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Through the music course students develop their knowledge and potential as musicians, both personally and collaboratively.

Involving aspects of the composition, performance and critical analysis of music, the course exposes students to forms, styles and functions of music from a wide range of historical and socio-cultural contexts. Students create, participate in, and reflect upon music from their own background and those of others. They develop practical and communicative skills which provide them with the opportunity to engage in music for further study, as well as for lifetime enjoyment.

Both standard level (SL) and higher level (HL) music students are required to study musical perception.

SL students in music are then required to choose one of three options:

  • creating (SLC)
  • solo performing (SLS)
  • group performing (SLG).

HL students are required to present both creating and solo performing.

In the teaching of the music course it should be possible to have groups of students that include both SL and HL students. Through a variety of teaching approaches, all students—whether SL or HL—will be encouraged to develop their creative and critical abilities and to enhance their appreciation and enjoyment of music.

Music syllabus outline

Syllabus component Suggested teaching hours

Music perception
Study, analysis and examination, comparing and contrasting of musical cultures
(compulsory for SL and HL students)

75 90

The development of creative skills through exploration, control and development of musical elements
The following options are available:

  • composing
  • music technology composing
  • arranging
  • improvising
  • stylistic techniques.

(compulsory for HL and SLC* students only)

75 75

Solo performing
The development of performance skills through solo music making
(compulsory for HL and SLS* students only)

75 75

Group performing
The development of performance skills through group music making
(compulsory for SLG* students only)

75 N/A
Total teaching hours 150 240 

Key features of the curriculum and assessment models

  • Available at standard (SL) and higher levels (HL)
  • The minimum prescribed number of hours is 150 for SL and 240 for HL
  • Students are assessed both externally and internally
  • External assessment consists of a) the Listening paper (musical perception questions), and b) the Musical links investigation (a written media script investigating the significant musical links between two or more pieces from distinct musical cultures)
  • Internal assessment consists, at HL, of a) Creating, and b) Solo performing. At SL students choose one option from among the following: a) Creating, b) Solo performing, c) Group performing.     

Subject brief

Learn more about the SL & HL music subject brief.


Learn more about music in a DP workshop for teachers