Welcome to the “new look” Musical Contexts Secondary/Key Stage 3 units information page.  With a number of recent changes in the Music Curricula at both Key Stage 3 and GCSE levels and with Musical Contexts becoming 10 years old, some of the units were becoming a little “dated” and Musical Contexts is delighted to be updating these to reflect and support curriculum changes and providing more relevant content with new inspiring activities and starting points.  The new “Secondary/Key Stage 3 Units” have abandoned the previous “Year 7, Year 8 and Year 9” groupings (and on headers and footers of resources), allowing teachers greater flexibility in sequencing the units across year groups and the Key Stage depending on their school, pupils, resources, ability-levels and personal choice, which also allows schools which now offer a “two-year Key Stage 3” to be more selective in which units they chose to use within the key stage.  The all-important “first music lesson with new Year 7’s is a vital point at which to engage young people in “active music making (and singing!)” from the outset and Musical Contexts will be supporting this by a new “Getting Started” section (shown below before the units).  Not a “unit” as such, but more of a “selection box of ideas and starting points” containing a range of warm-ups, games and activities suitable for getting new Year 7’s singing, performing, composing, listening and appraising from their very first music lesson!  Further information about the “new look” units is available lower down this page and don’t worry, all of the now “legacy” Year 7, Year 8 and Year 9 units are available for download (hyperlinks removed) as zipped bundles at the bottom of this page!


Getting Started


A “selection box” of warm-ups, games and activities suitable for Year 7’s first music lesson

NEW UNIT! Ideal for

starting Year 7! Launching August 2018

NEW UNIT - Replacing “Night and Day”

NEW UNIT - a dedicated unit to Graphic Scores

Formerly “Pictures at an Exhibition”

Contains African, Indian, Gamelan & Samba


Replacing “Popular Song” unit


Where have all the units gone? Fear not! As mentioned above, all of the now “legacy” units (formerly “Year 7, Year 8 and Year 9” units) are available to download as zipped bundles at the bottom of this page!  Some units e.g. “Music and Space” were more suited to Primary/Key Stage 2 (now “Journey Into Space” unit) and others - “Hammers and Gongs”, “African Music”, “Indian Music” and “Samba” have been combined into the new “Rhythms of the World” unit.  Resources and activities from other legacy units e.g. “Chinese Music”, “Folk Music”, “Medieval Music”, “Recycled Rhythms” and “Fanfares” have now been used within other new units  where suitable.

NEW OPENING UNIT - LAUNCHING AUGUST 2018 - From August 2018, Musical Contexts is launching a brand new opening Secondary/Key Stage 3 unit - “Hooks and Riffs” (Exploring Repeated Musical Patterns) which can, although doesn’t have to be, placed at the start of Year 7 (following on from the first “Getting Started” lesson).  This unit gets pupils singing, performing, composing, improvising, listening and appraising to a range of music from different times and places, all based on repeated musical patterns - ostinatos, riffs and hooks.  This new unit will also allow teachers to build in the Musical Contexts Year 7 Baseline Assessment Listening Test over the final two lessons if desired and contains plenty of opportunities to “Baseline Assess” singing, performing, composing and improvising skills of new Year 7’s.

 The previous “over-prescriptive” lesson plans will be replaced with possible “Lesson Pathways”, contained within the unit Scheme of Work (example shown left).  This will allow greater flexibility for teachers to “pick and choose” activities from the units to supplement or construct their own schemes and lessons, individual to their school, pupils, available resources, ability levels and personal preference. 

Example of the new “Lesson Pathways” contained within unit Schemes of Work showing possible progressions and sequencing of activities through a unit, here, from the new Musical Contexts unit - “Hooks and Riffs”

Each activity - Listening and Appraising, Composing, Performing, Singing and Evaluating - will contain its own Learning Objective(s) as well as Teacher’s Notes and suggested answers to tasks (from those old “over-descriptive” lesson plans!)   Learning Outcomes, following the abolition of the “old National Curriculum Music Level Descriptors” have now been replaced with “All Will (Working Towards)….Most Will (Working At)….Some Will (Working Beyond/GAT)”.  Coverage of the Key Stage 3 National Curriculum for Music Programme of Study (NC KS3 PoS) will also be given on each activity.

Example of the new Teacher’s Notes sections on Musical Contexts activities, here, from the new Musical Contexts unit - “Hooks and Riffs”

The “Starter and Plenary Activities” section within each new unit will be replaced by new Musical Contexts “DOITNOW” and “Plenary” PowerPoint Presentations containing a range of  existing and new activities for each unit with embedded audio and video files.  It is hoped that by having everything “in one place”, that this will reduce both the time needed to download multiple files and also assist in an effort to cut down on paper and reprographics in line with recent “paper/book-free” trends.  Suggested answers are provided within the “slide comments” section of each presentation and these are fully customisable and editable meaning teachers can select, sequence, add (or even delete!) any of the activities.

Example slides from the new Musical Contexts “DOITNOW” and “Plenary” Activities Presentations, here, from the updated  Musical Contexts unit - “Rhythm and Pulse”

Another recent trend which Musical Contexts is supporting is the alternative way of opening a lesson with “5 Minutes Silent Reading”.  Each of the new units will contain a series of A4 “5 Minutes Silent Reading” tasks related to that particular unit, together with some suggested “Questions to think about” which can also be set as cover or homework activities. 

Finally, the importance of progression between Key Stage 3 and GCSE Music and suitably preparing young people for the new 2016 GCSE (9-1) Music specifications is also being developed by Musical Contexts in a number of ways.  Firstly, it is hoped that each of the new units will include music from: The Western Classical Tradition, Popular Music and World Music (where possible!) allowing breadth across a range of genres.  An element of Musical Theory will also be included within each new unit as well as Rhythm and Melody Dictation exercises.  Links between each of the new units and the 2016 GCSE (9-1) Music Areas of Study will also be given on unit pages.  Many of the new Musical Contexts Secondary/Key Stage 3 units will form natural links with the BBC’s excellent “10 Pieces” resources, including their differentiated performing scores.  These will also be highlighted on unit pages as the example on the left shows, taken from the new Musical Contexts “Hooks and Riffs” unit launching August 2018.

Examples from the new Musical Contexts “5 Minutes Silent Reading” tasks, here, from the new Musical Contexts unit - “Building Bricks”.  These also contain “Questions to Think About” so could be set as optional cover/homework tasks.

Hooks and Riffs - Musical Repertoire

Music from the Western Classical Tradition

“Bolero” - Ravel

“Habanera” from ‘Carmen’ - Bizet

2nd Movement from Symphony No.101 - “The Clock” - Haydn

Popular Music

“Sweet Dreams” - The Eurythmics

“We Will Rock You” - Queen

“Word Up” - Cameo


Hooks and Riffs - Musical Theory

Treble and Bass Clef Markings

Musical Repeat Markings and Symbols


Hooks and Riffs - Links to GCSE Music

Western Classical Tradition

Popular Music


Hooks and Riffs - Links to BBC Ten Pieces

“Habanera” from ‘Carmen’ - Bizet

Musical Contexts “Legacy” Year 7, Year 8 & Year 9 Units

All of the pre-2018 Musical Contexts “legacy” Year 7, Year 8 & Year 9 units can be downloaded in their entirety using the links below.  These are zipped (.zip) files with all hyperlinks removed and may take a while to download due to the size. 

Please use the latest version of WinZip® - available HERE - to unzip and extract the files.

Year 7 Unit 1 - “Night and Day”

Year 7 Unit 2 - “Rhythm and Pulse”

Year 7 Unit 3 - “Form and Structure”

Year 7 Unit 4 - “Folk Music”

Year 7 Unit 5 - “Instruments of the Orchestra”

Year 7 Unit 6 - “Chinese Music”

Year 7 Unit 7 - “Medieval Music”

Year 7 Unit 8 - “Hammers and Gongs”

Year 7 Unit 9 - “Pictures at an Exhibition”

Year 7 Unit 10 - “Ladders”

Year 7 Unit 11 - “Voiceworks”

Year 8 Unit 1 - “African Music”

Year 8 Unit 2 - “Offbeat”

Year 8 Unit 3 - “Variations”

Year 8 Unit 4 - “Jazz Improvisation”

Year 8 Unit 5 - “Recycled Rhythms”

Year 8 Unit 6 - “Music and Space”

Year 8 Unit 7 - “Indian Music”


Year 9 Unit 1 - “Musicals”

Year 9 Unit 2 - “Soundtracks”

Year 9 Unit 3 - “Rock ‘n’ Roll”

Year 9 Unit 4 - “Minimalism”

Year 9 Unit 5 - “Popular Song”

Year 9 Unit 6 - “Fanfares”

Year 9 Unit 7 - “Samba”


This page provides full-site subscribers and new enquirers with information regarding the upcoming changes to the Musical Contexts Secondary/Key Stage 3 units.  There are NO ACTIVE WORKING HYPERLINKS on this page  - it’s purely there to provide a summary of changes as to what the new Musical Contexts Secondary/Key Stage 3 units will look like and contain.


“Jazz Improvisation”

How will the new Musical Contexts Secondary/Key Stage 3 units look?

Below is an overview of the proposed plan of the Musical Contexts Secondary/Key Stage 3 units







Hooks and Riffs



Shapes and Symbols

Rhythm and Pulse

Form and


Instruments of the Orchestra

Exploring Repeated Musical Patterns

Exploring The Elements of Music

Exploring Graphic Scores

Exploring Rhythm, Time Signatures and Note Values

Exploring Musical

Structures and Pitch Notation


Timbre and Sonority







A Work of Art



Rhythms of the World



Exploring Music and Art and Descriptive Music

Exploring Scales

Exploring Vocal Textures and Singing

Exploring Polyrhythms and Improvisation

Exploring Reggae and Syncopation

Exploring Ways to Develop Musical Ideas







All That Jazz

Dance Music

Making Arrangements



Rock ‘n’ Roll

Exploring Improvisation, Jazz and The Blues

Exploring Music for Dance

Exploring Cover Versions

Exploring Songs from the Stage

Exploring Music for Film

Exploring Chords and Bass Lines








A State of Trance





Exploring Motifs

Exploring Electronic Dance Music