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Aaron Publications at Rhinegold’s Music and Drama Education EXPO 2018 !


Music and Drama Education EXPO 2018
Rhinegold’s Music and Drama Education EXPO 2018

Aaron publications are proud to be listed as exhibitors at Rhinegold’s Music and Drama Education EXPO 2018 which takes place at London Olympia on 22nd and 23rd of February 2018 . Our listing can be seen at  Music and Drama Education EXPO is Europe’s largest conference and exhibition for anyone involved in music and drama education. Moreover we are proud to celebrate our recent partnership with Victoria College of Music Examination Board, who are basing their forthcoming new music theory syllabus entirely on the All-In-One music theory books (All-In-One is “Best music theory” say Victoria College of Music Examination Board).

Rhinegold’s Music and Drama Education EXPO 2018 will be an important occasion for us, helping us raise awareness of the All-In-One series of music theory books. ‘All-In-One: Grades 1-3’ and ‘All-In-One: Grades 4-5’ coincide with the relatively new publication; ‘All-In-One to Grade 5 – THIRD edition’ (published July 25th 2016), on which they are based, containing extra exercises throughout. All-In-One (…and one for ALL!) Music Theory is suitable for a wide range of students; for child or adult and any instrumentalist. It is ideal material for students preparing to take exams with any of the main examination boards (or none at all) including graded checklists for both ABRSM and Trinity College London (our books will soon also feature a ‘ Victoria College of Music’ Graded checklist). One distinctive feature of All-In-One music theory is its distinctive ‘integrated, yet progressive approach’ , exploring patterns which apply across the grades thereby dispensing with the traditional rote learning . The ‘Trinity Supplement’ has also received a complete overhaul and contains many more exercises, all carefully graded so that our books are now as equally appealing to Trinity College London students as Associated Board students.

Our books present THE most effective method for learning music theory and are so different to other music theory books in many ways. Read why here. Customer reviews can be read at www.aaronpublications via clicking on the Reviews page. Students and teachers already familiar with the All-In-One music theory books may be interested to read here about the differences between the new THIRD (2016) edition of All-In-One to Grade 5 and previous editions.

If you happen to be in London between the 22nd and 23rd of February 2018 please pop along to see us at music and Drama EXPO 2017, stand M29. You will receive a warm welcome and can chat to the author (Rachel Billings) who will be very happy to answer your questions . The event will feature special one-off show prices for All-In-One music theory books.

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Reasons to try All-In-One: Grades 1-3 and/or All-In-One: Grades 4-5 music theory book

Reasons to try All-In-One: Grades 1-3  and/or All-In-One: Grades 4-5 music theory book


Most of our customers choose ‘All-In-One to Grade 5’ book, which is very popular. Not as many people are aware the split grade books exist, namely the ‘All-In-One: Grade 1-3’ and ‘All-In-One: Grades 4-5’ books, and even fewer people seem aware about the benefits of using this material. The purpose of this blog is not to explain why All-In-One music theory is such a different and highly effective method (to read about this click here), rather to make a brief comparison of the three main books in the All-In-One series (All-In-One to Grade 5, All-In-One: Grades 1-3 and All-In-One: Grades 4-5). Equipped with information, people who are already considering owning All-In-One music theory can make an informed decision about which book is most suitable for their needs.

♦ ‘All-In-one: Grades 1-3’ (158 pages) and ‘All-In-One: Grades 4-5’ book (166 pages) contain many more exercises than found in ‘All-In-One to Grade 5’ (278 pages).
All-In-One: Grades 1-3 contains all the exercises found in grades 1-3 of ‘All-In-One to Grade 5’ PLUS 99 extra exercises throughout. All-In-One: Grades 4-5 contains all the exercises found in grades 4-5 of ‘All-In-One to Grade 5’ PLUS 113 extra exercises.

This means that students who own both the All-In-One: Grades 1-3 AND All-In-One: Grades 4-5 book benefit from all of the material found in the All-In-One to Grade 5 book PLUS 212 extra exercises. To read more detail about these books please click  *


♦ ‘All-In-One: Grades 1-3’ and ‘All-In-One: Grades 4-5’ are the most cost effective option
Each of the split grade books is priced £9.99.  For students who own both books (‘All-In-One: Grades 1-3’ AND ‘All-In-One: Grades 4-5’) this is the same as owning ‘All-In-one to Grade 5’ and the ‘Trinity Supplement’ book combined, PLUS 61 extra exercises.

♦ All-In-One: Grade 4-5 book is ideal for all students post grade 3, including those who feel rusty regarding their knowledge of previous grades.

All-In-One: Grades 4-5 duplicates ten of the coloured reference pages found in All-In-One: Grades 1-3 (with other reminders throughout the book). These Reference pages are easy to find quickly and can just as easily be skipped over if a student already feels secure in these areas. This means that students who are not familiar with ‘All-In-One: Grades 1-3’ will nevertheless have a clear understanding of foundational topics such as Simple Time, Compound Time, Key Signatures and the Circle of 5th (topics already introduced in grades 1-3). It also means that students using All-In-One books may come to them from a diverse background; it is not necessary to be familiar with All-In-One: Grades 1-3’ book prior to using All-In-One : Grades 4-5’ book.

So, which All-In-One music theory book is most suitable for your needs?

We hope the above information has been helpful. In summary, If you wish to focus on Grades 1-3 we recommend you buy ‘All-In-One: Grades 1-3′ only. If you wish to focus mostly upon grades 4-5, buy ‘All-In-One: Grades 4-5’, regardless of whether you use ABRSM or Trinity College London syllabus. If you think the extra exercises unnecessary buy ‘All-In-One to Grade 5’ which nevertheless contains plenty of practice material.

victoria college exams best music theory book endorsed

* Of the ninety-nine extra exercises in ‘All-In-One: Grades 1-3’, twenty-four of these are for all grades 1-3 students (i.e. ABRSM, Trinity and others) whilst seventy-five of the exercises are topics outside the scope of the Grade 3 ABRSM Syllabus (the book already contains all Grade 1-3 material from the ‘Trinity Supplement’ booklet, found in the Appendix,  therefore it  is not necessary to buy this book separately) 
* Of the one hundred and thirteen extra exercises in ‘All-In-One: Grades 4-5’, thirty-seven of these are to be completed by all students (ABRSM and Trinity students and others) whilst seventy-six of the exercises are topics outside the scope of the Grade 5 ABRSM Syllabus (the book already contains all Grade 4-5 material from the ‘Trinity Supplement’ booklet, found in the Appendix,  therefore it  is not necessary to buy this book separately) 
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All-In-One Music Theory is Endorsed by Victoria College of Music Examination Board!

All-In-One Music Theory is Endorsed by Victoria College of Music Examination Board!

‘Best music theory book’ say Victoria College of Music

The last few months have been an exciting time for us at Aaron publications. For a long time now I have been eagerly anticipating announcing the news that my All-In-One music theory books have been endorsed by Victoria College of Music Examination Board.

What does ‘Endorsed’ mean? Quite simply, it means that Victoria College of Music Examination Board (VCM for short) have adopted my books for use with their students. They have given me their seal of approval, stating that, in their opinion, ‘All-In-One music theory’ books are the best material to equip musicians with the theoretical knowledge they require (VCM require candidates to hold Grade IV Theory or GCSE in Music to take Grade 8 practical on their chosen instrument. To read my blog about the importance of music theory and why it is important all musicians know it, click here). Moreover VCM examination board have designed their new music theory syllabus (Grades 1-5) around my All-In-One music theory books and are rewriting parts of their examination papers which means that my books can remain as they are with minimal changes required.  It is a tremendous honour to have an examination board choose to use my material in preference to writing their own.


VCM are an independent and international examining body in Music, Speech and Drama that has existed since 1890. They operate throughout the UK, various Commonwealth and a handful of other countries. As an independent examination board whose existence does not depend upon public funds, they are in the unique position of being unfettered by restrictions and thus ‘enabled…to respond to the needs of teachers and candidates in flexible ways’ (quoted from VCM’s own website Victoria College state on the Home page of their website ; ‘We have one aim above all others and that is TO ENCOURAGE.’  They also state; VCM advice is to enjoy examinations in Music, Speech and Drama for what they are: a yardstick to measure progress; encouraging candidates to further achievement, and supporting teachers in the independent sector’.

It is a privilege to be working in partnership with an examination board whose values I respect and which is flexible in its approach as well as accommodating and quick to respond to student and teacher needs.

For several months emails have been shooting backwards and forwards between myself and Stewart Thompson, Qualifications Manager at VCM, and I have had fun and satisfaction helping VCM ensure their new music theory syllabus works well with All-In-One music theory books.

What changes are being made and when will the new VCM syllabus be available?

 VCM new music theory syllabus is now complete however we regret we are unable to announce it until October 2018 (Apologies for the delay. It will be available any day now!).  All-In-One has been rewritten in a REVISED version especially for the benefit of VCM students which will, initially, only be available from this website at (note that the ‘REVISED Third edition’ is therefore different from the current ‘Third edition’). The Revised edition contains a ‘VCM Graded Course/Checklist’ and various footnotes throughout for ease of navigation, together with a few necessary adjustments to exercises in one of the ‘Diatonic Intervals’ papers so that it corresponds with VCM Key Signature requirements). The Revised edition is expected to be in print sometime in 2019. Until then (from September) VCM students purchasing directly from us (Aaron publications) may request a FREE printout of the VCM course/checklist and altered paper, which will be sent together with any purchase order. To claim your VCM inserts simply leave a request for it in the comment box at checkout after you have placed your order for the current edition on our website ( .

For further information and to receive up to date news from us relating to All-In-One music theory please follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Please also see Victoria College of Music website ( ) or  Facebook  (  ) or  Twitter  ( where Victoria College of Music have recently posted announcements about our new partnership. More information, including a blog from VCM, will be posted shortly.


Kind regards, Rachel Billings


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All-In-One Music theory is also for Americans!

All-In-One music theory is also for Americans!

I recently received a message from an American music teacher who wanted to know if my music theory books are suitable for her students because of a few different words we use in the United Kingdom for musical terms. Her only real concern was about note values because Americans describe them, quite sensibly, using fractional names (‘Whole, half, quarter…’ )  as opposed to UK musicians who not so sensibly (in fact quite illogically!) describe notes as ‘Semibreve, minim, crotchet’ etc. (Other differences in terminology are quite minor). This music teacher had seen a sample page on my website from All-In-One music theory book which uses both US and UK terms for note values and she wished to know my preference and the terms predominantly used elsewhere in my books. I have copied and pasted my reply below.

‘Thanks for your query. In the case of note values All-In-one music theory (Chapter 2; Time) provides several pages of exercises for both terminologies in use. A1) paper is titled ‘Traditional Name: Semibreve, Minim, Crotchet, Quaver and Semiquaver’ and A2) paper is called ‘Fractional Time Name: Whole, Half, Quarter, Eighth and Sixteenth’ (the Demisemiquaver/ Thirty-second and Breve / Double-whole are dealt with elsewhere in the book in Part Two). In Paper B) it states that students may answer questions using either method. These papers are then followed by a paper specifically about ‘Time Signatures’ (so it links into that). In my view it is necessary to have a very clear understanding of the US fractional terms because it helps with the understanding of Time Signatures. Elsewhere in the book UK (’Traditional’) terms are used (I am from the UK) but I have sought to make the book usable for all English-speaking students. Towards the beginning of the book (in the Foreword) there is a table listing ‘The Major Terminology Differences in Music Theory’ because some different words are used in English-speaking countries which mean the same thing. In footnotes throughout the book I have also provided equivalent terms. For example on page two I have written STAVE on the page in the main body of text, but this is followed by a footnote which says in small print at the bottom of the page ‘The word “staff” is preferred in some countries, including the USA with “staves” as the plural.’ I hope this helps. Best wishes, Rachel’

Another stumbling block to American readers may be the titles of my books because some Americans are not familiar with the graded system and examination boards we have in the UK.  The main books in the All-In-One series are ‘All-In-One to Grade 5’, ‘All-In-One: Grades 1-3’ and ‘All-In-One: Grades 4-5’ (The latter books are based on All-In-One to Grade 5 yet contain a significant number of extra exercises). In the UK ‘Grade 5’ is a significant bench mark and the All-In-One music theory books comprehensively cover both ABRSM and Trinity College London syllabus Grades 1-5. They also contain further topics (marked ‘optional’) outside the scope of both examination boards since, although my books feature graded checklists, they are not confined to syllabus requirements. To give you some idea; they are equivalent to RCM (Royal Conservatory of Music) music theory Grade 6 level which is used throughout Canada and in many parts of Northern America. They also include numerous topics from RCM Grade 7 and some from grade 8.

Finally I should mention that my books have been tried and tested by a few American citizens with great results.

One music teacher from Indiana wrote:

“There are “Britishisms” in the book, but not so many to discourage American students…Perhaps the best endorsement comes from the fact that my test subject is thriving, and progressing rapidly. He is absorbing the material quickly, and is enjoying the journey.”

(K. Maven – Indiana) ,

For more reviews please go to…

If you have any questions about the All-In-One music theory books please don’t hesitate to contact me using the contact form on this website. Aaron publications also has a Facebook page where more sample pages can be seen (and you can message me) Simply click here:

Posted by Aaron publications on Thursday, 28 September 2017

Our twitter handle is Aa_music theory.

Best wishes, Rachel Billings



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Why I wrote All-In-One Music Theory

Why I wrote All-In-One Music Theory

I thought it may be helpful to write down a few thoughts in response to questions I’ve occasionally been asked (usually in relation to All-In-One to Grade 5 book, the first book I wrote and most familiar, although there are ten books in total which make up the All-In-One music theory series ).

Q. Why did you decide to write All-In-One music theory?
I didn’t ‘decide’ to write any music theory book/s, rather the material developed gradually from “a collection of individual, self-contained worksheets which were written originally to help my own students and free up valuable lesson time for the instrumental work it supports’ (quoted from the Preface page in All-In-One to Grade 5).

I started gathering my ideas during my first year of teaching in 2001-2002 (during my last year as a post graduate student at the RNCM) and, over the course of several years, the work sheets became numerous.

The Preface page in All-In-One to Grade 5 also explains my motivation behind writing the material… ‘Most music theory books can be wordy and daunting for the beginner (especially if they are young) and often information is presented in an unrelated way through a graded system, which, in essence, relies on dry repetition and rote learning of facts’.

To solve this problem I sought an ‘integrated yet progressive’ approach. All-In-one…  ‘maintains an overall progressive approach whilst never failing to expose the simple rules and patterns which underlie music theory. These patterns, once understood, are understood once and for all by the pupil, applying as much in the later grades as the former’…All material was written with the conviction that pupils gain satisfaction and enjoyment from their work if they understand why rules or conventions exist and, from the start, students are equipped with the bare bones of information needed to work things out for themselves independently of the teacher.’

All-In-One was intended to be a flexible, time saving method which keeps the focus, as it should be, on the music itself and learning to play the instrument:

‘teachers can introduce topics when best suits the need of the individual pupil; for instance in relation to pieces a pupil is learning’.

Ultimately, the driving force behind writing All-In-One music theory books was sheer frustration. I desired a fuss free and enjoyable approach and I couldn’t find the material I wanted for my students therefore I ended up writing my own.

How long did it take you to write All-In-One to Grade 5 (and the books based upon this)?
From the time I wrote down my first ideas until the current, 2016 edition (and the new books based upon this) it has taken fifteen years in total. The first edition was completed in Sept 2008 after five/six years of compiling my material, but since then the book has undergone considerable revisions and substantial improvements in certain areas.

Q. Were there any memorable moments or particular challenges you encountered when writing All-In-One to Grade 5?

Yes. Problems fell into one or the other of two categories:

1) Writing the actual book.
It was very difficult to decide the structure of the book, meaning the order of the worksheets and how they link together. This is especially true regarding the THIRD edition which contains substantial changes in Chapter Three to make it ‘more suitable for students taking the individual grades en route to grade 5 without, most crucially, losing All-In-One’s integrated approach’. These changes created challenges when altering the ‘Graded checklists’ for ABRSM and Trinity students (click here to read about the substantial differences between the third and previous editions of All-In-One to Grade 5). All problems were finally resolved, but it took me some time to work out how it was possible to achieve what I wanted to achieve.

I also found it challenging to write the puzzles, especially ‘Crossword Grandioso’ in Chapter Four. People may find it amusing that it was originally intended to be less than three quarters the size but ended up so large (81 words) because of my continual failure to square it off! It kept growing and growing as I struggled to prevent words from sticking out here or there, until finally, somehow, I managed to get everything to fit.

2) Computer-processing the book.
By 2007, after five years of compiling my teaching material, all of the work sheets in ‘All-In-One to Grade 5’ existed in their basic form (i.e. meaning they were basically the same as found in the first/2008 edition) but still it was all hand written and not one page was on computer (An enormous amount of work still needed to be done before the 3rd/2016 edition existed). Convenience dictated that my work should be on computer so that I could print out sheets quickly for students whenever I wanted. I approached a technically savvy ex post graduate music student to do the work but that idea was a mistake. The problem, as I discovered early on (which is the reason I chose to self-publish), is that I like to remain in full control of everything. I know what feels right in terms of layout, spacing, font etc. …. and I soon discovered it is nigh on impossible for one person to dictate their intentions to another, and expect them to be fulfilled in each and every way on every page. After the unsuccessful attempt to get someone else to computer-process my book, I then made the decision to do it myself. On hindsight, this was the first step to self-publishing, but at the time this thought was not in my mind. I just knew I had to teach myself how to computer process my material if I wanted to achieve anything which approximated the results I desired. I knew it would not be easy because my knowledge of computers at that time was very poor (in 2007 I had only basic knowledge of Microsoft Office Word). It did take me a long time to master the Desktop publishing and Music Notation programmes (I worked late each night after finishing teaching, often well into the early hours of the morning), but the advantage is that I am now not dependent upon anybody and I can make changes to my work whenever I want to very easily. I loved the freedom that my new computer skills gave me. Very often an idea would occur to me whilst teaching and as soon as my lessons were over I would dash to the computer to make the necessary adjustments. One change might lead to another change and in turn affect material in other papers. My new computer programmes in fact inspired creativity because I was able to make adjustments so easily and therefore write in such a free and unhindered way that would simply not have been possible had I continued with only pen/pencil and paper (I no longer had to tear up paper after every adjustment and spend hours writing everything again from scratch by hand!). I imagine my books would have been extremely different if l had been dependent upon someone else to computer process them. It is almost certain that the last (3rd ) edition would not exist because it would have been too hard for me to wrap my mind around its new structure which is more complex (beneath the surface) than previous versions (Chapter Three especially). The third edition would simply have not been possible without the help of computer programmes which made adjustments easy for me to do.

Q. Is the reason you self-published that you didn’t get accepted by a large national publishing company?

 No (This is not a question I have actually been asked but I am aware that many people may think it because, perhaps understandably, self-published books are viewed with suspicion). I hope that my answer to the above question reveals the natural process by which All-In-One music theory came to be written. One thing just led to another. As already mentioned, my overriding concern in 2007 was to get my material onto computer exactly as I wanted it (before deciding whether or not to approach a publisher). I wanted my intentions regarding format/layout etc. to be crystal clear. On hindsight, my issue was clearly one of wanting ‘control’ over every part of the process (I was concerned about details that most people would leave to a publisher to decide). My first print run, in September 2008, was for the smallest amount I could get away with (120) to be able to equip my own students with my book, without being considerably out of pocket (meaning that if I had bought fewer books as ideally I would have wished, the price per book that I paid to the printer would have been significantly more than the price I felt comfortable charging each student). I only wanted enough books for my own students at that stage but unavoidably I had excess stock so I sold or gave away books to friends and colleagues. I also advertised my books for sale in the members section of the ISM journal (‘Incorporated Society of Musicians’). I was unsure what would come of all this, but was pleasantly surprised when, soon after the article was published, Rhinegold approached me to ask if they could write a review. I received a very successful write up in February 2009 which led to more people wanting books, which resulted in hurried preparation for another print run. I decided to call this emerging enterprise ‘Aaron publications’.… The rest is history.

Once the initial orders started coming in I felt that I had already done much of the work a publisher would have done plus I was rather curious to see what would happen if I continued doing things myself. Eight years of hard work later (fifteen since I first started compiling my material), I occasionally wonder what would have happened if I had sent my work to a large recognised publisher. But I know that at the moment it certainly doesn’t feel right to do so (I don’t even know if it is too late to do so after having ‘decided’ to self-publish already). The attractiveness of a large marketing campaign is appealing, but the reality is I don’t think I could bring myself to hand over all my original computer files to another person/organisation (and with it, I presume a degree of copyright). The passing years have given me an increased sense of protectiveness about ‘my baby’ – a work born of much labour and love, and I wouldn’t want another publisher to take credit for ten years of computer processing work which they have not done. Rightly or wrongly that is how I feel. Anyhow, I really like the name ‘Aaron publications’ and I don’t want to lose that name! (anyone who wants to know why I chose this name, just pop me an email!)

(All-In-One music theory books are available at .To see a list of shops which stock All-In-one music theory books, as well as schools using my material please go to

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Aaron publications at Music and Drama Education Expo 2017 !

Aaron publications at Music and Drama Education EXPO 2017 !

Aaron publications are proud to be listed as exhibitors at Rhinegold’s Music  and Drama Education EXPO 2017 which takes place at London Olympia on the 9th and 10th of February 2017.  Music and Drama Education EXPO is Europe’s largest conference and exhibition for anyone involved in music and drama education.

Rhinegold’s Music and Drama Education Expo EXPO 2017 will be an important occasion for us, helping us raise awareness of the All-In-One series of music theory books. We celebrate the launch of two new books and three new editions (published July 25th 2016). ‘All-In-One: Grades 1-3’ and ‘All-In-One: Grades 4-5’ coincide with the new publication; ‘All-In-One to Grade 5 – THIRD edition’, on which they are based (containing extra exercises throughout). The ‘Trinity Supplement’ has also received a complete overhaul and contains many more exercises, all carefully graded so that our books are now as equally appealing to Trinity College London students as Associated Board students (and of course the other new edition is the Answer Book, which has had to be revised accordingly and contains answers to all the above books).

Our books present THE most effective method for learning music theory and are so different to other music theory books in many ways.  Read our reviews page at to learn more. Details also can be downloaded about the differences between the new THIRD (2016) edition of All-In-One to Grade 5 and previous editions.

If you happen to be in London between the 9th and 10 of February 2017 please pop along to see us at music and Drama EXPO 2017. You will receive a warm welcome and can chat to the author (Rachel Billings). The event will feature special one-off show prices for All-In-One music theory books.




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The importance of music theory

The importance of music theory; it helps many musicians perform better and provides a window into the composer’s mind and intentions.

The importance of music theory should be widely recognised. It is with good reason the ABRSM exam board say students must pass Grade 5 music theory exam before they can take grade 6, 7 or 8 practical exam on their chosen instrument. Yet most students do not study music theory in their instrumental lessons. The result is a mad rush to prepare for Grade 5 music theory just a few months, even weeks, before the exam and many students are not prepared. Why is theory not taught earlier as part of the instrumental lesson? There are at least three reasons.

The first reason is easy to understand; lack of time. There is already much to fit into an instrumental lesson; exercises, instrumental studies, pieces, aural training… The list goes on. Theory is too often tagged on at the end or forgotten altogether (until the exam date looms!).

Secondly, there is a real fear from the teacher that they will bore their student if they open a theory book. After all, isn’t music theory boring? Many people assume that it is and sadly this attitude is found in teachers. The problem is that theory is taught by rote. Most teachers teach as they have been taught themselves and people are used to the old “jigsaw method”.  Dry snippets of information are given bit by bit, in the hope that they will eventually piece together and make sense to the student. For many that day never comes!

Also, thirdly, a few teachers worry that the parent may misunderstand if they devote more time to music theory. After all, isn’t the child being sent to an “instrumental” lesson? Will the mum or dad object if occasionally the instrument is put to one side and they spend half their time looking at a theory book?

Obviously, it is hard, if not impossible for a musician to write a piece of music if they have little theoretical knowledge. Which time signature is best to use? How do you group the notes, rests and beam the tails accurately? How do you indicate your intentions? Basic knowledge is essential if the music is to be written clearly and legibly. Grade 5 theory also involves some knowledge about orchestral instruments in general. It is ludicrous to write a piece for clarinet which cannot be performed because the notes are either too high or too low for the instrument. It would be silly to write ‘accelerando’ (which means get gradually faster) when you in fact wish to tell the performer to slow down (‘rallentando’). The importance of music theory for composers should be obvious.

Some musicians may object to any mention of the dreaded two words “music theory” and respond; “But I’m not a composer, why bother? Anyway, I learn theory whilst learning a piece of music”. That is true, to a certain extent, but the result is often mere surface knowledge. Yes, you may be told that 12/8 time signature means count four dotted crotchet beats in a bar or that the current piece you are learning is in B major, which has five sharps. But does that make sense? It has proven hard to remember rules presented in such an abstract fashion. But not only that; can you be satisfied with such meagre understanding? Don’t you wish to know why these particular numbers are chosen and the reason such rules and conventions exist?

Too often the response is; “Music theory isn’t important, let’s just get on with playing the instrument!” But knowledge of music theory should be an essential ingredient in any music lesson since it can help a person to play better on their instrument. This statement should not be misunderstood. Of course some students, with a good ear, know instinctively how to phrase and shape a melody without much knowledge of music theory. However, for other students, this does not come naturally. For them, a little knowledge of the building blocks used to write a piece of music, whilst not guaranteeing a musical performance, can only be beneficial. Music theory, after all, is largely about how music works. All musicians (even non pianists!) should know a little about chord progressions and the direction/feeling produced by certain chords written in a particular order  ( so called ‘harmonic progressions’). Certain chords naturally create the feeling of tension and relaxation which in turn dictates the way the melody is shaped. At the basic level, this knowledge is about cadences. For example, an ‘Interrupted Cadence’ (chords V-vi) creates the feeling of instability, whilst a ‘Perfect cadence’ (V-I) feels final and complete.

Some chords are unusual for the period in which they are written; for example a ‘diminished chord’ in Classical music. It is good to be aware that the composer intended this chord for dramatic effects. Anyone would find it helpful to memorize a piece of music if they know about its structure and we should recognize brief but important pivot chords (that perhaps suggest a moment of hesitation in performance) which are responsible for changing the entire course of a piece of music and setting it off on a different emotional route.

Musicians should desire to understand the music they play and learning music theory is part and parcel of achieving that goal. The importance of music theory should not be underestimated. It can provide a window through which we are able to understand the composer’s mind and intentions, enhance our appreciation of music and help many musicians feel more fully connected with the music they perform.

Do you agree?

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Differences between ABRSM and Trinity College London music theory

Differences between ABRSM and Trinity College London music theory exams are outlined in the All-In-One music theory books

Differences (as well as similarities) between ABRSM and Trinity College London Music theory syllabuses can be seen on the graded checklists which are displayed at the beginning of the All-In-One music theory books. 

ABRSM Graded Checklist  (first of two pages)

Trinity College London Graded Checklist (first of two pages)

There are some similarities as well as differences between ABRSM and Trinity College London theory exams.  ‘All-In-One  music theory’ books (THIRD ed), unlike most others, are suitable for BOTH Associated Board (ABRSM) and Trinity College London students. One reason for this is that students can easily navigate their way through the grades for either examination board by referring to the Graded checklists at the front of the book (and tick off the topics when they have been completed). ABRSM students require only one book (All-In-One to Grade 5/All-In-One: Grades 1-3 or All-In-One: Grades 4-5) however Trinity College London students using All-In-One to Grade 5 also require the ‘Trinity Supplement’ booklet (£3.99) to use alongside. You are advised to see the graded checklists within the book itself to understand in detail the similarities and differences (students using All-In-one: Grades 1-3 and Grades 4-5 book do NOT require the additional Trinity Supplement booklet because these books already contain this material in the Appendix).

ABRSM is the most popular examination board yet Trinity College London exams are equally recognised qualifications. Trinity is perhaps most suitable for instrumentalists learning pop music or jazz due to its inclusion of jazz chord symbols (as well as Roman notation). It focuses upon composition (at an earlier stage) via adding a bass line to a melody or vice-versa. Trinity students, unlike ABRSM students, are expected to know about ostinato (common in jazz music) , syncopation, sequences (real and tonal) the ‘natural minor’ and pentatonic scale, inverted intervals, arpeggios, broken chords and a little about the guitar and saxophone.

Topics contained in the  Supplement booklet are closely related to topics already studied in the main book (e.g. ‘broken chords’ can easily be understood by anyone with knowledge of the tonic chord and inversions). Therefore anyone, not just Trinity students, will find the ‘Trinity Supplement’ highly beneficial and the next logical step.

Compound time signatures are introduced at grade 3 for both ABRSM and Trinity students. However,  ABRSM students are expected to know a wider variety of key signatures at an earlier stage than Trinity students.

Unsure which exam syllabus to follow? Why not start with All-In-One to Grade 5 book/All-In-One: Grades 1-3 or All-In-One: Grades 4-5 and decide when you are ready, in your own time. If you wish to learn the few extra subjects required by Trinity College London syllabus, progress to the Trinity Supplement booklet (or simply turn to the ‘Appendix’ at the back of the All-In-One: Grades 1-3 and 4-5 books). Which exam syllabus do you prefer and why; Associated Board or Trinity College London?

Did you also know that All-In-One Music Theory will soon also feature a ‘Victoria College of Music Graded Checklist (VCM)’?  There are many advantages about taking VCM exams. Want to read more? Go to Also please click here to read our blog and stay tuned for updates.

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Music theory exam dates, UK


Music theory exam dates in the UK, 2018.

(Our All-In-One music theory books, unlike most others, are suitable for students studying for either ABRSM or Trinity music theory exams. Click here to read more)


ABRSM and Trinity College London music theory exam dates

ABRSM is an acronym for ‘Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music’. ABRSM music theory exams take place in 93 different countries around the world. In the UK they take place times a year in the Spring, Summer and Autumn (known as periods A, B and C).

A) Spring 2018 Music theory exam date: Wednesday 28th February (5 pm). Closing date for online entries: Friday 19th January. Closing date for postal entries: Friday 12th January.

B) Summer 2018 Music theory exam date: Saturday 16th June (10.00am). Closing date for online entries: Friday 11th May. Closing date for postal entries: Friday 4th May.

C) Autumn 2018 Music theory exam date: Tuesday 6th November (5 pm). Closing date for online entries: Friday 28th September. Closing date for postal entries: Friday 21st September.


Image result for trinity college london logo

Trinity College London provide exams and award qualifications in over 60 countries around the world. The music theory exam dates are as follows:

Saturday 5th May 2018 (closing date Monday 26th March)
Tuesday 8th May 2018 (closing date Monday 26th March)
Saturday 3rd November 2016 (closing date Monday 24th September)
Monday 5th November 2016 (closing date Monday 24th September)

How to enter an exam. You can enter yourself for a theory exam if you are age eighteen years or older. Alternatively candidates may be entered for an exam by a school, a teacher of music, a parent or guardian. Anyone who enters receives a unique applicant number. For details about ABRSM exam centres in your area speak to your local ABRSM representative  or Trinity College London representative . Apply for entrance online using the ABRSM or Trinity Guildhall websites (or you can request a postal application form).

Accreditation. Both Associated Board and Trinity qualifications provide qualifications recognized by government educational authorities worldwide. A pass at Grade 5 (music theory) enables students to proceed to Grade 6-8 exams which can contribute towards higher education through the allocation of UCAS (University and Colleges Admission Service). UCAS points which can be used as part of a university or college application in the UK.

Please bookmark our site or join us on twitter to receive updates about forthcoming music theory exams. Feel free to ask the author any last minute questions you may have.

We are also very keen to hear from students who have used All-In-One to Grade 5 to pass their theory exams (a distinction we trust!).