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Music & Music Technology

Digital Media and Design A Level screen shot

Rocking Star Hill

Even students who do not formally study a musical instrument can benefit greatly from the additional skill set that effectively-delivered music education can offer. These additional soft-skills include building confidence, self-esteem, group-based responsibility, discipline, emotional well-being and spatial reasoning to name a few, and we aim to develop these skills using a variety of teaching methods and facilities.

Music at RIC is broad, practical and fun. In the lower years, students make the most of small class sizes to perform in bands and other ensembles on a range of college instruments. They listen to a vast range of music, from classical to pop to music for games and films and compose their own music in response to what they've heard. With access to iMacs running industry-standard software, they use technology to make music that would not be possible otherwise, from musique concrete to synthpop, Stockhausen to trap.

The focus throughout is on making music real and relevant. Space and support is given to students to explore their own interests and to develop their own approach to making music. During lunchtimes, the music room is a popular destination for curious students looking to work on their own projects, play in college bands, sing in the choir, or just to spend some time listening to music they're interested in. At the end of the year, many students perform at the college festival for parents and visitors.

The college offers a wide variety of facilities including a technology suite, practice room and a live space that facilitates the pursuit of instrumental studies as well as giving students the equipment and opportunity to record their creative works. We also have our own record label that enables us to release student work on major streaming platforms, either as part of vocational coursework or purely as a creative outlet!

Traditional and contemporary pathways

We offer a variety of pathways for years 10 to 14 to suit different disciplines, learning styles and focus of study. For years 10 and 11 we offer the more traditional GCSE qualification or the equivalent BTEC Level 2, on a bespoke basis that ensures the best possible outcome for each student based on their musical skill set. Students who are looking to explore classical and contemporary musicology in conjunction with performance and listening-based exams are able to study the GCSE pathway, and students looking for either a performance, production and industry based qualification that is entirely coursework portfolio based opt for the BTEC Level 2.

For years 12 to 14, we offer a similar set of pathways to suit academic study and the budding career musician. We offer the Music Technology A Level for students who focus on the technical aspects of music production, which contains two main coursework components (recording and technology-based composition) and exams covering theoretical knowledge, critical listening and practical skills. We also offer two BTEC Level 3 courses that offer a more holistic approach to music performance, technology and industry curated in such a way that it develops a comprehensive skill set for young musicians looking to go on to work in industry or study music at university level. These two courses are entirely coursework portfolio based and are equivalent to either 1.5 or 3 A Levels in terms of UCAS points, for the one or two year course respectively.

Smaller group numbers mean contact time is plentiful and students have the opportunity to create and score their own compositions in a relaxed environment.

Music Instrument Lessons

We offer a selection of instrument lessons, in addition to the main timetable and open to any student regardless of choosing Music as an option where applicable. These sessions are taught by experienced practitioners who have a wealth of industry and creative experience in a similar vein to our subject teachers. Currently our offering includes:




Bass Guitar


More instruments will be added in the near future, including drums and percussion and we are happy to source tuition for a variety of instruments on a case-by-case basis. 

We are registered with RSL as an exam centre for graded instrumental study, with students studying a wide range of pieces at various levels all the way from Initial to grade 8. Exams at Grade 6 and above are also worth UCAS points, which are a great addition to a university application and carry additional weight in terms of extra-curricular study.

Exam Specifications

Assessment methods: 

Portfolios (40%) and two exams (60%) 

Length of Exams: 1 hour 30 minutes and 2 hours and 15 minutes

Breakdown of unit content and tasks

This course focuses on the role of the Sound Engineer/Music Producer, and is for students looking for a practical course where they can work with sequencing and recording technology to record and compose music. On the course, students explore a range of technology and techniques including MIDI and MIDI controllers, samplers, synthesis, sound manipulation and audio mixing techniques. They learn the principles of multitrack recording and sound capture using a variety of microphone techniques. They also study the development of music technology to the present day.

Component 1 – Recording (20%)

One recording chosen from a list of 10 songs or artists consisting of a minimum of five compulsory instruments and two additional instruments. The finished track needs to be between three and three and a half minutes.

Component 2 – Technology-based composition (20%)

This module centres on creating, editing, manipulating and structuring sounds to produce a technology-based composition using synthesis, sampling and creative use of effects. A total of 3 minutes long.

Component 3 – Written exam (25%)

A written exam answering questions on features of the production of some previously unheard music. Students listen to various segments of musical tracks in the exam and answer questions which focus on the development of recording and production technology, principles of sound and audio technology and recording and production techniques for both corrective and creative purposes.

Component 4 – Written/practical exam (35%)

A practical exam in which students mix MIDI and audio tracks together to create a final mix.
Each student will be provided with a set of audio/MIDI materials for the practical element of the examination,
to include: o audio files relating to three instrumental/vocal parts. o a single MIDI file from which a fourth instrumental part will be created or synthesised. Students will correct and then combine the audio and MIDI materials to form a completed mix, which may include creating new tracks or parts from the materials provided.

Course Pre-requisites

Although there is no performance component to this course as such, some piano/keyboard skills are also an advantage, as keyboard is the easiest way to play ideas into the software.

Assessment method

● 100% Coursework, split across three components. Components 1 and 2 are internally assessed, component 3 is external synoptic.
Breakdown of units

Component 1: Exploring Music Products and Styles

● Learners will explore the techniques used in the creation of different musical products and investigate the key features of different musical styles.
● Each year, the music industry produces a wide range of products such as recordings, compositions, live performances, music for film, TV and computer games. Have you ever wondered how these products are created?
● In this component, you will develop your understanding of different types of music products and the techniques used to create them. You will explore how musical elements, technology and other resources are used in the creation, production and performance of music. You will also practically explore the key features of different styles of music and music theory and apply your knowledge and understanding to developing your own creative work.

Component 2: Music Skills Development

● Learners will have the opportunity to develop two musical disciplines through engagement in practical tasks, while documenting their progress and planning for further improvement.
● As a performer, producer or creator in the music industry, you need to continually develop your skills and techniques in order to be successful and secure a regular flow of gigs and commissions. In this component, you will participate in workshops and classes where you will develop technical, practical, personal and professional skills and specialise in at least two of the following areas: music performance, creating original music, music production. Throughout your development, you will review your progress and consider how to make improvements. You will learn how musicians share their work and collaborate with others, and will develop your skills as a musician in how to use blogs, YouTubeTM, SoundcloudTM and other platforms to share your work and skills development with others.
● Developing musical skills and techniques will enable you to consider your aptitude and enjoyment for music, helping you to make informed decisions about what you will study in the future. This component will help you to progress to Level 3 qualifications in music or music technology, which looks at skills and techniques in more detail. Alternatively, you may want to progress to other Level 3 vocational or academic subject areas. This component will support your development of transferable skills which will support your advancement in education and employment.

Component 3: Responding to a Music Brief

● Learners will be given the opportunity to develop and present music in response to a given music brief.
● This component will allow you to work to your strengths and interests and apply the skills that you have
learned throughout your course in a practical way. You will focus on a particular area of the music sector
that excites and appeals to you and respond to a music brief as a composer, performer or producer.
● You will begin by exploring the brief and investigating possible responses and ideas to meet the
demands of the brief. Using relevant resources, skills and techniques you will then develop and refine musical material before presenting your final response. You will develop and present an original creation based on a piece from a given list and a style from a choice of four. You will then present this as a solo or group performance, an audio recording or a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) project. You will also consider how your skills and interests make you suitable for the specific music sector opportunity.
● Presenting music for a set brief is a key element of post-16 music qualifications and this component will enable you to establish solid foundations to help you progress to further Level 2 or Level 3 courses. You will also develop skills in self-management, communication and presentation, which are vital to any future course of study.


Music teaching staff at RIC offer a unique insight into the music industry, as well as perspectives offered in traditional and contemporary musical foci in addition to curriculum-based studies. Our teaching staff are also practising professional musicians who inspire students and bring both relevance and gravitas to the offering at the college, with past professional experience including:

Tours of the UK, Europe, America and Canada

Festival appearances including Glastonbury, Guilfest and SummerDays (Arbon, Switzerland)

Songwriting and recording credits in a variety of genres and fields including music for film and computer games as well as more traditional outputs such as physical and digital release

Visiting workshops, extra curricular activities and trips

At RIC we invite a range of practitioners onsite to deliver workshops and provide additional curricular enrichment. One of the more recent visits came from ‘Beat Goes On’, the brainchild of Ollie Tumner who has previous credits including CBBC and Stomp the Musical. Students have attended guided tours and experience-based days at universities that focus on the creative arts, the most recent of which was a day using the recording facilities at Canterbury Christ Church University.

The department is currently planning a range of exciting trips to gigs, musical theatre shows and concerts both in the UK and abroad. Past highlights include music exhibitions at the O2, performance training on the Balinese gamelan, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra at the Festival Hall in a programme of Electronica introduced by Jarvis Cocker, the Olivier Award winning version of Puccini’s La Boheme at The King’s Head in Islington, Terry Gilliam’s reimagining of Berlioz’s Faust at the ENO, Alice in Wonderland at the ROH and West End musicals such as Wicked, Six and Everybody's Talking About Jamie.

Music beyond RIC

Alumni have won places to study Music at Liverpool University, ICMP, Leeds College of Music, BIMM, Goldsmiths, Canterbury Christ Church University and The Academy of Contemporary Music.


RIC's Musical Gates

RIC is home to a unique musical instrument. A five-ton set of stainless steel gates and railings on a busy road in the Kent cathedral city of Rochester is actually a unique musical instrument.

This project by musician, sound sculptor and Björk collaborator Henry Dagg, this marvel of ingenuity and Victorian-style engineering took more than four years to build. Standing almost four metres tall and 8.5 metres wide across the entrance to Rochester Independent College, the imposing structure is designed to make music with vibraphone bars, tubular bells and organ pipe-like tubes with resonating strings that can be plucked, struck or bowed. “It has a pitch span of six octaves, so most of the orchestral range, and each section has its own very distinctive sound quality,” Click here for more information.

Henry, a former BBC sound engineer and award-winning musical saw player who has worked with acts including Bob Geldof, Keane and The Cranberries, is well known for his unique, hand-built musical creations.

His magnificent two-ton Sharpsichord, a 46-string mechanical pin-barrel harp, accompanied Björk on her 2011 Biophilia album and tour. And he famously reduced Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall to tears of laughter with a performance on his 'Catastrophony' cat organ at a royal garden party

He also built a glockenspiel-style musical garden fence outside his Kent home which was officially opened with a performance by virtuoso classical percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie broadcast.

Soon afterwards, Rochester Independent College commissioned Henry to build a suite of musical gates and railings for the school's main entrance on Star Hill.

Making music add up

Maths and Music involve similar mental gymnastics. Eminent mathematician Carol Vorderman was a backing singer for Liz Kershaw’s band “Dawn Chorus & The Blue Tits” who were signed by Stiff Records in 1984. There were hints of Fibonacci numbers and the golden ratio in Bach’s music and he was Einstein’s favourite composer.

Jazz pianist and Oxford University Maths graduate Rob Dimbleby teaches piano and Maths at RIC. Like lead Maths teacher Dave Tittensor Rob is also an accomplished musician. Recent gigs include Ronnie Scott’s and SoFar sounds with 7piece neo-soul group Pangolin and a European tour with NME top 100 band Patawawa.

Rob says: “For the very brightest students I have enjoyed teaching them some university level maths. In Further Maths at RIC I also like to drop in a short question taken from a past Oxford MAT paper.”

In the recent year 7 taster day Rob taught an interdisciplinary mathematical music class where students were encouraged to listen by numbers and combine the study of fractions with that of octaves. And encouraged to do something fun with ukuleles.