Joining the dots between classroom and instrumental/vocal teaching: how Trinity’s Music exams and resources can be used to enhance delivery of the Model Music Curriculum

Joining the dots between classroom and instrumental/vocal teaching: how Trinity’s Music exams and resources can be used to enhance delivery of the Model Music Curriculum

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BY: Natalie Christopher
01 September 2021

Following our May blog post, Trinity and the Model Music Curriculum, Natalie Christopher, Sector Support Manger, Music and Partnerships, takes a closer look at how the skills required throughout Trinity's range of music exams, and the resources designed to support the development of these skills, can be utilised in a classroom context to enhance delivery of the Model Music Curriculum

Over the last few months, it has been really encouraging to see a broad range of music educators engaging with the Model Music Curriculum (MMC) and the discussions around it. As teachers start to think about the next academic year, many will be looking to determine what using the MMC as a stimulus for their lesson planning looks like on a practical level.

As a starting point for support, we would always recommend engaging with your local Music Education Hub as collaboration with visiting instrumental teachers can enhance your curriculum offer. Whether they come into school to provide Whole Class Instrumental Teaching (WCIT), offer instrumental/vocal lessons on an individual or small group basis, or lead the school choir, band or orchestra, a visiting music teacher is a readily available source of additional musical expertise and inspiration.

Where Trinity's suite of Music exams is being used to support musical progression, students have a wide range of options to choose from in order for them to best showcase their strengths, many of which crossover with the MMC. Here are some suggestions for how the preparation for a Trinity Music exam can be incorporated within the classroom and how the resources on offer to support the development of the skills can be taken advantage of.


Take a look at Trinity's repertoire lists and publications. Our Classical & Jazz Singing syllabus has the most extensive repertoire list out of all our graded music exams. At lower grades, there are lots of songs which could easily be incorporated into a class' cross-curricular themes such as WinterOats and Beans and Barley Grow, and The Sumggler's Song at Initial Grade, and CakesWe Can Make a Difference and Seagull at Grade 1. There are also plenty of songs from popular films and musicals, plus the introduction of songs in languages other than English from Grade 2 upwards. For a more contemporary vibe, check out our Rock & Pop Vocals syllabus, which has plenty of songs your students should recognise and engage with.


Get some inspiration from our Rock & Pop Producer's Notes. These resources have been designed to provide contextual information to some of the songs on our current Rock & Pop syllabus, encouraging students to, not only learn the song as it appears on the score, but to engage with its history. Joe Cocker's version of A Little Help from My Friends is one of the songs included in the Producer's Notes as it features on the Grade 6 Male Vocals syllabus - it's also on the recommended listening list for Key Stage 2. Why not get your students to make their own for other pieces they are listening to?


Being able to perform your own composition has been a unique benefit of taking a Trinity exam for many years now, giving candidates the opportunity to expand upon their creative music-making skills and to personalise their exam experience. We provide clear parameters of what is required for each grade in the relevant syllabus for that instrument. For instance, for a Grade 1 Trumpet exam, the composition should be approximately one minute long, demonstrate dynamic contrast and contain simple syncopation or other rhythmic feature. The key of the piece is determined by the Technical Work section for that grade. Taking Grade 1 Trumpet as our example again, candidates are asked to perform scales in C major and A minor, so we would expect their composition to be written in either of these keys.

You can find Own Composition resources on our website, plus a number of Songwriting videos on our YouTube channel so why not use these as a stimulus for your own classroom compositions?


The ability to show good musicianship is a skill that is assessed throughout every element of Trinity's performance exams but, for some alternative ways for how you can develop these skills in the classroom, why not take a look at the sample tests and stimuli for our Session Skills and Supporting Tests?

For the Session Skills section of a Rock & Pop exam, candidates have the option to present either Improvisation or Playback. The stimulus in a Playback test consists of a series of short melodic phrases which is presented to them both as a score and on the backing track. Candidates then use their aural and sight reading skills to repeat each phrase after it has been played on the track. The Improvisation test requires candidates to use the stimuli of a musical style, chord chart and backing track to create their own musical line. Our Session Skills books provide examples of these which could be adapted for use in the classroom, either to practise the Playback exercises as a group, or to come up with their own improvisations to a particular track.

There are four Supporting Test options in our Classical & Jazz exams: Sight Reading, Aural, Improvisation and, from Initial to Grade 5, Musical Knowledge. As with the Session Skills, we offer a range of books for both Sight Reading and Aural test preparation,which are available from the Trinity Shop and can be adapted to be played in a group, or to create your own aural quiz. There is also a wealth of resources available on the Trinity website for both Aural and Improvisation including videos, parameters and sample stimuli. In the Musical Knowledge test, candidates are asked questions based on the pieces they have just performed, developing musicianship by encouraging a musical understanding of the music they play. The parameters for each grade are available in all of our Classical & Jazz syllabuses so you could use these in conjunction with the MMC, not only to set your own Musical Knowledge quizzes, but to encourage the students to write their own!

For those students looking to develop their musical literacy skills further, we also offer Theory of Music exams from Grades 1-8 with supporting workbooks and past papers available to purchase. Some additional support resources are also available and free to download from the website including a glossary of Musical Terms for Grades 2-4, a Grade 1 Theory Supplement, a Theory Workbook sample and a selection of sample past papers.


One of the key attributes of the Model Music Curriculum is that it advocates giving students regular opportunities to perform. But the skills required to give a good performance go beyond being able to play a musical instrument proficiently. Furthermore, those skills, such as forward planning and preparation, communicating effectively with your audience, managing performance anxiety and not being deterred if you make a mistake, are ones which can benefit a person throughout their life, not just on the stage. So why not take these performance opportunities, both as a way of showcasing what your students have learnt in the music lessons, and as a chance to develop their inter-personal skills too? The Overall Performance criteria within our Digital grade exams encourages candidates to view their exam recording as a gig or recital and to consider how they transition between pieces, both logistically and musically. Incorporating the requirements of the Overall Performance criteria into your school performances will give your students a sense of preparedness, professionalism and confidence they can carry forward into other areas of their life, as well as increasing their enjoyment of performance and musical learning.


It is important to note that music grade exams can be used as evidence of progression to Ofsted. Grades 6-8 can contribute to secondary schools' Progress 8 points, and the same grades are eligible for UCAS points. Whether your students have been taking our exams as part of their WCIT, small group or individual instrumental or vocal lessons, or you have been incorporating elements of the exam format into your lessons, it can all help with meeting your school's strategic aims - and you should celebrate this!


For further support with Trinity's music exams, or to arrange a chat about how our range of exams could support your lesson planning, contact or schedule a call here.


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