For many the thought of learning music theory can seem daunting and perhaps a little dull. If I am totally truthfully when I was a young musician I felt the same. I knew that I had to pass the ABRSM grade 5 theory exam so I could take my grade 8 clarinet exam. I need these exam results so I could study music at university in the UK.
So I went to extra classes at the music school where I had clarinet lessons and I passed the exam with flying colours. However, at the time I felt that so much of what I learnt really didn’t directly relate to my instrument and therefore I wasn’t as serious about it as I should have been.
See, learning musical theory is like learning grammar in a foreign language. It’s usually the hardest part to grasp but so essential when constructing any sentence you are trying to speak or write. This is the same for music theory – once you have mastered the basics it can be applied to all musical genres and styles.
However, when I became a university student and then a fully qualified music teacher I had to teach and apply my theory knowledge on a daily basis. As a woodwind specialist I was often expected to transpose parts on sight. As an accompanist I needed to understand the chord symbols and progressions to accompany my many students in the classroom. In my academic exam classes I had to teach detailed analysis of orchestral scores to my students and complex composing skills. Truthfully I had to find ways of explaining theoretical musical terms and concepts to students of all abilities and levels in a way that they could apply to their instruments, exam course work and that was simplified for understanding.
This is why it is important for any students wanting a career in music to understand the basic concepts of music theory – it will be so important to all your future music making.
So, did you know that you can take exams in music theory?
I love the ABRSM theory exams, especially now the exam board has moved the formal exams to be taken online. This means that the exam can be taken at any time of the year rather than the original three times slots a year. This is definitely a great move for serious music students and for everyone living internationally.
There are eight graded theory exams in total but most musicians only take the first five. This is because you need grade 5 theory to take the ABRSM grade 6 – 8 practical exams in your particular instrument.
Theory exam results are graded as pass, merit and distinction and the new online exams are now marked out of 70 instead of 100. I love the fact that grade 5 theory is counts towards UCAS points by British universities. It really does give additional help and recognition for our musical students to get into their university of choice – regardless of whether they are going on to study music.
So for our serious music students we offer theory courses to gain a secure understanding of theory. We also fully prepare any student wishing to take these formal theory qualifications. So if you are interested in enrolling to one of our theory courses then reach out to us and we can help!
If I could go back and chat with my 22 year old self I would tell her that the mentors were WRONG!
One of my favourite parts of teaching is when students find or suggest new songs for us to learn together.
A life of music is hugely rewarding and fulfilling but, like most things, can get monotonous at times if you don’t keep it fresh and new. So how do we keep music and lessons interesting?