Totally excited about starting IB Music next year? IB music is a great course with numerous opportunities to learn and listen to different genres of music as well as study the contexts. Students learn performance repertoire as well as composing their own music. It will change your perception and paradigm of music listening, performing and composing. Most likely you are going to have a very busy schedule in the school year; using summer to get a jump start is highly recommended.

Ways to Jump Start IB Music

1. “Get Your Music Theory On”
A foundation to music theory is essential to your success. Music theory explains how music works. The vocabulary and identification of music elements will aid your understanding the language of music. All students have strengths and weaknesses in this area. For example, some students cannot read music, but have a strong ability to hear and articulate what is happening in music. Other students can read music fluently but struggle with articulating what they hear. Take 30 minutes every few days this summer to acquire a baseline of music theory.

The following are essentials skills in reading and understanding notation in order of importance:
• Reading and identifying notes in treble, bass and alto clef. *
• Reading and identifying rhythms *
• Reading and identifying key signatures *
• Identifying scales *
• Understanding and identifying chords*
• Identifying and understanding triad construction and Roman Numeral analysis
• Understanding and identifying cadences, non-harmonic tones, modulation

*With a basic understanding of these five skills, you will have laid a strong foundation for the start of IB Music. Any work you can do will be helpful.

As a starting point begin the lessons on the website and practice with the exercises on identifying names of notes, chords and key signatures. The level of difficulty can be gradually increased on the exercises. This is not something that can be done the day before the course starts, but with consistent practice can be easily mastered.

2. Start planning the repertoire for your solo performance
Summer is the perfect time to begin planning your repertoire if you are doing the solo performance at the SL and HL level.

Tips on choosing music
Remember you will need to demonstrate an understanding of contrasting styles and/or genres of music. This is achieved by choosing a varied program using distinct style changes within a piece – e.g. a slow movement contrasted with a fast movement of a concerto – or with a contrast of genres. Select pieces from different genres such as romantic, contemporary, baroque, classical, world, rock, blues or folk music. Rock styles can include jazz, pop, blues, samba, etc. as possible contrasting styles. ONE of the pieces can be a duet or ensemble where the candidate’s part is clearly audible. This ensemble recording can be no longer than 5 minutes. Vocalists are encouraged to perform pieces using different languages.

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.

Reminder, here’s a brief summary of the solo performance guidelines for SL and HL music.

SL students choose between group or solo performance or music technology.  It is worth 50% of the overall IB music score:

Solo performance length is 15 minutes, presented during one or more public performances. Students are allowed to submit one piece as a member of a small group as long as the student’s individual contribution is clearly identifiable. Group performance must be between 20 – 30 minutes and must consist of recordings from two or more public performances. At the SL level only, student may use choose music technology as a solo performance option. Each performance must include a minimum of four simultaneous parts and be MIDI entered.

At the Higher Level, only the solo option is available. It is worth 25% of the overall IB music score.

Students are required to submit 20 minutes of solo performance recordings consisting of contrasting pieces. All musical styles are encouraged. Accompanists are required where piano parts are a part of the score. Students are allowed to submit one piece as a member of a small group as long as the student’s individual contribution is clearly identifiable.


Happy Surfing on the theory sites! Work in lots of rest and enjoy the music of summer!