• International Music Navigator

"Experimenting with music" vs "Exploring Music"in the IBDP music curriculum

Updated: Sep 14, 2020

In the past few months, I have had many conversations with educators about the difference between these two portfolios in the music DP course. I have to admit that it also took me a bit to understand how to these two assessment components are distinctly different. This is my personal understanding of how the "Experimenting with music" option could be interpreted:


Adam Murphy kindly arranged the assessment criteria and guiding questions into a handy chart. This is the starting point for a class discussion think, pair, share (this works online just as well as in the classroom!)



Here are my personal findings in a nutshell:




Which examples am I going to show my students?

I am going to challenge my students by asking "What if"...

  • What if we took a very upbeat, positive piece of music and perform it in a minor key?



  • What if we took a piece of video game music and performed it a capella?



What if we took a piece of video game music and performed it with acoustic instruments? (You can clearly notice here the influence of my 8 year old son)



Or, what if we mixed styles and performed "Despacito" with a hint of medieval style music? A great way to research performance conventions and instrumental timbres.




Or, what if we took Mozarts "Turkish March" and performed it this way?


Or the same piece, performed on an oud?


We always need to make sure that we focus on the assessment criteria:


Practical musical experiments in creating refers very clearly to creating versions that transform the material and that the ideas are imaginative.

(Music guide page 62 )


In the music teacher support material, published by the Diploma Programme, you can read on page 31 it also refers to gaining a wider overview for exploring and to focus on the in depth appreciation for experimenting.



For an overview of the assessment components for Experimenting with music, please refer to my post HERE.


Transforming :

This is the keyword for this portfolio. How can students transform a piece of music?


Ideas what students could do - Experimenting as a creator

  • Compose a piece (e.g. based on a familiar chord sequence or melody)

  • Improvise on a theme

  • Arrange music

  • Remix music

Students need to focus on how effectively they modify, manipulate and transform the existing piece. (based on Music guide, page 33)


Ideas what students could do - Experimenting as performer

  • Experiment with performance techniques (e.g. vibrato, double stops, ornamentation, bowing techniques...)

  • Modify the musical elements of the chosen piece- such as change in rhythms, dynamics, range, pitch, texture, tempo or timbre. E.g. what would happen to a lullaby if we performed it with the timbre of a war song?

  • Playing around with interpretation such as articulation, effects, phrasing and other productive techniques.


We also want to make sure that we don't forget to have technical proficiency, interpretation and expression in mind (Page 31 of the Music guide states: )



An example for this could be demonstrated with this clip:

How can I adapt my bowing techniques and sound production (e.g. flageolet)  to represent the vocal timbre and register of a song?