Stages of Music Education

Music education can be divided by the age range of the participants, but also by the methodology or approach used by the educator (read more information about methodologies). Music Australia is committed to lifelong learning in music, due to its undeniable benefits for all who engage and participate. An outline of the stages of school music education follows, with more in-depth information provided via the Australian Curriculum: The Arts.

Early Childhood Music Education

Early childhood education covers the years before a child starts school and it’s a great time to introduce music education! Dr Peter de Vries is a former Music Council of Australia’s early childhood music education expert. Here are his tips for engaging your young child in music and making music part of your family life together.

  • Sing sing sing! From birth onwards (or even before) sing to your child. Look your child in the eye and move with them as you sing.
  • Get into musical “play” with your child. Respond to what your child initiates musically. This could be musical babbling from a newborn, part of a song for a toddler, or a whole song from an older child. Praise your child’s music-making, smile and join in. If a young child picks up a wooden spoon and starts striking it on the table, don’t tell them to stop – encourage them! Join in! Sing with them as they bang! This is music.
  • Encourage your child to move to music – either as you sing, or to recorded music (warning: don’t have “background” music on all the time – young children will end up blocking this out). Again, join in and encourage them to make up their own movement sequences.
  • Expose children to musical instruments. Even infants can grab a rattle or bells and make sounds from them. Listen to what older children do when they play instruments – that way they interweave their instrument play with singing, speaking and dramatic play.

If your child attends an early childhood centre, find out if they are incorporating music into daily activities.

Primary School Music Education

It is essential that young people are engaged in music education during the primary years. Throughout the stages of the curriculum, students will develop an increasing skillset and musical vocabulary.

In Stage 1 (Foundation to Year 2), the focus is on singing, percussion activities and listening to a variety of music (appropriate to the age group). Students should also experience body percussion, junk percussion, movement, and a few easy instruments. By Year 2, students should be working with written notation (in a very basic way). There should be a strong emphasis on practical music-making and creativity (which could include improvisation) as well as talking about music. This lays the foundation for later stages of performance, composition, reflection and analysis.

In Stage 2 (Years 3-4), students will continue to focus on singing, as well as playing music in groups, composing new music and finding a way to write it down. Students should investigate music of the cultures represented in their community, and beyond. By Year 4, students should be using some musical vocabulary, performing with accuracy, and communicating through music.

In Stage 3 (Year 5 to Year 6), the focus is on appreciating and participating in a diverse range of music. Students engage in musical performance, composition, reflection, comparison and analysis. They also learn to use music technology.

By Year 6, students should be inventing organised music (patterns and structure rather than random sounds) that expresses emotion and meaning.

Secondary School Music Education

In most schools, music is an elective subject from Stage 5 onwards, offering students with a passion or aptitude for music the opportunity to further extend their skills. Many schools also offer musical activities as extra-curricular activities, such as school musicals, ensembles and one-on-one lessons.

In Stage 4 (Year 7 to Year 8), studens should focus is on listening, composing and performing, stimulated by a diverse range of music. Students engage in reflection, comparison and analysis whilst building knowledge of the elements of music. By Year 8, students should be participating in practical group work with independent parts, listening for form and orchestration in music, and building an awareness of expressive techniques in music performance. Pre-planned composition and/or improvisation takes places using voice, technology and live instruments.

In Stage 5 (Year 9 to Year 10), music becomes an elective subject. The subject builds on prior skills and knowledge, acknowledging all the elements of music and deepening students’ appreciation of interpretation and meaning.

Students engage in musical performance (solo and ensemble), composition, reflection, comparison, analysis, self-assessment and peer assessment. They consider and research the social and historical background of the music studied.



Stay in the loop

Music Australia updates straight to your inbox

Follow Like
Quick Links


  • National clearing house for policy & development

  • Music Journal

    Features articles about the Music Industry Sector

  • Music Talks

    Series of seminars exploring music