Ear Opener has been designed for anyone interested in making music, or interested in how musicians think. It will be useful teachers, students and independent music makers. There is no ‘one way’ to watch the videos, however these FAQs might guide you if you don’t know where to begin.

Q: Should I watch the videos in a particular order?

The videos have been designed so that you can watch them in any order, and dip in and out as necessary. All videos are timestamped with their content – just look in the video description to see what the video contains.

Below you can find some suggestions for which videos may be useful to particular users.

Q: Do I need to watch the videos all the way through?

It’s up to you. Some of the longer videos cover quite a lot of subjects, but you can dip into them, or even watch them out of order. If there is something you are looking for in particular, use the timestamped chapter headings in the video description. You’ll also see a number in the right-hand corner of longer videos to make navigation easier.

Q: Do all of the videos follow the same format?

They are all responsive to the subject. Some are more instructional – with Paul explaining concepts and offering tips, with contributions from interviewees. Others are more conversational – our guest composers discussing their own points of views on a particular subject.

Q: What level of musician are the videos aimed at?

We designed the content for people roughly 14-21, although we have found that many experienced musicians enjoy watching them. In terms of musical experience and background, we presume nothing of the viewer technically, only that they are enthusiastic about making music. If you don’t know what a Dominant 7 chord or a semiquaver is, that is no problem.

Q: Are there any videos specifically for people taking exams?

There are two videos made especially for students taking music composition exams, and for those that teach them. These are 26 “mistakes” to avoid in music exam compositions [Part 1] and [Part 2]. Both were designed with A-Level students in mind, but most of the information will be useful for GCSE students. The rest of the videos are for anyone who likes making their own music, or is interested in understanding how musicians think.

Q: I’m a teacher at A-Level. Do you have any tips on how to integrate the videos into lessons?

Firstly, remember this resource is for you too. We’ve spoken to a lot of teachers who find teaching composition the hardest part of their job. This resource aims to give you info, tips and tools to empower you, and to make your job at once easier and more fulfilling.

Secondly, we’d suggest introducing the videos to your students as early as possible in their studies. The tips will not only help build skills for internally and externally marked exercises, it will also feed into their vocabulary and skills in music appreciation.

Key videos for teachers are 26 “mistakes” to avoid in music exam compositions [Part 1] and [Part 2] and Working with melody: 28 things to do with a tune [Part 1] and [Part 2]. We’d really advise getting familiar with the content of these videos and drip-feeding chapters throughout the year. Certain videos (or excerpts of videos) can be used as mini-lessons for a whole group, as a springboard for the giving the class an exercise, or given as a kind of pep-talk to students who are lacking in confidence or would benefit from a new perspective.

You might find this blog useful, where Paul goes into more detail about how the videos can be used by educators.

Here are some practical examples of student challenges and the videos which might be useful to work into lesson plans:

– Your student’s pieces need more focus, form or structure
You could dip into the 26 “mistakes” to avoid in music exam compositions Part 1 and Part 2 videos, focusing on the chapters on Waffle Music, Phrase, Writing Bar by Bar and Tension and Release.

– Your students are lacking confidence when thinking about chords
Try sections within Harmony [Part 1] and [Part 2], or indeed do a whole video at once.

– Your students are over-filling their compositions
Stripping Away would be useful here, it is a short lesson in itself.

– You have an individual student who is resistant to or fearful of feedback
Suggest they watch our video on Feedback, where they can learn from some world-famous artists about the realities of the subject.

– Your student is worried that their piece has to be 100% original, and is shying away from using musical conventions
Try watching Originality.

– Your student is struggling with depression and/or anxiety surrounding their music-making
Suggest they watch Where’s your head at?, particularly the candid discussions with Isobel Waller-Bridge and Tristan Landymore, who are world-class artists thriving whilst living with these issues.

Q: I’m a GCSE teacher. Do you have any tips on how to integrate the videos into lessons?

Ear Opener was designed for A-Level students and teachers, however GCSE teachers find it useful as both a teaching resource and as inspiration for their own lesson planning. If you learn something from the videos, but could teach it better in class in your own way – that’s a result.

We’d advise watching the 26 “mistakes” to avoid in music exam compositions [Part 1] and [Part 2] and Working with melody: 28 things to do with a tune [Part 1] and [Part 2], and picking the points that can be pitched at the level of your students. You may want to base a lesson on one or two of these tips at a time. Remember that there are timestamped chapter breakdowns in the YouTube description, so you can navigate your way around a long video.

It may also be useful to share certain videos with individual students. For example, if you have a more advanced student who is overcomplicating their music and in danger of obscuring their skill, suggest they watch Stripping Away, either in the class while you are attending to other students or in their own time.

Q: I’ve never studied music formally. Does that matter?

No. Two of our guest composers did not study music formally and are now Grammy-award winning musicians! Paul Clark didn’t go to university and has had a 30 year career writing music. It shouldn’t be a barrier to making great music, and Ear Opener is designed for you. We try, as much as possible, to avoid jargon and explain concepts clearly as we go along.

Q: I’m working on a degree in music. Is Ear Opener for me?

Some videos were designed for people earlier on in their musical journey, but there is a lot of content that is relevant to further education. You might find some of the more conversational videos speak to your course or your own music making – for example: Dealing with feedback, Where’s your head at? or Simple / complex: Creating balance in your music. You may also find that there are useful quotes from our guest interviewees that you could use in essays or theses.