I have my students starting score analyses already in grade 6. Of course, they are very simplified in the younger grades. My students typically have very low levels of English in the lower end of middle school and having them do a score analysis in a second language is a big ask. On top of this, some of these students have never taken a music lesson in school before. For all these kiddos, just knowing whether a song is major or minor is a big step. 

Here’s part of a score analysis from one of my younger students. 

As they get older, and especially in grade 10, I expect the score analyses to get very highly detailed. In the past, I was very much focused on initial context and then dividing straight into the score. Most of my advice to students was primarily about how to do score markups and how to cite evidence.

Initially, I wanted to see lots of pencil scribblings over the paper in which students identified as much as they could in order to discuss it later. This example comes from an Extended Essay student of mine who achieved an A on her paper. 

The next example was an exercise we completed in grade 10 whilst learning about ternary form in our Elements of Music unit. 

(I was also prepping my kiddos for the final evaluation, when they’d have to do a score analysis of their Creative Cycle piece.)

When it came to writing the paper, I was always really careful to ensure my students were citing correctly, whether that meant using time stamps or images of measures being discussed.

I was really shocked surprised pleased happy to learn that the IB has its own preferred template for completing score analyses!

I found it in the document called, “Further Guidance for DP Music.”

The IB basically wants two areas explored: 

The Score

This the IB separates into two sections: the musical findings (found within the score itself) and the extra-musical findings that relate specifically to the score. for example…

A musical finding out be that at measure 26 (where) there is a large octave leap down in the melody (what) that produces a disjunct and unsettled feeling. 

An extra-musical finding in the score would be noting that the character in the leider is singing about the depth of his despair because in the opera he has just been spurned by his lover. 

The Score's Context

(Not to be confused with personal, local or global contexts)

  • Biographical information on composer and/or performers
  • Artistic Intentions
  • Compositional or Performance conventions
  • Societal, Historical and Cultural background of the piece
  • Presentation logistics

I’ve found the IB’s list helpful because it expands / deepens what I had already told my students to research. Previously, I had them focusing heavily on the societal, cultural, and historical contexts for their pieces, primarily because this was leading from Criterion Aii in the MYP. However, the DP document mentioned specific logistics, such as the setup of the orchestra, how microphones were placed, the performing conventions of the day (e.g. how trills were treated in specific time periods.)

I immediately made a scaffolding document that I will be using with both my grade 10s and my DP students. If you’d like a copy, just click on the link below. 

Download your Comprehensive Score Analysis scaffold now.