The embedding of informal practices in music education in school relates to significant issues concerning students' engagement, participation, inclusion and the role of the teacher. This article addresses these issues by presenting and discussing current music education in compulsory comprehensive schooling in Sweden. It does so by drawing upon music pedagogical research, music education studies conducted during the last 10 years and national evaluations. Examples of practice from upper secondary schools are also used to clarify and illustrate the issues under consideration. It has been said that Swedish music education has gone from ‘School Music’ to ‘Music in School’. This development has been characterised by greater influence of students on curriculum content resulting in increased use of popular music, and, consequently, teaching strategies acquired from informal music playing contexts. The curriculum states that the core of the subject is practical music playing, through which personal development can occur – both musically and socially. Music education in several other countries is developing a more practical approach, and the role of popular music in schools, and what is sometimes called informal learning, is featured in international music pedagogy debates. This article considers the musical, pedagogical and democratic consequences of this pedagogy from a Swedish perspective. As a result of a sharp focus on personal social development and individual students' musical interests, music education in Sweden has become relatively limited in terms of repertoire, content and teaching methods. Recent evaluations and studies also demonstrate that music education lacks direction, and is short of creative engagement with music. The role of the teacher is unclear and sometimes lacks validity in a practical music education situation. Viewed from an international perspective, the kind of music education that has developed in Sweden is unique. Thus, when the possibilities and limitations of music education in Sweden are discussed, it has the potential to be of interest to international music education research.