In preparing for the Junior Certificate it is important to be familiar with the structure of the exam paper. The total marks allocated for Junior Certificate Music paper is 400, divided between 100 marks for Performance and 300 for the Written Paper (Listening, Composing and General Study).
The written paper contains three main sections:
I Listening-All questions (1-5) must be answered
II Composing-Answer (a) questions 6, 7 and 8 OR (b) question 9
III General Study question 10
Q1 Set Songs 30 Marks
To answer this you must know your set songs well, being able to sing the songs will help your recognition of the songs in the exam. You must know the key features of the songs. If it is a particular type of song you should be able to explain it, e.g. Summer Is Icumen In is a 6 part canon you should be able to explain what a 6 part canon is.
Important key features to know include: Form, Key signatures, Time Signatures, Features of the song (e.g. flattened 7th, scales etc.), rhythmic features, the beat the song begins on, the composer and the country of origin.
Q2 Set Works 30 Marks
This section really challenges your listening skills, you must know the set works extremely well to achieve full marks in this question and display good listening skills. You should be able to hear an excerpt and know what happens next, e.g. is there a new idea/ a change in mood/new instrumentation?
You should know any time changes. In Overture to William Tell you should know the names of the different scenes and the order in which they are heard. A few good descriptive words which may be used in this section and in Q5 are
Mood: Happy, sad, tense, energetic, uneasy
Movement of the melody: moves in steps, in leaps or a mix of steps and leaps
New musical features these may include: Instrumentation; Texture (Polyphonic/Homophonic/Monophonic); Dynamics and Tempo.
Know the type of the works your set works come from and the composers. Provide description of what you hear without going off the point.
Q3 Irish Music 40 Marks
Some students find this quite a difficult question. The key to this question is plenty of listening and practice identifying the different dances. A question on dance always appears; you must know the difference between a jig, a reel and a hornpipe, know their rhythmical patterns and time signatures. Be able to identify instruments played in excerpts.
Know at least 2 traditional and 2 non-traditional features of Irish music. You should know at least 3 traditional Irish instruments, how they are played and an example of a well known performer of that instrument (not your music teacher!).
You must be familiar with the history of Irish music and its growth in popularity today. Common topics for essay questions include: The Harping Tradition; Collectors; Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann; Solo or Group performance and features; Sean-nos singing; The Dancing Tradition.
Q4 Dictation 40 Marks
You will hear the key note and tonic chord before each playing, try to remember them!
The phrase will be played 5 times, in the first two playing"s try and get the rhythm using stick notation, quietly tap your foot giving pulse, this helps you get the rhythm. You get marks for bar lines, don"t forget to put them in and a double bar line at the end.
The last note is usually doh, the same note the music begins with! If you don"t know the exact pitch, try and put down the direction of the pitch, you may get marks for having correct direction of pitch. Check at the end that you don"t have too many beats in one bar, look at the time signature.
Ordinary level students are only required to put in the correct rhythm, not the pitch. Make sure the stems are in the right direction.
Q5 Chosen Songs and Works 40 Marks
You must know the names and composers of all your chosen songs and works and from which sections they come. Know the key features of them. The questions asked are usually quite general.
The best preparation you can do for the unheard excerpt is practising by listening to all music carefully including music of your choice be it pop or indie, listen to the instruments, style, melody, texture, mood and form.
If you have different versions of the same song, compare them and how the features may vary.
Q6 Triads 20 Marks
You should get full marks in this if you read the questions and answer carefully. The questions appear in the same format every year, practice as many as you can. Check whether notes require a sharp or flat sign beside them, look at the key signature. Fill out a Chord chart on rough paper to check whether triads are major or minor.
Q7 Melodies 35 Marks
In this question you have the option of answering A, B or C, the one I will focus on is B. You must add three bars to a given opening, have a chord plan with one chord per bar and V-I being the last two bars. Make sure to end with a long note on doh. Write in the bar lines and the double bar line at the end and add suitable phrasing, possibly at the end of bar two and the end of bar four, there are marks going for these . Keep the melody and the rhythm simple and consistent with the opening phrase.
Q8 Chord Progressions 45 Marks
In this question you have the option of answering A, B or C, the most popular question to answer is B and this is the one I will focus on.
Check the key signature and do out a chord chart marking the chords that are minor. Make sure you do not have the same chord repeating itself consecutively. Any minor chords should be written in lower case with "m" beside it to show it is minor, marks are often lost for leaving it out. A good chord progression for the last three boxes where possible is the chord of IIm-V-I (do not to use roman numerals), or the last two being V-I.
If you are considering answering Q9 I advise that you speak to your music teacher regarding it, I am not going to focus on this question as it is rarely answered and is aimed at the more musically competent.
Q10 General Study 20 Mk
This question is straight forward; the layout remains the same every year. You should know your general study well and try and include examples of your listening in your answers. Know three key features and be able to describe them.