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Dictation

Question four on the Junior Cert Music paper is dication. Many students find this question a little scary but if you take it step-by-step, it's not really all that bad. At higher level, the question asks you to fill in ten missing notes using your preferred notation. Here's a breakdown of the whole question:

  • You can do this question using staff notation (lines and spaces), tonic sol-fa (which I've never seen used but somebody must because it's still there) or a combination of stick notation and tonic sol-fa.
  • The four-bar phrase will be played five times
  • The keynote (doh) and tonic chord (chord of doh) will be played before each playing (so that your mind-tank is adjusted to the right key)
  • A metronome will keep the beat for the first two playings (to help you get the rhythm)
  • The first few notes will be given and you must insert ten missing notes
  • There will be a dotted-crotchet - quaver rhythm somewhere in the phrase (only once and in that order)
  • You must insert bar-lines also

At ordinary level you're asked to fill in time signature and the rhythm for nine notes (melody is given)

The key to dictation is practice - the more questions you do the easier it gets. Start with simple rhythms and just a few notes of the scale and gradually add in more rhythms and notes. Higher level students can practice using ordinary level questions first and then move on to higher level questions. You should also keep the following in mind (Dara's amazing tactics):

  • You must add ten missing notes - you will be docked marks for any extra notes that you put in, so don't!
  • You're asked to insert the bar-lines - they're easy and worth marks so do them first. There should be four bar-lines in every dictation, no more and no less. The most commonly forgotten is the final bar-line (at the end of the phrase).
  • Beware, the starting notes given may not make up a complete bar (you might be given only three beats worth in four-time) so don't just automatically draw a bar-line after them and expect things to work out!
  • Listen for rhythm only for the first one or two playings (note this rhythm above the stave, ready to put in properly when you know the melody note).
  • I mentioned this above but it's important enough to say again: there will be a dotted-crotchet - quaver rhythm somewhere in the phrase (only once and in that order)
  • The phrase will end on doh, so that's one melody note sorted! It may be high or low doh but you should be able to tell pretty easily on the first listening.
  • Don't always think forwards - sometimes think backwards! You know the last note is doh so listen for the second-last and third-last note.