This is the time of year when SL Music students need to choose either solo or group performance and HL Music students prepare for solo performances.  It is an important decision. At the Standard Level, the solo or group performance option is worth 50% of the overall IB music score.  At the Higher Level, only the solo option is available. It is worth 25% of the overall IB music score.  This blog will focus on preparation for solo performance.


Choosing Solo Repertoire

  • Consider using a planning sheet (above) to facilitate and organize your performance.   It is important for you to clearly communicate the IB requirements and performance recommendations to the professional musician working with you weekly. Use this planning sheet very early in the year.
  • Select repertoire that matches your abilities and capabilities as a performer. Picking overly difficult music that you can not master will result in poor marks.
  • Meet the time length requirement.  (15 minutes for SL, 20 minutes for HL)
  • Plan a contrasting and varied repertoire.
  • Original compositions are likely not good choices. You are evaluated on the performance, not on the composition, and there is no reason to believe your own composition is any better a choice than one of Mozart’s, Beethoven’s, John Lennon’s etc!
  • Explore a wealth of repertoire before making decisions.
  • Choose the repertoire based upon your musical understanding and your ability to perform the piece appropriately. When you reach mastery and are ready for recording, you must be prepared beyond the point where you are restarting pieces or hesitant with tempo.
  • Probably the most important aspect of a performance submission depends on the selection of repertoire. Select pieces that you can master to demonstrate your preparation of suitable technical and stylistic challenges.
  • Choose your primary instrument for performance. Second instruments are discouraged when the candidate’s performance capability is lower on the secondary instrument. You get NO credit for showing you have a second instrument, so only choose this if your playing ability is equal on the two instruments.

Solo Performance Preparation

  • Professional support is expected in your approach to the performance recording. Ideally you should have a private lesson teacher who will guide your study – as the person who works with you weekly, they will be an expert in your voice/instrument and will know the available repertoire. They will therefore be able to recommend suitable pieces showing you at your best. It is suggested by the IB that you have 75 teaching hours on solo performance.
  • Focus on communicating and making music. Candidates are required to meet technical demands consistently. Your performance needs to demonstrate the mastery of the fundamentals of musicianship such as shaping the musical line, intonation and tonal control, control of rhythmic pulse and subdivision. Choose music that enables you to achieve a high level of music making by eliminating excessive unreachable technical demands. If you are focused on technique and “getting notes,” the piece may be too difficult. It is advisable to choose pieces of differing levels to enable the student to meet the time requirement if necessary. Difficulty is less important than showcasing musicality and fluidity. In choosing music, look through a comprehensive library of performing possibilities. Choose music that you can play well. Demonstrate your understanding by choosing music from different genres and styles. Seek contrasting musical traditions and idioms. Vocalists, include examples of different languages in your choices when possible.
  • Idealy, you will have the option to record your performances in at least two segments in the year, though this is not always possible.  Consult your music teacher and ensure you understand the process of recording at your school, the date and how to procure the services of an accompanist.

Musical Accompaniment

  • If written in the score, musical accompaniment is required. In the case of concertos, a piano reduction (instead of a full accompanying orchestra) is acceptable.
  • When selecting repertoire, ensure that the piano accompaniment can be played at a high standard and sensitively performed.
  • Ensure adequate rehearsal preparation with the accompanist.
  • Pianos must be recently tuned and in tune on the recordings.
  • Pre-recorded accompaniment tracks are strongly discouraged in the majority of solos and should be avoided. Exceptions may be made with guitarists for example using pre-recorded accompaniments such as Rock School exam books. These come with pre-recorded accompaniment and allow the player to be heard as a soloist but “in context”.
  • In the case of solo instruments such as drumset, bass and guitar, it is expected that these instruments would perform with an accompaniment of a typical rock or jazz group as an example.
  • In the case of guitar or bass guitar, it is possible to play guitar duos, for example, with another guitarist who would trade melody and accompaniment patterns. In this case, it needs to be labeled accurately on the CD. For example, Track 1 – Candidate melody from beginning until 1:15, accompaniment 1:16 – 2:30, melody from 2:31 – 3:40.

Understand the Solo Performance Rubric

  • Study the Solo Performance Rubric
  • Notice how the heaviest weight is assigned to B: Technical proficiency and D: Musical communication
  • Notice how not following the accompanist guidelines can drastically bring down your marks for Criterion A: Selection of program.
  • Practice assessing student solo performances to understand the standard

Most importantly, enjoy creating your own solo performances!