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Student and tutor module reviews

Inside music

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  • Points: 60
  • Code: A224
  • Level: 2

Student reviews

This is a super course made even better by the very enthusiastic tutor who I had met some years ago when doing A214. But instead of having to use manuscript paper and a pencil and eraser for composition as we did in the past this course uses the Sibelius software for which careful instruction is provided and which makes composition really enjoyable. To be able to compose a score and then immediately to hear what it sounded like, and if necessary edit it, was marvelous.

There is, in addition to composition, quite a lot of musical analysis which was great help in understanding theory.
Of course it helps if you can read music but that is not actually necessary. Some of the people in our tutorial group were not very good at reading music when they began but that did not prevent them doing well.

As with many OU courses we found ourselves rather short of time particularly for completing the EMA. I personally had a lot of problems with my computer but I found that the people on the OU help desk were really good at sorting that out.

Peter Low

Course starting: October 2011

Review posted: March 2014

I found this course very informative and stimulating, providing a real entry into songwriting and composing. The course is demanding especially if you are coming to it without previous musical theory knowledge. You will need to know a lot about harmony particularly and I recommend looking at musical theory up to at least level 5 before you start the course (in fact level 8 would be helpful for a pleasant study experience - the AB Books are good).

The pace of the course is fairly gentle to start with, involving music listening exercises and quite easy TMA's but gets increasingly difficult in the second half and from book 3 and the last 3 TMAs. The ECA can be challenging if you have not fully got to grips with the level of musical analysis and songwriting required which is by the end quite demanding and certainly much more than beginner level.

If you have a chance get going as early as possible with the materials, to get ahead as you will find that catching up later will be difficult (if not impossible).

I would rate this as a hard level 2 course but if you can do it it provides a lot for the money in one course.

It is very much music theory/music form/composing only and not technology or arts essay based. You need to know the real music stuff for this.

Anthony Moran

Course starting: September 2012

Review posted: September 2013

There is a desperate need for existing knowledge of HARMONY - which I did not have - PRIOR to studying this module. I felt that this was a rushed course which tried to touch on everything but there was scarce chance to practise harmony and little time to learn about composition. The songwriting deadlines come so soon and I felt really panicked and not fully prepared.

I felt utterly "thrown in at the deep end", even though I play the violin to a high standard and a very little piano with both hands. It is essential to LEARN TO PLAY THE PIANO as well as you can before taking this module.

For the EMA, the module book extensively teaches about a Mozart sonata, then, almost comically, we had to write a huge essay about a Beethoven sonata. Beethoven's style has developed greatly from Mozart's, and form is much more flexible in Beethoven's works. I felt hugely disappointed that there was such a gaping crevice in teaching about Beethoven's style to give students a fighting chance of coping with the EMA.

I did get a distinction but I am pleased to be the other side of studying A224 - I found it very hard work. My tutor was excellent but there was too little time to cover everything properly.

Course starting: September 2012

Review posted: July 2013

Faculty response

Thank you for your comments. Congratulations on your result and I hope that you feel that your hard work was worthwhile.
The module description states that knowledge equivalent Grade 3 Theory of the Associated Board (ABRSM) music syllabus is required at the start of the module, and the teaching progresses from this point.

Our 'Introduction to Music Theory' on OpenLearn (free) provides a useful refresher. Harmony is taught through analysis but also through songwriting in this module - so it is a main strand throughout. Many of our students do not play the piano, and there is guidance on writing for piano in the module materials, especially towards the end, and there are plenty of examples to follow when devising accompaniments.

The Mozart concerto acts as a case study for aspects such as sonata form, and so the choice of a work by Beethoven for the EMA was deliberate - the point being to apply the concepts studied during the module to a new piece by a different composer.

A really interesting course but quite challenging in places especially when it came to the composition side of things. I have been a musician for many years and I think that to do this course with no musical experience would be extremely difficult. I had an excellent tutor who was very encouraging and supportive. All in all a very enjoyable course.

Julie Vine

Course starting: October 2011

Review posted: February 2013

I came to the module with some knowledge of music theory in the western art music (classical) style and a wide range of listening in that style. This module has a mixture of construction and deconstruction - the one feeding the other. We saw how various musical examples were put together, then had an opportunity to try it out for ourselves.

Strengths: Wide range of music presented, underlying structures explained well. Good mixture of theory and practical. Great forum interaction.
Weaknesses: Access to online examples and units for those of us who have a slow broadband speed.

Opportunities: Learning to write music in various genres, exposure to styles of music I would not have accessed otherwise. At last learning the more complex chords and sequences and how to use them.

Challenges: Time management (I was doing TA212 as well), which meant that I was often ahead of other students when tutorials came round and, towards the end of the module, that the materials had not yet come on-stream.

Diane Grace Coleman

Course starting: October 2011

Review posted: September 2012

This is a really excellent course, probably the best of the dozen or so OU courses I have taken. It covers a great deal of material - by the end I was listening to, reading, writing and playing music very differently from a year ago. Live music is now even more enjoyable as my eyes have been opened (or perhaps I should say my ears have been opened) to the complexity and subtlety of what is going on.

I had previously done A214 and I also play an instrument - if you have little or no experience of reading music I think there would be a rather steep learning curve (and this was confirmed by discussions with several students I met at tutorials); it is still do-able but you may need to allow extra study time.

In any subject as varied as music there are numerous opinions - these led to some fascinating discussions on the A224 student website which were often as informative and thought-provoking as the course materials. One of the joys of the course was these discussions which often included music teachers, experienced amateur musicians and even a few professional musicians.

Having taken the course I now feel prepared enough to tackle some more adventurous improvisation and to try some arranging.

Mark Bush

Course starting: October 2011

Review posted: September 2012

I came to A224 having done A214 and TA212 (Technology of Music). I have been a keen amateur musician for most of my life (I'm 67), and participate in Concert Band and Swing Band music as well as orchestras.

This isn't a course you can come into with total ignorance of musical structure, but it's a lot more fun than conventional Music Theory.

The Composition element I found was both demanding and stimulating - I really needed to believe in what I was doing, and still feel rather amazed that the OU seemed to approve of my efforts more than I did! I never needed more than fairly modest to intermediate skills with Sibelius.

I think this course does much to break down the prejudice that I certainly had both for and against different kinds of music. I haven't come to terms with Gamelan music or Indian ragas - yet - but I've become much more conscious of what music is good and what isn't.

Richard Stamp

Course starting: October 2011

Review posted: August 2012

Please note

Each of the views expressed above is an individual's very particular response, largely unedited, and should be viewed with that in mind. Since modules are subject to regular updating, some of the issues identified may have already been addressed. In some instances the faculty may have provided a response to a comment. If you have a query about a particular module, please contact your Regional Centre.

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Module satisfaction survey

The figures below are taken from a survey of students who sat the exam/completed the end-of-module assessment for the October 2016 presentation of A224. The survey was carried out in 2017.

31 students (a response rate of 28.7%) responded to the survey covering what they thought of 10 aspects of the module.

Please note that if the percentage of students who responded to this module survey is below 30% and/or the number of responses is below 23 it means that only a small proportion of students provided feedback and their views as shown here may not be fully representative of all students who studied the module.

See this page for the full text of questions and more information about the survey.

% Count
Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of this module 77.4 24
Overall, I am satisfied with my study experience 74.2 23
The module provided good value for money 58.6 17
I was satisfied with the support provided by my tutor/study adviser on this module 86.7 26
Overall, I was satisfied with the teaching materials provided on this module 87.1 27
The learning outcomes of the module were clearly stated 83.9 26
I would recommend this module to other students 67.7 21
The module met my expectations 67.7 21
I enjoyed studying this module 71 22
Overall, I was able to keep up with the workload on this module 70 21
Faculty comment: This is a low population module and the response rate means that statistically this is an indicative rather than an accurate picture of how students perceived the course this year. Feedback from previous surveys has been a key driver to changes made in the mid-life review of the module which will be implemented in the forthcoming presentation. These changes should see more support for students through the most challenging elements of the module and new assessments at key pressure points. Feedback about access to tutorials and tutorial delivery will be used in future planning and also to respond to higher levels of management in the hope of improving systems in future.
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