Basic ABRSM music theory and aural

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by 2nd tenor, Feb 9, 2014.

  1. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Music theory is something I’ve never been that interested in (a case of: the conductor will tell me what he wants and that’s all that matters) and no one has expected me to know any. Well the above may have been true in the past, but in the future people might well expect me to have music theory knowledge and, even though I’m ‘middle aged’, I’d also like to take some ABRSM grades at some point too.

    I’m mostly self taught – occasionally I have a practical lesson but he doesn’t do theory - so I need to do the theory and aural for the ABRSM stuff myself. Does anyone know of interesting books and websites that will help? I’ll have to start with the very basic stuff first and, as this stuff can be really boring, the books and sites need to be light and entertaining. Your suggestions please.
  2. Coverhead

    Coverhead Member


    I would recommend Eric Taylor's 'Guide to Music Theory' (in 2 parts), it's published by the ABRSM so should provide everything you need for grades... I wouldn't go as far as saying it's light and entertaining though! Part 1 starts with basic rhythms, scales, etc. and the end of Part 2 takes you up to 20th century developments such as the 'twelve-tone method' and all that gubbins.

    In terms of websites, I've always found helpful for the aural side of things. You can set up little tests for yourself and change the difficulty to suit your needs.

    Good luck with your studies :)
  3. superwan

    superwan Member

    I found that book really dry and hard work. I'd recommend getting the workbooks and answers to each grade and work through them. You can get them from Amazon. The book take 5 and pass first time is good. I've also used a site called hofnote which helps break things up and a bit more fun. You can buy work for each grade at a time. Good luck :)
  4. owain_s

    owain_s Member

  5. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    For the Aural side of things - do a search in your App store for ABRSM Aural - there are a whole bunch of free apps (for Android and Apple phones/tablets) that are excellent.
    They don't quite match up to a live teacher, who can help more with more specific aspects of the tests, but they are an excellent resource.
  6. Sid the Cornet

    Sid the Cornet New Member

    I agree with superwan. The pink book is useful but very dry. I started the theory course a year ago using the workbooks and past papers along with the Take Five book. I started in at Grade 3 and worked up. So far they have not let me down. Sitting my Grade 5 theory, 3 days after Areas so I have my work cut out at the moment.
    It has made a big difference in the Bandroom and finally understand how to count compound time. :clap:
    A slightly strange feeling walking into the exam room surrounded by children, asking if you are an in charge of the exam, sitting on tables and chairs far too small for you, but still worth it.
  7. superwan

    superwan Member

    Hi Sid the Cornet, I'm taking mine before the areas, mine's on the 5th March and I agree it's helping in the band room. I only started back playing in October after a very long break and have learnt lots. I have a private tutor for my practial and he's on hand to go through anything I'm stuggling, so far so good :) Are you taking practial grades too? I'm working towards grade 6.
  8. Sid the Cornet

    Sid the Cornet New Member

    I started playing 3 years ago, got myself up to Grade 4 but had to take a year out of lessons due to working and family commitments. I decided to use that time to gain the basic theory knowledge to help me with my playing in the bandroom. Theory Grade 5 on March 5th. :) Once I have that out of the way and the Areas, I am back with my tutor again (things have settled down now). I do sometime wonder how some people cope without the theory, now that I have nearly done it.
    My tutor is not a great believer of the grading system and I do see his point in certain respects; I see it as a benchmark to how I am doing. We have agreed that I don't make that my focus but take Grade 8 when I know I can get a distinction, if I still feel that way inclined.

    But for the moment its concentration on Theory and Areas.

    The very best of luck on the 5th March

    Sid the Cornet
  9. superwan

    superwan Member

    Sounds like you're making good progress and wanting to do grades for the right reasons :)
    My tutor has the same view about grades not being the focus so has me going through lots of the Arban and believes in playing lots of pieces rather than just 3 for a grade. I'm really enjoying it, sounds like you are too. It was my idea to take grades, I'd taken practical grade 5 at school (so a while ago lol!) so wanted to work towards grade 6. He said that if I reach that level before the practical exam that we'll just move onto the grade 8 stuff so the focus is very much on improving rather than the exam (which is great I think).

    Good luck with your theory on the 5th March :D
  10. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    As the original poster I'd like to thank everyone who responded. Your comments have been a real help in so many different ways. I now plan to get the lower grade ABRSM work books and follow that up with a visit to the OU site. Then it's more work books plus take five followed by actually taking that exam - I think that there is a copy of Eric Taylor's book in the house somewhere so I'll use that as a back-up to support the other stuff. I might do four first but, for both four and five, wonder how this old bloke will feel about it when surrounded by much younger folk. Thanks again, every post was much appreciated.
  11. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    As the original poster I should point out that Trinity Guildhall ( also do music exams. Their theory test at grade 5 is, I believe, accepted by ABRSM in place of their own. GH also sell a series of music theory work books. Unlike ABRSM Trinity Guildhall do not require you do have passed grade five theory before taking the higher practical grades, but that's not to say they don't expect you to know some of that clever stuff.
  12. dcm6000

    dcm6000 New Member

    Sorry I'm coming to this a but late, but a +1 for the historical theory test papers. They're available direct from ABRSM (I think they use for sheet music fulfillment?). I was doing instrumental grades with my son to add a bit of a competitive edge to things (!) but when he started on G8 I couldn't get the practice time and now he's got his G8, so I've swapped to piano because I can win at that!
  13. Cornet Nev.

    Cornet Nev. Member

    I will also say thanks for the information from all, though especially to Coverhead for the link to, a very useful starter for anyone, not just someone like myself who is a player already but wanting to know more, it is a very good site for the beginner as well.
  14. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Just a point of clarification on the ABRSM work books. The work books are just that, a series of questions designed to test and support your learning through activities (work). For the information you need to answer the questions you will need a theory book (I'm using the AB guide to music theory and the work books are written with it in mind).
  15. superwan

    superwan Member

    You can also buy answer booklets to go with the question workbooks.
  16. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Great! Thanks for that!

    They are a bit difficult to find (IMHO) but they are there, see: .

    I have already bought work books 1, 2 and 3 so will see how I get on - slowly I suspect. When I get book 4 I'll be looking to buy it and the associated model answer book together.

    Thanks very much again, the tip is really appreciated.
  17. superwan

    superwan Member

    You're welcome and I'm sure others will appreciate the link you've found to buy them. I bought mine from Amazon and they've been a great help as I was loosing the will to live with the pink theory book! I'm waiting for my grade 5 theory result as we speak, another week to go before it comes.
  18. Sid the Cornet

    Sid the Cornet New Member

    How did you get on Superwan?
  19. superwan

    superwan Member

    Hi Sid the Cornet, my exam went well I think, there wasn't anything where I guessed. I did have a slight panic as I'd written the number of semi tones in a major scale for each interval on the scrap paper that they give you. I then answered the intervals question and moved on to transpostion. I got to bar 2 when I realised that my preparation was wrong and had to start again! I finished with enough time to check through the paper 3 times though so should be ok. It was a little embarassing being only one of 2 adults in a room full of kids! thanks for asking :) did you take a theory exam, I couldn't remember sorry?
  20. Sid the Cornet

    Sid the Cornet New Member

    Hi Superwan
    Yes I did. As like you, it’s all rather amusing walking into the exam room only to be asked by younger candidates where they are required to sit. I’m obviously getting too old now!
    Three of my band turned up after me and seem quite amused that their Sop player was sitting the same exam as them. I think there must be a general opinion out there with the younger musicians, that if you are playing at my age then you must have been playing for a huge number of years.;)
    I think the exam went ok, but reserve judgement until I have seen the results next week. I believe I did more than enough to pass but that assuming I read everything right. I can’t for the life of me remember if the transposing asked for up or down and whether I did it up or down. That is probably the only thing that dawned on me when I left. I shall wait with baited breath.
    We shall know this time next week. I hope you get what you want, or very close to it.:)

    Grade 6?