicating the character of the music with expression and understanding. They display good posture themselves and identify it in others. Their growing technical control (articulation, fingering, co-ordination, etc.) is used more consistently. They utilise their listening skills to make expressive decisions and to project the character of the music. They recognise common structures and musical devices, e.g. repetition, sequence, contrast, and use this knowledge in performing, improvising and composing. They play by ear pieces in simple keys or modes, recall moderately short musical phrases and read/play at sight a variety of short pieces. They evaluate the quality of their performances with some independence, using appropriate musical vocabulary, and make improvements in the light of their own perceptions and those of others.

Programme 4 (building on programme 3) NQF 2 Intermediate Level/Grades 4-5

During programme 4, pupils continue to develop their technical skills and to extend the range of their playing. They start to develop a personal response to music, demonstrating this and their growing understanding of musical idioms, as they interpret music and perform to others. Pupils play a wide variety of pieces of moderate difficulty from different styles and traditions. They communicate their feelings within their knowledge and understanding of the style and the composer’s markings, demonstrating a personal response to the music. When playing with others, they maintain their own individual line with confidence and sensitivity, making significant contributions to the ensemble and shared interpretation, and taking a lead when appropriate. As soloists or in ensembles, they perform to others with conviction, responding to the audience, venue and occasion. They communicate the music through their own individual or shared interpretations and present their performances carefully, with attention to detail. They develop a wide range of dynamics and tone colours, using these sensitively and musically in their informed interpretations. They memorise, internalise, imitate and recall musical patterns of increasing length and difficulty. They play by ear pieces with simple modulations and a wide range of intervals and read and play at sight pieces in different styles. When improvising and composing, they freely develop their own musical ideas within a variety of musical structures, drawing on internalised sounds. They are able to describe, discuss and demonstrate understanding of how musical elements are used in a particular form or style. They evaluate their performances independently, and critically appraise pieces that may include their own as well as others’ compositions.

Programme 5 (building on programme 4) NQF 3 Advanced Level/Grades 6-8

During programme 5, pupils play at an advanced level, applying the breadth of their understanding, skills and knowledge and working with autonomy. They critically evaluate their work and have personal ownership of what they do. Pupils play a range of advanced pieces from different styles and traditions that are technically and/or musically demanding. They draw on their high levels of technical control (rhythm, tempo, co-ordination, articulation, dynamics, melodic line, tone colour, etc.) in order to interpret the music, expressing their feelings within their knowledge and understanding of style, period and the composer’s markings. They demonstrate the physical and mental stamina to play extended works. When playing in ensembles, they show sensitivity and empathy to others, contributing their own interpretative ideas and responding to those of others. In performance, they project the music with conviction through their own individual or shared interpretations, demonstrating a personal response to the music and an awareness of audience, venue and occasion. They memorise, internalise, imitate and recall sections from a wide variety of music. They read and play at sight moderately difficult pieces and respond to musical characteristics, including elements of surprise. They improvise extended musical ideas with a sense of direction and shape. They compose with consistency of style and coherence, understanding the idiomatic possibilities of their musical resources. They make informed evaluations about their performances, and those of others, in the light of their knowledge about the music and the interpretations of other musicians and professional artists. They value their music-making and take ownership of what they do.