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The candidate was awarded 11 marks for this broadly creative piece of writing: Lessons on guitar, experiences for life.

Summary

This is a broadly creative essay in the form of a personal/reflective essay about the positive impact of playing the guitar. The candidate’s comments range from the early excitement and frustration of learning to play to the thrill of performing, and there is reflection on the power of music and love of playing to help during difficult times.

Content

The piece shows clear attention to purpose from the start, opening with the statement, ‘From an early age, I have always been surrounded by music.’ The candidate lists examples of musical sounds which have accompanied family life so far, following these with examples of musical instrument sounds: ‘thundering kick of a drum. The low rumble of a bass guitar…the mellow and relaxing notes of a saxophone’. The discussion reaches a climax with the introduction of the subject of the essay: ‘…one instrument that really grabbed my attention much more easily than the others, and that was the guitar’.

The second paragraph again begins with a clear, emphatic statement: ‘A guitar is one of those instruments that simply can’t be ignored’. The candidate’s enthusiasm is conveyed clearly and there is an obvious sense of involvement in the description of being captivated by guitar music. This is shown in creative use of description, creating a clear sense of wonder, for example, ‘Whenever I heard a punchy, in-your-face riff’, ‘transported to another place entirely’ and ‘colossal impact on me’. The paragraph ends with another dramatic flourish: ‘So by that point I was committed. I knew I wanted to learn the guitar’.

The essay goes on to describe the experience of learning to play, beginning with one word, ‘Frustrated’. The candidate contrasts the early optimism of ‘being so convinced that I could simply pick up a guitar and be able to play whatever I wanted’ with the realisation that ‘you have to start from scratch’. The youth of the candidate when starting out is emphasized by the difficulty of ‘having to stretch my fingers’ to make chord shapes. This exploration of the experience creates a clear sense of involvement; there is also self-awareness in comments on the ‘infamous song’ which the candidate ‘tirelessly tried to perfect’, to the torment of the family. Despite these excruciating early stages, the candidate maintains that the excitement of playing and the value of learning still endure: ‘that electricity that always seems to flow through me when I pick up a guitar has never really left me’.

There follows a long paragraph which focuses on the progression from playing alone to performing. The candidate shows clear self-awareness in comments about the perspective of ‘my 11 year old self’ and there is evidence of clear involvement in the description of the ‘countless hours of sitting in my bedroom plucking and strumming away’ against the ‘muffled shout of my mum’ which ‘was all leading up to this moment’. The candidate shows insight when describing the ‘battle’ between nerves and excitement: ‘It seemed my excitement had ultimately won the battle’. The ‘battle’ image is continued in the account of a band performance: ‘the crowd was that of a Roman colosseum… I felt like a Gladiator’. The candidate shows self-awareness in the realisation of the positive impact of performing: ‘it’s helped me to grow as a person’.

The final paragraph summarises the benefits of playing guitar and the power of music, with the candidate highlighting the importance of playing as a comfort and support in challenging times. The candidate concludes by returning to the first guitar lesson, which ‘wasn’t just the start of me learning an instrument’ and ends on a flourish: ‘Music opened up a new world for me in so many ways’.

Style

In terms of style, the candidate uses a range of linguistic features to create impact, expression is clear and there is clear structure which enhances meaning. Sentences are fluent and clearly constructed, for example the ‘or’ list in paragraph one and the minor sentences that follow: ‘The thundering kick …saxophone’. Longer and shorter sentences are combined to create impact, for example when contrasting the naïve expectations and more mature reflection in paragraph three: ‘Frustrated. That’s how I felt…no matter how difficult’.

The structure of the piece enhances meaning by charting the candidate’s journey as a musician, a journey which we learn is not just about music, but also self-discovery. Throughout, language is used to create impact, for example, ‘not for one second did I let this dishearten me’ and ‘quite daunting, to say the least’. Throughout, we gain a clear sense of the writer’s self-depreciating and enthusiastic personality.

Overall

This piece was placed in the 12-10 mark range. Ideas, feelings and experiences are explored with a clear sense of reflection and insight and the writing conveys a clear sense of personality. The piece is described fully by the statements in the 12-10 mark range and was awarded 11 marks.