Your ULTIMATE Guide to the IB Music MLI

Struggling to comprehend what the heck the musical links investigation (MLI) even is, let alone how to write it? I was in your shoes a few years back but managed to get a 7 in my IB Music MLI in the end! How did I do it? Read on for my step-by-step guide on how to approach the musical links investigation for maximum success!

The Basics of Musical Links Investigation: Distinct Musical Cultures

Before we dive into the specifics, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what the musical links investigation really is:

-An exploration of musical connections between two distinct musical cultures by considering one (or more) pieces from each culture.

-Through comparing and contrasting, we need to “demonstrate two or more significant musical links.”

-The IB Music MLI is a media script (interview, dramatization, website, blog, etc.) over no more than 2,000 words.

-Makes up 20% of your final grade in IB Music.

Exploring Musical Culture: What Does a Musical Links Investigation Include?

Let’s take a look at the overview of the assessment requirements of your MLI as a means of exploring musical culture.

• A comparison of two pieces of music from two distinct musical cultures.

• It needs to contains at least two musical links.

• Established similarities and differences between the music cultures.

• An investigation and evaluation on the music (primary and secondary sources).

• A written media script.

• References

• Bibliography

• Discography

Musical Links Invevstigation Requires these Steps:

So, where do you get started? Read on for a comprehensive list of the five steps that I think you need to take in order to be on the path toward a marvellous musicla links investigation!

Step 1: Choosing the Musical Cultures

Arguably the most difficult and the most important step of writing your musical links investigation is deciding on a good topic. If you can comfortably say that you can check off the following, you are on your way to finding a great topic!

  1. The 2 musical cultures are truly distinct. Avoid choosing the same musical culture or ones that have similar backgrounds, like ‘Rock n’ Roll and Jazz.’Even something like ‘Jazz and West African Music’ may be considered a poor choice of cultures as there is a direct cultural link from one to the other.Instead, choose 2 cultures that seemingly have no common background like ‘Chinese Folk Music and Brazilian Bossa Nova’ or ‘Hindustani Music and Argentine Tango’.
  2. The musical pieces that you’ve chosen aren’t too long. In order to do thorough exploration, it will benefit you to focus on a fragment of a larger musical piece, or find a short musical piece of music to analyze.2,000 words may sound like a lot before writing it, but in order to get into the nitty and gritty of musical analysis, it’s better to go narrow and deep rather than broad and shallow.

Step 2: Doing Your Research

When you’ve got an idea of 2 cultures that are sufficiently distinct that you would be interested in exploring, it’s worth doing a deep dive into the ins and outs of that musical culture.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the common musical elements found in the genre?
  • What are the distinguishing features of the genre?
  • What is the purpose of the music?
  • For whom was the music made and who performs it?

Make sure to use both primary and secondary sources in this research. It is at this stage that you may notice some similarities between your two distinct musical cultures.

The whole point of the IB Music musical links investigation is finding commonalities in musical genres that may sound completely different to the untrained ear, so don’t shy away from similarities that may seem too far-fetched.

Then, go back to your musical pieces and see if you can hear the common musical elements from these two musical cultures that you’ve just researched in the musical pieces that you’ve chosen!

Step 3: Finding the Musical Links between Musical Cultures 

Make a list of all the similarities that you’ve found between your chosen musical pieces from the two musical cultures.

You’ll need to perform a deep dive into the two distinct musical cultures and relate the findings back to your musical pieces.

If you’re struggling to find any similarities between the musical cultures, always remember MeMeHaMeFoStyCo (medium, melody, harmony, meter, form, style, context)! This will help you in making the musical connections that the musical links investigation requires.

Go through and make a list of some major differences between the different musical cultures as well. It will be easy to hear the overt differences in the musical examples, but try to challenge yourself in, for example, analyzing how the melody serves a different purpose in the two pieces.

Step 4: Choose the Format for Your Musical Links Investigation

Decide the format in which to present your musical links investigation.

Remember that you don’t get extra points for your format, so don’t spend too much time crafting the most authentic-looking newspaper article.

That time can be better spent refining your musical analysis, which is where almost all the points lie. However, making sure your format lends itself to a clear and organized structure in which the similarities and differences that you aim to analyze are clear to the reader is key.

Students normally choose a consistent format that typically follows one of these structures:


Example 1:


-Piece A (Analysis of Musical Element 1, Musical Element 2, Musical Element 3)

-Piece B (Analysis of Musical Element 1, Musical Element 2, Musical Element 3)




Example 2:


-Musical Element 1 (Analysis of Piece A, Analysis of Piece B, Comparison)

-Then Musical Element 2 (Analysis of Piece A, Analysis of Piece B, Comparison)

-Then Musical Element 3 (Analysis of Piece A, Analysis of Piece B, Comparison)


Step 5: Write!

When you’ve got your cultures, pieces, similarities, differences, and format, the only step left is to write the musical links investigation.

Don’t shy away from inserting excerpts of sheet music to aid your analysis in the musical links investigation.

If there isn’t any sheet music readily accessible, attempt to transcribe a section of the song to help explain one of your similarities.

If you’ve followed this guide and still feel like you need help – fear not! Lanterna have some virtuous musicians and former IB graduates who can assist your project!

Click the banner to check out more about how our tutors can help you!

Helpful Resources to Create a Significant Musical Links Investiagtion

Watch our free study videos for more information about how to successfully fulfill the requirements of your musical links investigation.

A musical links investigation requires a thorough understanding and application of musical culture. The world of musical culture is fascinating with countless paths of exploration.

By following the steps above, the students musical links investigation is sure to successfully fulfill the assessment requirements of attaining top marks.

Ready to get started? Begin by consdiering which musical cultures interest you and take it from there. Before you know it, the musical cultures chosen will reveal interesting insights.

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