Question 4 of the A2 Music technology exam is worth 16 marks (20% of the exam) and is based on the history and development of music technology. In my opinion, this is the hardest part of the A2 Music Technology exam, as it is so broad.
The best way to approach this question is to study the various music technologies (start with the big ones) e.g. Samplers, Synthesizers, Production Effects, Electric Guitars, Drum machines, DAWs / Multi-tracking and Microphones. List the 10 key points of each topic, then practice writing a well-structured essay based on these points.
Test yourself: Answer some of the example questions below. If you need more resources click on the questions link.
General Music Technology History and Development:
- Discuss the developments of music technology during the 21st century
- Describe how Recording and Distribution has changed over the last 50 years
- The development of electronic musical instruments
- Describe how social media has changed the face of the music industry?
- Describe the history and development of Djing, Turntables and live music technology
- The history and development of popular music (Albums and artists that changed the world)
- Describe the history and development of the microphone
- Describe how a microphone works?
- Extra Resources: Microphone Timeline
- Describe the history and effect of synthesizers on modern popular music since 1970
- Describe the components of a synthesizer and the influence that they have on shaping a sound / wave form?
- Explain what is meant by modelling synthesis and describe its effect on modern music since 1990
- Extra Resources: Synthesizer Timeline
Sampling and Drum Machines:
- Discuss the development of samplers and how they shaped the direction of popular Music in the 80’s.
- Describe the development of the drum machine and its influence on modern music genres.
The Electric Guitar:
- Describe the development of electric guitar effects from the 1960s
- Describe the components of an electric guitar and how the electric guitar has developed and matured since the 1950s.
- Describe the development of the Amplifier and the effect it has had on modern popular music.
- Extra resources: A Brief History of the electric guitar
- Guitar Hero Timeline – (video documentary)
Effects and Processing:
- Describe the development of reverb. Give examples of the various kinds of reverb units and how they work.
- Describe the development of delay and its influence on popular music since its introduction.
- Describe the development of modulation effects and their influence on popular music since their introduction.
- Describe the history and development of the flanger effect
- Describe the development of distortion effects and their influence on popular music since their introduction
- Describe the development of Dynamic Processing on popular music since its introduction
- Describe the history and development of auto-tune
- Describe the impact that the Wah-wah effect had on modern popular music
Recording and Mixing:
- Describe the influence of multi-track recording from the 1950s
- How has the development of Computer Technology affected the way we record and produce music?
- Describe how the mixing process has changed over the past 70 years
MIDI and Computer Technology:
- Describe the history and development of MIDI
- Describe the influence and importance of midi and virtual instruments in modern studios?
- Describe the Development of The Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) from the 1980s
- Describe the process and purpose of mastering
- Describe the history and impact that the loudness wars have had on modern popular music (Article)
Previous Edexcel History and development Questions:
- Describe how advancing technology over the last 20 years has changed the way we approach multi-track recording. (2009 Sample)
- The digital sampler has transformed the sonic palette available to musicians and producers by allowing any sound to be incorporated into a recording with accurate control. Describe what a sampler is and how sampling technology has developed from the 1980s to the present day. You should refer to technical specifications of sampling equipment in your answer. (2010)
- Without the invention of the electric guitar, rock music would probably not exist as we recognise it. Describe the features found on an electric guitar and give a technical explanation of how an electric guitar works. (2010)
- Reverberation has been used to enhance music since the birth of recording. Describe the different techniques and technologies that have been used to apply reverberation to recordings from the 1920s to the present day.(2011)
- Microphones have been used since the late 1800s to record sound. Describe what a microphone does. Explain how a dynamic microphone and a condenser microphone function and identify the benefits of each type. (2011)
- Distortion is used on the electric guitar to modify the tone and increase sustain. Explain what distortion is. Describe the various ways that distortion has been added to the electric guitar from the 1950s to the present day.(2012)
- On the insert provided, the picture shows a tape delay processor from the 1970s that is used to create echo effects. Many of the controls are similar to those of a software delay plug-in. Describe how a tape delay works and explain the function of the controls seen in the picture. Identify the benefits of using a software delay plug-in rather than 1970s tape technology. (2012)
- Explain how vinyl records and cassette tapes are used to store and play back music and describe the problems that the consumer would encounter with them. Identify the benefits of audio CDs compared to these earlier formats. (2013)
- On the insert provided the picture shows an audio interface. Explain the technical features and specifications that can be seen in the picture. (2013)
- What is EQ? Describe the following types of EQ found on a software plug-in: high pass filter; low shelf; band; high shelf; low pass filter. Give one practical use for each type. Describe the differences between parametric EQ and graphic EQ. (2014)
- Figure 1 shows an analogue synthesiser from the 1970s. Many of the controls are similar to those of a software synthesiser plug-in. Explain the function of the controls seen in Figure 1. Identify the benefits of using a software synthesiser plug-in rather than 1970s analogue technology. (2014)