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NECO Music Syllabus

Are you writing Music in your NECO O’level exams? Download the recommended Music syllabus to excel in your exams.

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About NECO Music Syllabus

This syllabus is designed to equip you with the skills and knowledge to succeed in music. If you can understand music through this syllabus, taking this exam won’t be a problem for you if you can study and understand this syllabus. 

Whether you’re interested in composing, performing, arranging, producing, or even exploring the technology behind music, this syllabus covers all aspects. You’ll learn to read, write, listen, and improvise, and you’ll get experience with the basics of music software.

This syllabus outline will reveal what makes music so universal yet so unique. You’ll explore music from every angle, whether it’s the history and theory that lays the foundation of music or the creativity that lets you make it your own will all be studied in this syllabus.

Marking Guide & Sections

Here’s what you need to know about the exam format and how your performance will be assessed.

Paper 1: Multiple-Choice Objective Test
Paper 1 consists of 40 multiple-choice questions that should be answered in 1 hour, this paper is worth 40 marks in total. The questions set will cover the entire syllabus and will be testing your general knowledge of music. Each question is worth one mark.


Paper 2: Essay Test
Paper 2 is a 2-hour test with five questions, you only need to answer three questions from the five.

Question 1 (Theory/Composition) and Question 2 (Analysis of Prescribed Set-Works) are compulsory. The remaining three questions will test different areas, and you can choose one to answer. This section is worth 60 marks.


Paper 3A: Aural Test
Paper 3A is a 45-minute listening test where you will be asked to identify various musical elements by ear, such as pitch, rhythm, intervals, and chords. This section is worth 50 marks.


Paper 3B: Performance Test
Paper 3B is a 30-minute performance test, where you’ll perform on an instrument of your choice. It could be voice, violin, piano, flute, trumpet, saxophone, or others. The test will assess your skills in sight-reading, technical exercises, scales, and appoggiatura The total mark for this section is 50 marks. You’ll be judged on your technique, accuracy, and musical expression. 

The NECO Music Syllabus

 MUSIC
SNTOPICSOBJECTIVES
1THEORY AND COMPOSITION 
ARudiments of Music(a) Notation
(i) Staff
(ii) Clefs (C, G, and F)

(b) Scales: (Western)
(i) Diatonic – Major and Minor (natural, harmonic and melodic)
(ii) Chromatic – (melodic only)

(c) Modes: (African)
(i) Pentatonic (5-tone)
(ii) Hexatonic (6-tone)
(iii)Heptatonic (7-tone)

(d) Keys and Key Signatures
(e) Time Signatures: Simple and Compound
(f) Intervals
(g) Transcription (Staff notation into Solfa and vice versa)
(h) Transposition, including writing for transposing instruments
(i) Musical terms, signs, ornaments and abbreviations
BElementary Harmony(a) Chords/Triads
(i) Primary – I/i, IV/iv, V and their inversions
(ii) Secondary – ii, iii, vi and their inversions
(iii) Chord vii˚ and its inversions
(iv) 7th Chords (dominant 7th only) and its inversions

(b) Chord Progressions Cadences (in both major and minor keys)
(i) Perfect (V – I);
(ii) Plagal (IV – I)
(iii) Interrupted (V–vi)
(iv) Imperfect (I–V), (ii – V), (iii – V), (IV – V)

(c) Use of primary and secondary triads in harmonising a given melody
(i) Use of six-four chords (cadential and passing only)
(ii) The use of non-harmonic tones; Passing (accented and unaccented)
Auxiliary or Neighbouring tones Anticipation

(d) Modulations from the home key to its closely related keys only
(i) Dominant
(ii) Subdominant
(iii) Relative major and minor

(e) Four-part harmony (SATB).

(f) Two-part free Counterpoint (adding a part above or below a given
melody).
CComposition
(a) Continuing a given melodic phrase in either a major or minor key to
form a melody of not less than 12 bars and not more than 16 bars in all.
Candidates may be required to modulate to at least one specified related
key.

(b) Setting a given text in English to music.
DForm and Analysis
(a) Simple forms e.g. binary, ternary, rondo, etc.

(b) Extended forms e.g. overture, oratorio, opera, cantata, suite, sonata,
symphony, concerto, etc.

(c) Form in traditional African music, e.g. the various forms of antiphony
(Call and Response, Cantor/Chorus, Call and Refrain), Repetitive (Cyclic)
forms, etc.

(d) Form in contemporary African art music – with emphasis on
compositional techniques, e.g. use of melody, rhythm, harmony,
instrumentation, through-composed pieces, etc.
EPrepared set-works as recommended for each yearThe set-works listed below (Western or African) are to be chosen by the
candidate, as recommended, for each year. This will be studied for a
compulsory question in Paper 2.
2AURAL TESTS (PAPER 3A) Candidates will be required to write all seven tests. The Aural Tests will be
administered by means of a CD/cassette,a copy of which will be sent to
each examination centre on the day of the examination
ARhythmic Dictation
A melody not exceeding 4 bars will be played four times. Candidates will be
required to write the rhythm on a monotone. Before playing the passage,
the examiner will give the time signature and indicate the speed at which
the pulse of the music moves. The passage may be in either simple or
compound time.
(8 marks)
BMelody WritingCandidates will be required to write from dictation a short melodic passage
not exceeding 4 bars and which may contain elements of African Music.

Before playing the passage, the examiner will indicate the speed at which
the pulse of the music moves. The passage may be in either simple or
compound time.

The piece, which may be modal or in a major or minor key, will normally
begin on the first beat of a bar. If the music is in a major or minor key, the
key will be named and tonic chord sounded, followed by the key note. If in
a mode, the tonal centre and the mode will be played.

The pulse will be given and the melody will first be played in its entirety.
It will then be played twice in sections at short intervals of time and finally
it will be repeated in its entirety. (8 marks)
CWriting the Upper or Lower Part of a Two-Part PhraseA two-part phrase in a major or minor key not exceeding four bars will be
played.
The candidates will be required to write out either the upper or the lower
part in full. The key and time-signature will be given and the tonic chord
sounded.
The passage will be played four time. The passage may be in either simple
or time.
(8 marks)
DChordsA passage in a named key containing not more than eight chords will be
played.
The candidate will be required to identify chords employed in the
progression by using the Roman numerals e.g. Ic, V, vib, etc. or a technical
description of each chord, e.g. dominant, first inversion; sub-dominant,
root position etc.
The passage will be played four (4) times at a reasonably slow pace. The
key will be given and the tonic chord sounded before the passage is played
through.
(8 marks)
ECadencesCandidates will be required to recognize and name any of the following
cadences (perfect, imperfect, interrupted or plagal) occurring in a musical
example in a major key.
After the tonic chord has been sounded, the whole musical sentence
will be played through 3 times with due deliberation at short intervals. Only
four examples will be given which may not necessarily have to be different.
FModulationsCandidates will be required to recognize and name simple changes of key.
Four examples will be given, each starting from the same tonic key and
containing one modulation only.

Modulations will be limited to the dominant, subdominant, and relative
major or minor keys. After the key has been named and the tonic chord
sounded, each of the four examples will be played through three times. The
test will not necessarily contain examples of modulations to four different
keys: the same key-change may re-occur.
(6 marks)
GIdentification/Description of ThemesCandidates will be required to identify or describe the characteristics of
three themes or excerpts taken from selected pieces, at least one of which
will be African. Each theme/excerpt will be played three times. Before each
passage is played, the Examiner will tell candidates exactly what they are
expected to do.
Questions will be limited to the form, style or genre of excerpt played,
principal instrument(s) playing, scale or mode employed and meter.
(6 marks)
3Performance Test 
APerformanceEvery candidate will offer an instrument or voice for a practical
examination.

Sight-reading will form part of the examination for the performance test.
A list of set-works for the practical examinations is annexed as Appendix.
Only works from that list may be selected for the performance test.

Information on Set pieces will be available at any of NECO’s Offices across
the country.

Musical Instruments
The current approved instruments for Performance Tests are:
(i) Voice (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Baritone/Bass)
(ii) Pianoforte/electronic keyboard
(iii) Violin
(iv) Selected wind instruments: Recorder (descant and treble), atenteben,
flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, euphonium and tuba.
 NOTES ON THE CONDUCT OF PERFORMANCE TEST
 For Test Centres/Supervisors(a) The exact dates of performance tests at individual centres can be
arranged only after the entries are completed.

(b) There may be one or more examiners at the option of the West
African Examinations Council. No other person will normally be allowed
in the room with the candidates (except an accompanist) during the
examination.

(c) The normal time for the performance test will be about 30 minutes
per candidate. However, examiners may, at their discretion, take less time
over examination of individual candidate.

(d) Schools and Centres at whose premises performance tests are held
must provide a quiet, well-lit room, a well-tuned pianoforte/electronic
keyboard, a writing table and chair for the Examiner, and someone to act as
a steward outside the examination room.
 For Candidates
(a) Performing or playing from memory is optional. But, candidates
performing from memory must bring copies for the Examiner’s use.

(b) A technical exercise or study as stipulated on a list of set works will
be performed from memory.

(c) The Examiner may, at his/her discretion, stop the performance of
any piece when he/she has heard enough to assess the candidate.

(d) Candidates must perform pieces from the approved list only, using
the instrument for which the pieces were written.

(e) A candidate should provide his/her own accompanist (if needed)
who may remain in the room only while actually engaged in the
accompanying.
The candidate’s teacher may also be the accompanist but the Examiner will
not.
However, in lieu of an accompanist, a soundtrack of the accompaniment is
allowed.

(f) Each candidate is to provide music stand (if required).

(g) Two sight-reading tests will be given. The tests may be in either
simple or compound time.
4HISTORY AND LITERATURE
General historical backgrounds, works and contributions made by
composers as outlined below. Only a general (non-specialist) knowledge of
the composers, periods, works and forms will be expected.
ATraditional Musicians/Composers(a) Nigeria
Ezigbo Obiligbo, Dan Maraya, Haruna Ishola, Ayinla Omowura,
Dauda Epo Akara, Odolaye Aremu, Ogundare Foyanmu,
Hubert Ogunde, Israel Nwoba, Mamman Shata, etc.
BPopular Musician
(i) Highlife: Victor Olaiya, Celestine Ukwu, Inyang Henshaw,
Zeal Onyia, Victor Uwaifo, Nico Mbarga, Roy Chicago, Rex Jim Lawson,
Bobby Benson, Stephen Osita Osadebe, Eddie Okonta,
Adeolu Akinsanya

(ii) Afrobeat : Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Femi Kuti, Orlando Julius Ekemode.
(iii) Juju : I. K. Dairo, Fatai Rolling Dollar, Ebenezer Obey, Sunny Ade,
Prince Adekunle, Segun Adewale, Dele Abiodun, Shina Peters.

(iv) Fuji : Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, Ayinla Kollington, Rasheed Ayinde,
Wasiu Ayinde Marshal, Abass Obesere, Wasiu Alabi Pasuma,
Saheed Osupa.

(v) Waka : Batile Alake, Kuburatu Alaragbo, Salawa Abeni

(vi) Afro-Pop: Onyeka Onwenu, Christy Essien Igbokwe, Sonny Okosuns,
Mike Okri, Chris Okotie, Bisade Ologunde (Lagbaja) Zaki Adze.

(vii) Afro-Reggae : Terra Kota, Majek Fashek, Ras Kimono,
Victor Essiet, Evi Edna-Ogholi

(viii) Hip-Hop : Tuface Idibia, Dbanj, P-Square, Paul Dairo, 9ice,
Wande Coal, Terry Gee, Davido, etc

CContemporary Art MusiciansT. K. E. Phillips, Fela Sowande, Ayo Bankole, W.W.C. Echezona,
Adam Fiberesima, Dayo Dedeke, Akin Euba, Sam Akpabot,
Ikoli Harcourt-Whyte,
Laz Ekwueme, Okechukwu Ndubuisi, Sam Ojukwu, Bode Omojola,
Ayo Oluranti, Debo Akinwunmi, Christian Onyeji, Richard Okafor .
DWestern Composer
Medieval ca. 450 – 1400
Guillaume de Machaut, Johannes Ockeghem, Jacob Obrecht
Renaissance ca. 1400 – 1600
Guillaume Dufay, Thomas Tallis, John Cooke, John Tudor,
Josquin des Prez, Orlando di Lasso, John Dowland, Orlando Gibbons,
William Byrd, John Dunstable Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina,


(c) Baroque ca. 1600 – 1750
Claudio Monterverdi, Antonio Vivaldi, Archangelo Corelli, Henry
Purcell Johannes Sebastian Bach, George Frederick Handel, , Domenico
Scarlatti.

(d) Classical ca. 1750 -1820
Willibald Gluck, Josef Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,
Jan Ladislav Dussek, Muzio Clementi, C.P.E. Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven.
Franz Haydn

(e) Romantic ca. 1820 – 1900
Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann,
Felix Mendelssohn,
Fredrick Chopin, Franz Lizst, Johannes Brahms, Hector Berlioz,
Richard Wagner, Antonn Dvorak, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel,
Johannes Strauss, P. I. Tchaikovsky
The Russian Five (Modeste Mussorgsky, Balakirev, Cezar Cui,
Alex Borodin and Rimsky Korsakov)

(f) 20th century ca. 1900 – 2000
Bela Bartok, Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Paul Hindemith,
Aaron Copland, Hector Villa-Lobos, Saint Saens,

E Black Music in the Diaspora
Scott Joplin, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong,
Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Dizzie Gillespie, John Coletraine,
Aretha Franklin, Miles Davies ,James Brown, Diana Ross, Lord Kitchener,
Mighty Sparrow, Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson,
Hugh Masakela, Mariam Makeba, and such forms as Spiritual, Jazz, Blues,
Rock, Gospel, Soul, Calypso, Reggae and Afrobeat
5TRADITIONAL AND CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN
MUSIC
 
AThe Role of Music in Traditional African Society 
BMusical Instrument(i) Names and description
(ii) Classification
(iii) Function (musical and non-musical)
CGeneral Characteristics(i) Scales/Modes
(ii) Rhythm (metrical and non-metrical, cross-rhythm, hemiola,
syncopation, polyrhythm)
(iii) Polyphony
(iv) Form (antiphony, strophic, through-composed etc.)
(v) Vocal styles (recitative, yodelling, ululation, holler, nasalization)
(vi) Texture (monophonic, homophonic, polyphonic)
(vii) Instrumentation
DCategories and Type(i) Dirges
(ii) Cradle songs; Lullabies
(iii) Ritual songs
(iv) Folk songs
(v) Satirical songs
(vi) Other types of traditional vocal genres
ERelationship of music to other arts e.g. dance, drama,
festival etc.
 

Recommended NECO Music Textbooks

1. ABRSM Rudiments and Theory of Music, 1958 

2.Akpabot Foundations of Traditional Music, Ibadan Spectrum Books, 1986 

3. Amuah, I.R. et al Music and Dance for Colleges of Education, KRAMAD.

4. Amuah J. A. Theory of Music, The Simplest Approach 2008.

5. Kafui, Kenneth Avotri:Kafui’s Rudiments and Keyboard pieces for the beginner, 1981.Six Easy African Piano Pieces, 1977.

6. Kamien Roger: Music – An Appreciation, New York, McGraw Hill Book Company, 2008

7. Machlis, Joseph:The enjoyment of Music. New York, W. W. Norton and Co, Inc., 1958

8. Mensah, I. T.: Understanding Music, Books 1-3. Otuamic Publications

9. Robert Manford et al Music for senior Secondary Schools, H. Gangaram, Bombay, 1990

10. Warburton, Annie: Analysis of Musical Classics, Longman, 1967.

11. Harmony –A textbook for class use, on aural foundation Longman                    
12. Melody Writing and Analysis – Longman.

13. Score Reading, Form, and History – Longman.

Frequently Asked Questions About the NECO Music Exams

What topics are covered in the NECO Music Exam?

The NECO Music Exam covers a wide range of music-related topics. These include music theory, history, composition, harmony, counterpoint, and performance. You’ll also study the history and literature of Western music, African traditions, and Black Music in the Diaspora.

How is the exam structured?

The exam has three parts:

Paper 1 is a 1-hour multiple-choice test with 40 questions, worth 40 marks.

Paper 2 is a 2-hour essay test with five questions; you answer three, including two compulsory ones. This section is worth 60 marks.

Paper 3 is divided into two sections:Paper 3A is a 45-minute aural test, carrying 50 marks.

Paper 3B is a 30-minute performance test, also carrying 50 marks.

What instruments can I use for the performance test?

You have a variety of instruments to choose from. You can use your voice, violin, piano or electronic keyboard, flute, recorder, B flat trumpet, or E flat alto-saxophone. Pick the one you’re most comfortable with and practice to shine during the test.

How should I prepare for the aural test?

The aural test is all about listening and recognizing musical elements. Try listening to different styles of music and focus on identifying pitch, rhythm, intervals, and chords. You can find online resources or apps that help you practice aural skills. The more you listen, the better you’ll get.

What should I focus on for the essay test?

Start by reviewing the compulsory questions on theory/composition and the analysis of prescribed set-works. Then, choose the additional question(s) that align with your strengths. Be clear, concise, and thorough in your answers. Make sure you understand the key concepts in composition, harmony, form, history, and literature of music.

How do I improve my performance test skills?

Practice makes perfect. Work on technical exercises, sight-reading, scales, and other essential skills on your chosen instrument. You might also consider performing in front of friends or family to build your confidence. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll be during the test.

What do I need to bring to the performance test (Paper 3B)?

For the performance test, bring your instrument and any accessories you might need, like a music stand, reeds, or extra strings. If you’re playing the piano, don’t worry about bringing the instrument, just bring your sheet music.

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