Overview: Course

The specification for Junior Cycle Music focuses on giving students the opportunity to develop their musical knowledge, skills and cultural awareness through the practical and cognitive engagement with music. This can be achieved through the three interconnected strands: Procedural knowledge, Innovate and ideate and Culture and context. A student will experience learning in each of these three strands as they progress through their junior cycle.

Procedural Knowledge  

To explore fully their musical imagination, creativity, and potential requires students to develop their music literacy and skills in a range of ways. Students learn music through engaging in, reflecting upon and evaluating their musical experiences. Through this process, students develop a range of musical skills (technical, aural, analytical and notational) that leads to musical understanding. In this strand, students will develop this procedural knowledge so that they can pursue and realise their possible musical selves and their ideas with confidence.

The development of procedural knowledge involves developing a vocabulary in music by learning and using symbols to represent sound, exploring and responding to expressive qualities in music and imagining and creating short musical motifs and soundscapes. It also involves experimenting with elements of music such as pulse, duration, tempo, pitch, dynamics, structure, timbre, texture, style and tonality.

Innovate and Ideate  

In this strand, students draw on their personal experiences and perspectives to develop, refine, showcase and seek feedback on their musical ideas. They develop an awareness of different sounds and the potential of sound for resourcing and generating ideas, and for communicating feelings.

Students will innovate and ideate through composing/arranging and performing music for specific purposes, experimenting with music to communicate ideas derived from a variety of stimuli and  collaborating with others to develop and extend musical ideas. Students will make interpretative musical decisions by demonstrating an integrated understanding of music elements and by using technology to innovate and share ideas.

Culture and Context  

The understanding of music in context and its cultural positioning helps to shape our ability to create, participate and appraise the music we engage with. In this strand, students will investigate the contextual and cultural environments that impact on purpose and intent in music.

This includes developing an understanding and a knowledge of music in past and present contexts; considering musical works as social commentaries on cultures and peoples; investigating music associated with particular times, places, social groups and feelings and sharing and discussing examples of music experienced at home, at school and in the wider community.


While the learning outcomes are set out under strand headings, this should not be taken to imply that the strands are to be studied in isolation. The students’ engagement and learning are optimised by a fully integrated experience across the three strands.  
To give further emphasis to the integrated nature of learning, the outcomes for each strand are grouped by reference to three elements. 
  • Creating and exploring 
  • Participating and music-making  
  • Appraising and responding

Creating and Exploring  

Across the strands the learning outcomes in this element focus on developing students’ understanding of how music is created. They will explore how melody is constructed and how sounds are layered to create texture and harmony. They will listen to, read, and interpret music as they develop understandings of composers' and arrangers' intentions and cultural protocols. Students will search for and discover themes and ideas for creating music through experimentation, improvisation and by exploring music elements, concepts and techniques. They will use the experience of others, both local and in the wider context to inform their own creative decisions.

Participating and music-making  

In this element, students will participate in activities that communicate their own creative ideas and the interpretation of the ideas of others. Students will develop fluency and technical control as they rehearse and present individually and with others. They will use performance as a method of demonstrating their understanding of musical elements and instrumental/vocal techniques. As students rehearse, revise, and refine music to perform for and with others, they learn about making informed musical decisions and judgements. 

Appraising and responding  

This element focuses on students developing their skills of analysis, comparison and evaluation of pieces of music. This element allows for discriminatory aural skills to be developed, as students learn to reproduce melodies, rhythms, accompaniments and harmonies and develop and demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of musical elements, contexts and language. Appraisal allows the students to express their feelings about music, and through this communication, to use appropriate terminology to justify opinions and inform later musical decisions. Appraising skills are also used when students refine and improve their own performances and creations, when they adapt their own ideas and when they respond to and critique other student’s work.