What should I include in a music essay?

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A strong A-Level music essay should mainly contain the identification and analysis of some of the key musical features within the given piece, and should also provide some information about the musical period in which it was written and how the period links to those features.

A helpful way to begin finding points for a music essay is to remember the mnemonic "MRS HITT". This stands for all the important musical features that you will want to address within your essay; M- melody, R - rhythm, S - structure, H- harmony, I- instrumentation, T- texture, T- tonality. Identify features of the given piece of music using these headings to guide you; for example, in Debussy's Sarabande, this might include commenting on the fact that the texture of the piece is largely homophonic, or the harmony is non-functional. To make this a coherent and flowing piece of work, you will want to expand on these basic points and give some examples of them in the work using bar numbers.

After outlining each point, providing a comment linking to the historical and musical context will help to strengthen your answer. This will require learning about the different musical periods and being able to identify the features of each. To use Debussy's Sarabande as an example, you might choose to comment on the fact that the harmony is non-functional, and then go on to say that this is characteristic of the 20th Century/Impressionist style in which Debussy was writing, as they aimed to use chords for colour and expression, rather than having a specific harmonic function, as in the Classical period.

Lila B. GCSE Music tutor, A Level Music tutor, GCSE English Literatur...

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