I'm interested in Music Technology as an a-level, and I've looked at the specification for the course, but could someone who does it give me a brief description of what it entails? As a musician, I enjoy composing music on a guitar or piano, recording into logic and then adding other tracks, for example drums or bass. Is Music Technology something that I'd like and profit from? Do you have to be good with computers? Thank you, Jasmine
-Coursework part A is sequencing - basically, you use whatever software your school is using to completely re-create a song from scratch. First year you get a score to help you, second year you don't. This involves listening to and writing in all of the individual tracks in on MIDI, creating the timbres for each instrument to try to match it perfectly to the original, editing, etc. There's a little bit of live recording for just the vocals in first year, but not second - it's pretty much 100% software based.
-Part B is probably more what you're used to - again, it's recreating a song, but this time using live instruments and recording techniques, working in the studio and then on computer again to edit to make it as close to the original as possible. Depending on the musicians you have available to help out and play the different parts, you might have to write out score parts from the song for them to play from. Then you record them, do any editing, and master your track. This is probably the easiest section if you already know your way around mics, and since you've done recording before you'll probably really enjoy this - however I think there might be a restriction that you have to be the one actually doing the recording - I think you might be allowed to record yourself, rather than another musician, but I'm not 100% sure... my school always just had a separate musician and technician when we did coursework.
-Part C is different in first and second year. In AS it's arrangement - you recreate a song in a different genre of music, so it's kind of composing I guess but with the original song as a guide? e.g. I did Seven Nation Army in Reggae style. You have to research the genre and basically know it inside out, then take elements of the original song and work out how to best adapt them to recreate it in a new genre. In A2, its composition. You choose from a composition brief, which you should base the piece around (there's usually either A-create the music to go alongside a video; B-use this poem or quote and base it on that; or C-work around this general theme and make sure you use samples in your piece that are to do with the theme); apart from a few restrictions, it's completely up to you what you do. This was the piece that I found the most fun but also really frustrating, but then again I wasn't big on composition to start with anyway.
-Lastly is theory for exams; in the first year this is based on different eras and genres/artists, some questions about music theory, some parts about technical stuff, but mostly its listening to pieces and answering questions about them, I think... I don't really remember much about that particular exam... Second year is really practical-based, working on a computer with whatever software you're using and applying techniques you've learnt over the last 2 years. You answer questions in the exam in sections, and most of the sections are based on tasks that you then have to do on the software (you're given audio or MIDI files that you put into a new project, and after you do the editing tasks in the exam paper you bounce the files as evidence for the examiner to mark, and then do a final mix of the piece at the end and submit that too). There's also an essay question, which would be based on an area of music tech history. There's quite a lot of topics to cover on this, and it's frustrating because out of all the different topics there are they only give you two options for questions and you only answer one. But tbh, overall the 2nd year music tech exam is just simultaneously stressful but amazingly fun (which basically sums up what the whole course was for me, in the end).
In terms of doing it as a musician, in my class we had a range of people from those who were really great musicians to people who barely played at all. Some of the musicians found it really useful because they could start using the recording studio to record their own stuff and just have better access to the tech at school, but it sounds like you already have a way of doing this. However you might find it really useful, if you're composing and recording in and using the software, to have a better understanding of what you're doing to make what you're creating even better. I spent 2yrs doing the course as well as playing around on the program in my free time and still haven't learnt all of the different things that you can do with it, but music tech as a course was a really great way to get started; however there's quite a bit of theory and history stuff to learn as well which I personally found nowhere near as fun as the practical elements of it (but it does help you have a better overview of music in general in the end). Also, if you know how to read sheet music and know music theory, it can be really useful. Again, we had a range of people who could do theory and sheet music really well to those who didn't know it at all, and though it was useful it's not absolutely needed (we had one teacher who didn't use the score parts at all, but he only taught us the sequencing sections). In the end one of the people who did the best in our year came into the course not reading sheet music at all and barely playing any instruments, but she did also work on her theory and sheet music reading during those 2yrs.
Being good at computers - to be honest, if you can already use logic to record in and create tracks, you will have no problems at all (in fact, you'll probably be ahead of everyone else!). Once you start doing more complex stuff on the software, it's really nothing too complicated, it's more difficult trying to remember how to actually get to all the different editing tools because there are quite a few. We used to write personal logbooks in first year (not the coursework logbooks) which just had instructions on how to do different tasks in case we forgot later on; it was quite useful. Try just having a play around on Logic and write out what you found as you go, maybe look at some of the online guide videos for the course and play with the settings that they talk about. Don't worry about knowing exactly what they do yet, just explore the program and find out what's available. Don't be afraid to play around with it - create a new blank track and make some random recording, then just go wild and try out all the different editing tools you can find.
I hope this helped, but please feel free to ask any other questions you have.
P.S. musictechstudent.co.uk is a really great site that we used throughout the whole course, if you have a look through it, it should help you get a better understanding of the kind of stuff you'd be doing on the course (the video guides for the coursework pieces should be particularly useful).
Thank you so much! My school doesn't offer it... So I'm weighing up how much I want to do it with whether or not I'm happy to change schools to do that A-level. This was so helpful in making that choice! Out of interest, are you at university? And if so are you doing a music tech course? I don't mean to be intrusive, but in the research I've done into uni courses, music tech isn't a required a-level for the course, but I was wondering whether it made a significant difference? As in it's much easier at uni if you did it at a-level? Thanks!
Unfortunately I'm not studying music tech, I'm actually doing Theatre Practice (which is kind of related in some aspects), so I don't know how useful it would be for uni - out of my own class there were very few people who actually went on to study MT at uni (the rest of us did stuff like music, composition, or stuff to do with theatre and events management - everybody doing music tech also tended to do other creative A-levels or BTECs, and for most of us MT was a way to support a different area/subject we were interested in...)
I'd assume to get onto a Music Tech course, you would either have to have music tech a-level or at the very least a very good understanding of the software and tech through your own hobbies and research... I'd say your best bet is to go to any open days and talk to the people there to be sure.
(This bit is just guesswork/based off my own experiences applying for stuff based in theatre, but because Music Tech is also a creative based course I figure they might follow the same kind of structure? Take this with a very large pinch of salt):
I think sometimes with creative-based courses they might not ask for specific required A-levels because some people may have gained enough experience to understand the content and do the course through other experiences/hobbies (especially if the subject isn't very widely offered at A-level/BTEC anyway); they might ask about the candidate's own experiences outside of formal study in interviews, and therefore be more likely to offer interviews as long as they have the right grades of any A-levels (or equivalent), because the grades themselves are just a way to show that they will be able to cope with the academic requirements of the course...
Again, this is just from my own experiences/what I have been told for the area that I'm studying in, I don't know if this is true or not for Music Technology.
EDIT: I forgot to add, I think you might sometimes have to take a portfolio of work to interview for some unis/institutions. I'm pretty sure I remember the person I knew who did go on to study it making a portfolio of work for their interview, which I think was a combination of stuff from the a-level and their own stuff from outside of the course too.