IB Diploma Programme: Music

Nature of Subject

Music is an essential part of the human experience and a unique mode of creativity, expression and communication. Music is both functional and meaningful, and its vitality and complexity enriches our lives. Though music is rooted in specific societies and cultures, it also transcends—and often connects—them. Music not only offers a way of understanding the world, but also a means by which we can express and share our understanding of it with others.

What do students do in a music classroom? How are music students assessed?

Students at SL and HL submit the following common assessment tasks.

  • An exploration portfolio: Written work demonstrating engagement with, and understanding of, diverse musical material, along with practical exercises in creating and performing
  • An experimentation report: Written work in the form of a rationale and commentary that supports practical musical evidence of experimentation in creating and performing
  • A musical presentation: Finished works in creating and performing, supported by programme notes.

In addition, HL students will submit the following project:

  • A collaborative project: A continuous multimedia presentation documenting a real-life project, containing evidence of the project proposal, the process and evaluation, and the realized project, or curated selections of it.

By the end of the course students will have:

  • broadened their musical horizons through engagement with diverse musical material
  • analysed a wide range of music
  • engaged with music technology as a compulsory part of the course
  • gained confidence in the essential processes associated with music-making
  • developed as holistic musicians with experience as creators and performers
  • developed both independent and collaborative working skills
  • honed their inquiry, reflection and critical thinking skills.

The Role of Music Technology in the Course

The music curriculum reflects the substantial global increase in access to digital technologies. Different uses of music-related technologies include recording music or sounds, synthesis of new sounds, sampling and programming, using apps and specific software to create and/or perform music.

Distinction between SL (Standard Level) and HL (Higher Level)

The syllabus differentiates between SL and HL. The greater breadth and depth required for HL is reflected through an additional assessment task, that of the Contemporary Music Maker (see Syllabus Outline).


This practical course fosters students’ musicianship and shapes their musical identities as researchers, creators and performers.

The course defines musicianship as comprising three, intrinsically connected aspects:

Areas of Inquiry (AOI)

  • Music for sociocultural and political expression

Examples of relevant musical materials may include: protest songs, liturgical music and national anthems

  • Music for listening and performance

Examples of relevant music materials may include the following genres: Chamber music of the Western art tradition, Cool Jazz, Experimental music.

  • Music for dramatic impact, movement and entertainment

Examples of relevant music materials may include the following genres: Music for film, Music for ballet, Musical theatre.

  • Music technology in the electronic and digital age

Examples of relevant musical materials may include the following genres: Electronic dance music, Elektronische Musik, Technology in popular music production

Musical Processes

  • Exploring Music in context: When exploring music in context, students will learn how to engage with a diverse range of music genres that will broaden their musical horizons and provide stimuli to expand their own music-making.
  • Experimenting with Music: When experimenting with music, students connect theoretical studies to practical work and learn to experiment with a range of musical material, improvising, creating and performing music in diverse styles.
  • Presenting Music: When presenting music, students learn to practise and prepare finished pieces that will be performed or presented to an audience.
  • The Contemporary Music Maker (HL only): Music at higher level (HL) builds on the learning of musical competencies and challenges students to engage with the musical processes in settings of contemporary music-making. For the HL component, students plan and collaboratively create a project that draws on the competencies, skills and processes in all of the musical roles of the music course, and is inspired by real- life practices of music-making.

Musical Roles

The development of students’ musical roles as researchers, creators and performers is central to the music curriculum as students develop their musical identities through these roles.

  • The Researcher: students learn to investigate music in authentic ways, including aural, kinaesthetic and scholarly research.
  • The Creator: students make music by composing, improvising and arranging.
  • The Performer: students develop their skills in practical music-making and delivery, including interpretation, expression and technical proficiency.


All three musical roles are of equal value and should not be taught in isolation throughout the course. In different components, attention may be drawn to certain roles while others play a supporting role.



External/ internal



Exploring Music in context

Students select samples of their work for a portfolio submission (maximum 2,400 words). Student submit:

  1. written work demonstrating engagement with, and understanding of, diverse musical material
  2. practical exercises:
  • creating: one creating exercise (score maximum 32 bars and/or audio 1 minute as appropriate to style)
  • performing: one performed adaptation of music from a local or global context for the student’s own instrument (maximum 2 minutes)
  1. supporting audio material (not assessed).




Experimenting with Music

Students submit an experimentation report with evidence of their musical processes in creating and performing in two areas of inquiry in a local and/or global context. The report provides a rationale and commentary for each process. Students submit:

a written experimentation report that supports the experimentation (maximum 1,500 words)

practical musical evidence of the experimentation process

  • three related excerpts of creating (total maximum

5 minutes)

  • three related excerpts of performing (total maximum

5 minutes)




Presenting Music

Students submit a collection of works demonstrating engagement with diverse musical material from four areas of inquiry. The submission contains:

Presenting as a researcher

  • programme notes (maximum 600 words)

Presenting as a creator

  • composition and/or improvisation (maximum 6 minutes)

Presenting as a performer

  • solo and/or ensemble (maximum 12 minutes)
  • excerpts, where applicable (maximum 2 minutes)




The Contemporary Music-Maker (HL only)




Students submit a continuous multimedia presentation documenting

their real-life project. Students submit multimedia presentation (maximum 15 minutes), evidencing:

  1. the project proposal
  2. the process and evaluation
  3. the realized project, or curated selections of it.









Prior Learning

While prior music experience is not mandatory at SL, it is recommended. At HL it is very strongly recommended.

ATL Objectives

The flexibility of the music course allows for a variety of approaches and teaching styles. However, it is important that students become responsible for their own learning through an active approach. Teaching of music is based on inquiry, focused on conceptual understanding, developed in local and global contexts, focused on effective teamwork and collaboration, differentiated to meet the needs of all learners, informed by assessment.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity in the DP is a set of values and behaviours informed by the attributes of the learner profile. In teaching, learning and assessment, academic integrity serves to promote personal integrity, engender respect for the integrity of others and their work, and ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to demonstrate the knowledge and skills they acquire during their studies.

All coursework—including work submitted for assessment—must be authenticated. It must be based on the student’s individual and original ideas with the ideas and work of others fully acknowledged. Assessment tasks that require teachers to provide guidance to students or that require students to work collaboratively must be completed in full compliance with the detailed guidelines provided by the IB for the relevant subjects.[1]

[1] Music Guide, First Assessment 2022, ibo.org. See also https://www.ibo.org/globalassets/programme-information/dp/dp---brief---music---2020---eng.pdf, accessed 7.2020.