Guest article: Music teacher review of Rock Your GCSE Music

November 30, 2012 2:42 pm by Matt Allen

Rhinegold Education and Rockschool‘s Rock Your GCSE Music is a high quality set of books covering the musical features of eight songs from almost all angles. It is an extremely useful resource for preparing for GCSE or BTEC (Level 2 or Level 3) music exams.  When I worked through the Coldplay ‘Clocks’ project with my students, I found it really livened up BTEC and GCSE classes.

The series:

  • allows you to expand student experience when focusing on composing techniques using familiar music as a stimulus
  • gives performing lessons more focus and direction, with ready-made ensemble work available and accessible for all
  • provides quick and easy listening exercises which help build skills such as playing from memory and sight reading.

The whole approach really works – it’s a fantastic resource that I highly recommend!

There are three parts to the set:

  1. Teacher’s Book

This book is the hub of the set. It sets out the eight songs as eight projects, using each song as both an example and a stimulus for composition and listening features as well as the content / exercises needed to work toward an ensemble performance. The projects are set out in lesson by lesson format, with clear lesson objectives and scores and signposts to supporting audio materials. There are snippets of information exploring the musical techniques used in each song. The eight songs appear to have been chosen to appeal to a wide audience and in my opinion there really is something for everyone – adult or student.

Don’t be fooled – this is not just a way of getting ensemble materials for performing. This book enables you to teach GCSE/BTEC music lessons with “rock” music at the core. Where a teacher may have used something familiar from the “Classical Arts” world, you have a key here that will open your teaching practise to include high level musical study based on “pop” music – something that should both engage and inspire higher standards in your students. The Teacher’s Book has been written by someone who appears to have done just that and is now sharing what they’ve discovered because it works.


  1. Ensemble Pieces

This book contains a lot more than just the full scores for each song, although it does appear that way at first glance. It is much more than a mere “Rock your GCSE Anthology”. Hidden away on the back cover are the CD-ROM discs. These contain a wealth of resources that bring the whole publication to life. Not only do you have the scores and full sets of parts presented as PDF files – viewable and printable on nearly any computer platform – you also get the Teacher’s Book extracts (also PDF) and Sibelius scores of all the musical examples used in the teaching lessons. To play them to your students, you simply load them into Sibelius and press play!

Having this huge amount of material at your fingertips is incredible. The author has put together nearly all the resources you could ever need. You can almost walk into any music room, pop the CD-ROM in the computer and get on with teaching and learning. With the ability to print out a range of parts of varying difficulty, you can deliver what your students can play and get them teamed up to work as a band, no matter what their standard, no matter what their instrument! You could even leave the scores electronic – if you are lucky enough to have enough PCs, Macs or iPads to use as virtual manuscript paper.

Why the nearly? There are no full recordings of the songs included, despite the existence of excellent quality backing tracks. What the backing tracks do is miss out a combination of instruments one at a time – the ability to have a ready-made bass guitar backing track is worth the cost of the books alone! The full songs must be either downloaded and / or purchased (very easy on iTunes or Amazon) or streamed from YouTube – indeed there are QR codes in the books which lead to a playlist the publisher has prepared.

  1. Student Handbook

In a very clever manner, this small handbook moves from being just a classroom textbook to an interactive resource. Again, students can scan the QR code to easily access a YouTube playlist containing all the songs used in the book. There are also video demonstrations of some of the more tricky techniques ready on a companion website, so if your palm muting technique is a bit rusty, there’s help on hand. There are extensive notes on performance techniques too – things for students to either make sure of or be aware of when they tackle the music themselves.

Using the books for GCSE

All four major GCSE syllabi are discussed in the teacher’s book, with the way this set of books could be used to help the Performance requirements clearly set out. With the format and content of the lessons set out as they are, these resources also provide links to composing and listening exercises, with some excellent suggested project ideas. It really does allow you to deliver the exam requirements keeping popular music at the core of the student activities.

Using the books for BTEC Music (Levels 2 and 3)

These books are ready made for the BTEC units as well. Where there is or could be a requirement to perform music, this set of books will give you the ammunition to get your students busy and produce high quality results after practise. Remember, although these have been created to be used by ensembles, the flexibility of the backing tracks means solo musicians can use them too, utilising the CD-ROM to provide appropriate accompaniment. There is a lot of material providing hints and tips for practise, some historical / cultural background and with some guidance plenty of ideas that could form the basis of performing, composing, recording or research projects.

  • BTEC Level 2

You could make use of the Teacher’s Book resource is units 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15 and 16. The Ensemble Pieces book would be useful in completing units 3, 4, 6, 10, 11 and 15. The Student Handbook would be able to be used in units 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 16.

  • BTEC Level 3

Although this set of books is aimed at GCSE standard (Level 2), there are plenty of places where you could start from these contents and move into more depth appropriate to level 3 standard work. For example, the Teacher Book could be useful in units 4, 7, 8, 9, 12, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 30, 31, 33, 34, 39, 40, 42 and 43. The Student Handbook and Ensemble Pieces could be used in similar areas, either to start an assessment task, to develop learner engagement or to use as part of research or developing understanding.

And finally…

“If you really want to know about a product, ask the consumer!” So, with that in mind, here are some quotes from the students in my Year 11 GCSE Music class:

It’s good because the music layout is really good with details included

It’s easy to read and follow

Including TAB and written music is great

The songs included are cool

The melody with lyrics is well presented


Matt Allen

Head of Performing Arts

Chessington Community College


Rock Your GCSE Music is available from www.musicroom.com

Back to Blog Homepage

Leave a Reply