What Song Should I Choose For My HSC Music Performance?

An all too common question I am asked is “what should I play for my HSC?“.

Basically, you want to earn your marks. Imagine you’re standing there with your guitar, in front of three HSC Music Examiners. You’re currently on zero marks and have to earn one hundred of them. This is going to require some flashy and emotive guitar playing. You’ll need to demonstrate a range of skills like bending, percussive finger style, sweeping, vibrato, fast picking, legato and many more, whilst utilising dynamics, texture and a strong sense of melody and emotion in what you’re playing.

The focus needs to be on guitar, so your vocalist should be singing only where essential. This means you should probably cut out repeated sections where you’re just playing basic power chords and replace that with a melody, harmony or solo.

The options are endless, but here’s short-list (yes, this is the short list!) of suggestions I typically give those in year 11 and 12:

  • John Petrucci/Dream Theater – Glasgow Kiss, Erotomania, A Rite Of Passage, Panic Attack, Overture 1928, The Dance Of Eternity, The Spirit Carries On, The Best Of Times, As I Am, This Dying Soul, Endless Sacrifice, Stream Of Consciousness, Honour Thy Father, In The Name Of God,
  • Steve Vai – Tender Surrender, Crying Machine, Feathers, Windows To The Soul, Brandos Costumes, The Reaper, The Attitude Song, Bangkok & Fire Garden Suite: Bull Whip, Pusa Poad, Angel Food, Taurus Bulba, Blue Powder
  • Andy McKee – Drifting, Rylynn, Hunter’s Moon
  • Rodrigo and Gabriella – Stairway To Heaven
  • Tobias Rauscher – Still Awake
  • Robben Ford – Life Song, The Brother
  • Eric Johnson – Cliffs Of Dover
  • Andy Timmons – Electric Gypsy, Cry For You, I Remember Stevie
  • Guthrie Govan – Fives
  • Joe Robinson – Daddy Longlicks
  • Joe Satriani – Always With Me, Always With You, Flying In A Blue Dream, Cool #9, Ice 9, Crushing Day, Hill Of The Skull, Watch Boogie, Circles
  • Tommy Emmanuel – Amy, Jersie Bounce, Bernie’s Tune, Tailin’ The Invisible Man, Angelina, Classical Gas, Hellos And Goodbyes, Limehouse Blues, Up From Down Under, The Journey, Big Brother, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Imagine
  • Racer X – Viking Kong
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan – Riviera Paradise, Lenny, Tin Pan Alley, Pride And Joy, Dirty Pool, Rude Mood
  • Yngwie Malmsteen – Blitzkrieg, Trilogy Suite Op.5, The First Movement, Arpeggios From Hell, Hold On, Black Star
  • Brad Paisley – Make A Mistake [Instrumental],
  • Calum Graham – 12:34
  • Metallica – Master Of Puppets, Orion, Dyer’s Eve, The Call Of Ktulu, Fade To Black,
  • Symphony X – Sea Of Lies, Inferno
  • Van Halen – Eruption, Jump, Hot For Teacher,
  • Wes Montgomery – Four On Six, Willow Weep For Me
If you have song idea for your HSC but are unsure how suitable it is or whether it should be rearranged to gain better marks, feel free to contact us and we’ll happily send you a recommendation – completely free!

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  1. Hey i was wonder how Eclipse – Yngwie would go? Including both sections. Im also not sure about the timing as its already 4 minutes eating into my 15.

    1. Hey Malek, have you looked at any Red Hot Chilli Peppers or Metallica pieces? They’re often a good choice if you cut down the repetitive sections.

    1. Hi there, If you’re wanting to sing and play at the same time, I recommend any song that has some complicated guitar playing during a verse or chorus and also has solos. Something like Fade To Black comes to mind because the verse has picking underneath and there are three solos. As I Am by Dream Theater would be great too because the riff underneath the verse already has some fast picking – and then you’ll have to sing over the top. Are you familiar with much Metallica or Dream Theater?

    1. Hi Aarav, anything by Polyphia is a good choice for its technical procifiency and instrumental nature. My main concern when students suggest Polyphia is that it will be challenging and most students won’t end up with a good quality performance. Instead it’ll be full of rough playing that students fumble their way through. So as long as you can maintain good quality guitar playing, then Playing God would be a good option. It’s also worth talking to your school music teacher about it, because HSC students often change pieces so that they accomodate all concepts of music, in order to achieve high marks.

  2. Hi I was wondering if the song Judas by lady Gaga is a good song for a band 6 in Music 1 HSC? I also like to play popular riffs on the guitar like master of puppets can you give me any recommendations similar to that which is suitable for hsc? Thank you

    1. Hi Merveh, any song could be played if it’s arranged well on the guitar and demonstrates a high level of skill. So Judas could work well if you arrange all of the vocals for guitar – perhaps by starting in a low register and working to higher registers throughout the song. Adding things like guitar harmonies and a solo would be ideal.

      I recently did this with a student for Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers. We made it a bit more of a “rock” song, put both the bass line and vocal melody onto guitar and then also added a few solos. We ended up barely playing any of the original guitar work from the song because we were mostly playing all of the other parts.

      If you do something like this for Judas (or any song) then it has the potential to be awesome and can really take the examiners by surprise, especially if you alter the genre of the song. It can be a fun process, but is a lot of work.

      I’ve listed quite a few pieces in the article above, which are all ideal for HSC performances. I recommend these peices, or anything else that is similar and shows off a high level of skill and complexity.