PLEASE NOTE THAT MAGAZINE REVIEWS WRITTEN BEFORE 2012 ARE ABOUT THE FIRST EDITION THEREFORE SOME OF THE COMMENTS ARE NO LONGER RELEVANT. All-In-One to Grade 5 has been revised and substantially improved over the years. It now exists in its third edition (published 2016 and, more recently, the ‘Third Revised edition’ published December 2019, which contains the Victoria College of Music Checklist). There are especially big differences between the Third and all previous editions.
‘The most recent edition (THIRD EDITION) features further simplification throughout the book, making it even more accessible to the young beginner and more suitable for students taking the individual grades en route to grade 5 without, most crucially, losing All-In-One’s integrated approach.’ (quoted from the final paragraph of the preface page in All-In-One to Grade 5)
Piano Professional Magazine, EPTA (September 2019), Written by Alexander Thompson
..’Rachel Billings has revised her own approach in a new version of her theory course [which is] impressively comprehensive as well as logical in approach. …Her new revised edition also works for Trinity College grade 5 candidates – if they obtain the special ‘Trinity Supplement’ booklet.
But what of her revisions (bearing in mind that this book first appeared quite a few years back)? There seems to be even greater clarity and
even simplification in the third edition. The aim seems to be to avoid alienating the youngest pupils. The presentation of material is a little clearer too, with a more obvious distinction between the lower grade work in some chapters, making it possible for the more inexperienced pupils to feel a little less overwhelmed by a vast amount of information all at once. Of course, the ‘all in one’ aesthetic is still very much in place, and the checklist reminders at the end of pages are pertinent and very useful.
Rhinegold, Music Teacher Magazine (February 2009)
The following is a quotation from a book review published in Rhinegold’s Music Teacher magazine; the UK’s leading publisher for music and the performing arts. It was written by Frances Taylor who teaches mandolin and violin in Essex, London.
“A welcome addition to theory education”…”really excellent material”… “Imaginative”… “good psychology to encourage and inspire pupils.”
“presented quite differently from most other theory books…an integrated scheme of work as opposed to small chunks of information that will hopefully click together like Lego bricks”
“crosswords, anagrams and stories using Italian and French words…the book is worth every penny just for this section alone”…
…”The book is always clear, with concise language so that pupils of any age should be able to work through it with minimum dependence on the teacher.”
i) the reviewer mentions a separate ‘Reference Booklet’ which no longer exists because the material has since been incorporated within the main book.
ii) the reviewer mentions mnemonics (used for memorizing note names on lines or in spaces) which have since been replaced with a far more effective method consisting of a one sentence rhyme (in three parts) which spans both treble and bass clef staves.
EPTA Review (in Piano Professional), January 2011 (excerpts from) Written by Bronwen Brindley
“This book by Rachel Billings, who studied at the Royal Northern College of Music, is written in a clear and inviting manner which should appeal to all ages other than the very young.There are many graduated exercises, puzzles and word games, and I particularly like the section that gives an illustrated study of orchestral instruments, their capabilities and range, which prepares the student for the closing section on transposition and simple composition. There are graphs in the opening pages that illustrate the parts of those sections appropriate to each grade and on which page to find them, and boxes to tick off when the student (or teacher) thinks he or she knows that particular feature well enough…
Chapter 1 – Notation – begins with intervals as pattern recognition defining the relationship between notes on a stave. Recognition of the shape of intervals is very important for faster note reading and this is very laudably given prominence here. Also very sensibly, the intervals are defined as “odd” -line to a space, space to a line – and “even” -line to a line and space to a space, a concept that many of use but seldom see written down. Another good feature here is that in order to emphasize that intervals remain the same shape wherever they are on the stave, they have been shown without reference to clefs, so that the student’s attention is not deflected to working out which notes they are, rather than simply recognising the shape.
There are thirty pages referring to Italian, French and German terms, all punctuated with small drawings, hints on remembering them, tests, games and puzzles, stories where the terms can be fitted in with the text, and several crosswords. This is very well done and extremely thorough; also entertaining enough to encourage all but the most obstinate….In the chapter on Tonality, scales are very sensibly introduced with a large diagram of the Circle of Fifths. I find this always fascinates my pupils – they seem to love the logic of it all – and it’s good to find it so clearly explained by Rachel Billings.
…the more I read through this All In One book of theory the more I like it. Even when all the many exercises are completed, it is not a book to be thrown away as we frequently dispose of other completed exercise books.It will remain as an excellent source of reference and one which I can warmly recommend”.
Customer Reviews of All-In-One Music Theory
(Written in date order with the most recent at the top)
Eve, London, May 2020
“My daughter and I are learning the piano, and we have found the ABRSM books difficult with little or no explanations. So, our piano teacher suggested Rachel’s All-in-One Theory books. As an adult, the material is presented in a clear and concise manner, which is easy to follow. My daughter loves the fun activities, colouring, pictures and animals, while learning theory, which is now no longer a chore. Very highly recommend!”
Martin Ashton, Derbyshire, April 2020
‘It is excellent. Very clear and easy to understand….It’s the only one I could find that explains music theory in enough detail’
East London Arts and Music (ELAM), January 2018
(using ‘All-In-One to Grade 5’ with BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma students. ELAM is rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted)
“Finally! A book … promoting inquiry and independence for students.”
“Clear, concise and imaginative”
“The sequential learning journey for students allows for the discovery of concepts as their understanding progresses… to discover new concepts without much teacher support!”
HMDT Music, January 2018, using ‘All-In-One: Grades 1-3’ and ‘All-In-One: Grades 4-5’ books
(HMDT is twice winner of the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Education in 2004 and 2008)
HMDT Music’s Saturday Programme has been using the “All-In-One” set of books as its core theory book for the past year, and we have had 100% pass rate for all our students taking ABRSM grade 5 theory. We use the books to form the theory element of our general musicianship classes right from pre-grade 1 level to grade 5, ensuring that students have the required theory knowledge to go alongside their instrumental learning. It is the perfect complement to our other methods of teaching, and we would recommend them to anyone wanting to study music theory.
Rosemary New, Newcastle (December 2017)
The All-In-One Music Theory books are beyond compare! They are thorough, clear, well presented and accessible to a wide age group. Extremely well thought out. A mainstay in my teaching.
Lisa Porch (Amazon review, 11th October 2017)
This book came highly recommended by my daughter’s violin teacher as being a fantastic product.
Susan Rise, Folkestone, Kent (October 2017)
As an adult learner I find this book to be a fun way to approach the subject. I look forward to using this book with my Grandchildren too as they start their music journey.
Emily Hawke, Colne, Lancashire (August 2017)
Comprehensive and fun to use. Allows you to progress quickly with a good understanding of music theory. Good preparation for the ABRSM exams. I really enjoy using the books.
Rachel Chapman, London (20th July 2017)
I find the grade 5 theory an excellent companion for teaching theory to grade 5. I love how each topic builds up from the basics so that a pupil can follow each logical step of musical language. It also helps me to explain things when it’s sometimes hard to come down to the basics level.
Helene Handley, Formby, Merseyside (July 2017)
Excellent layout and step wise instructions to improve and increase ones understanding of the theory behind music. Suitable for both young and old. Myself and my children have been using this book (All-In-One) music theory as an accompaniment whilst we learn the piano, cornet (B flat) and cello and also took our music theory exams. Well worth every penny!
Helen, Cape Town, South Africa (July 2017) Re. All-In-One: Grades 1-3
This is a lovely fresh approach to music theory.My son has enjoyed working through this book. The layout and format is much better than the way I learn music theory thirty years ago. This is a book that I recommend to all starting music theory.
J.H (Amazon review, 16th January 2017)
Great book. We ordered one of these for my son. It is proving to be so helpful and well structured that we have also now ordered a second copy for my daughter. Highly recommended.
(Anonymous Amazon review, 14th Dec. 2016)
As a full time Music teacher, this book is excellent. It has helped many of my students achieve Grade 5 music theory. The book is well laid out and the spiral bind makes it easy to complete the tasks on each of the pages. There are a few topics that are included above the ABRSM specification for Grade 5 too. Tasks in the book are engaging and test understanding in numerous ways, encouraging deep learning. Can be used independently or with aid from a teacher as a learning resource, suitable for both players and non-players. A few things are phrazed in an odd way, but I’m only nit picking, thoroughly recommended.
Mr Sullivan (Amazon review, 13th Nov. 2016)
As a full time piano teacher in schools, there are a lot of pupils who have only been concentrating on playing skills and have very little theory knowledge. Some require to reach say grade 5 in a short space of time. That is what this book does. However the theory is presented in a way which is more enjoyable and memorable for a younger person who couldn’t handle just pages of dry theory. The book is thick, has lots of tasks and is a good size to write in. I love the binding which allows the book to sit easily or fold over to a certain page. The pupil using this book has not been through it yet but is enjoying using it a lot.
Tony (Amazon review 9th Nov. 2016)
I am new to music theory, and also only started playing a musical instrument about three months ago, so what would be dreadful for me is wading through a boring text book. However, this book by Rachel is simply amazing. There are illustrations, story lines, crosswords and other helpful exercises to take the reader on a pleasant and interesting journey in learning music theory. I enjoy using it!
Naper (Amazon review 9th Nov. 2016)
Fabulous find! Everything you need to grade 5 theory in one book.
I bought this book for my son who is studying for his Drum exam and wanted to compliment his practical lessons with learning music theory. We have both been very pleased with the layout and quality of the book content and presentation. My son has found this easy to work through and likes that it is a workbook layout so that he can write directly in the book.
It is progressive so although he knew some elements from the early grades, it was good to be able to refer forward and back to elements so you can see clearly how you are progressing, and pick out the parts that he didn’t already know from earlier grades.
Thankyou Rachel for a really well presented and helpful theory book, which is both useful and easy to use.
(Anonymous Amazon customer 5th Nov. 2016)
Does what it says on the tin. Very happy with it
Mrs R.B (Amazon review 4th Nov. 2016)
Best music theory book ever.
This very comprehensive music theory book is brilliantly illustrated with colour, puzzles,explanations and humour. The spiral binding makes it so easy to use. It is simple to find the categories and appeals to all ages and abilities helping them to grasp some tricky concepts. I highly recommend this book and wish I had known about it years ago.
The next reviews (below) are about the 2nd edition of All-In-one to Grade 5, published 2012. As mentioned at the beginning of this page, there are big differences between the second and current third editions of All-In-On music theory.
Parent, Berkshire (April 2015)
Amazingly helpful books!! I wish I’d known ‘ALL IN ONE TO GRADE 5’ sooner. This spring bounded book is woven together from four main components: Notation, Time, Tonality and General Musicianship. It’s very well designed and illustrated as well as systematic introduction to the music theory.
It’s more like an outstanding ‘Homeschooling book’. There are clear explanations with lots of practices which really help to increase confidence. The best thing is there is an answer book to check and correct!
D. Blight, Wales (Amazon review May 2013)
Absolutely fantastic! I was a bit sceptical upon buying this book as it looked a bit childish and I thought maybe that would mean some of the info was missing. I was wrong. This book is jam packed with detailed, easy to understand information, and the best thing is the student can take it at their own pace, they can use it as a first stepping stone on the way to theory, a crash course for amateurs who want to get grade 5 out of the way, or as a reference guide for professionals. Amazing! Would recommend to anyone and everyone.
Anne Rees – Pianist/teacher February 2012 (Stockport)
“I’ve been teaching piano and theory for twelve years. Motivating children and young people to master music theory can be challenging. But this book may well be the answer! It’s simply outstanding – thorough, attractive and imaginative. And it’s also very reasonably priced for what it is. I’d recommend every music teacher to give it a try – I don’t believe you’ll regret it.”
The next reviews (below) are about the 1st edition of All-In-one to Grade 5 (published 2009). As mentioned above, there have been huge changes to All-In-One music theory since this first edition (e.g. for instance, the comment about “Britishisms” is not as relevant since the 2nd edition, which uses terminology which suits both American and British students. See my blog for details)
Kabbalah Maven – Indiana (United States) May 2010
“Rachel Billings deserves much praise for this book. I live in the United States, and used her method with a 9 year old boy. Perhaps we’ve forgotten how intimidating a piano score is if you’ve never seen one before. There is so much to learn. One thing that sets this method above all the others are the illustrations and exercises. Seeing the humorous drawings makes the subject less intimidating. For example, she uses illustrated stories, in which blank letters in words have to be added from musical notation to complete the story. Very clever and engaging. There are dozens of other very clever illustrations in her book.
The emphasis on intervals is most welcome, as I believe this is the key to performing music.
The book seems to be preparing students for some form of examination that we don’t encounter in the US. There are also differences in terms. We use fractional names like quarter or eighth notes, rather than minims or crotchets. So those areas were a bit confusing for the student. There are other “Britishisms” in the book, but not so many to discourage American students.
The exercises in the book are very well done. Each concept is explained, and then the student is given enough exercises to reinforce the concept. The last chapters include composing for various instruments. So in one book the student is taken from learning the notes to orchestration.
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. Thank you Rachel!”
Amy Chidley (Violin teacher, Warwickshire)
“It’s a great resource…thanks for making theory interesting!”..
“I have just completed your book from start to finish with a 19 yr old dyslexic pupil. He came to me a year ago not knowing the difference between a crotchet and a quaver… He is now doing the exam in a few weeks, and practice papers are giving him an average of 85, so I have every confidence he will pass! So, THANKS!”
Anon. (20th Aug 2010)
An excellent quick all-in-one music theory book, with teaching methods and visual aids that make principles easy to remember.
“Excellent quick reference for any learner who has time constraints, but would still like to acquire knowledge of the basic principles of the theory of music. Especially encouraging book for adults who might have thought they had lost the chance to learn music theory years ago. Everything you need to know right up to Grade 5 theory, all in one handy compact book”.
Fordmax (Amazon review April 2011)
This, in my humble opinion, is the holy grail of theory books. Yes, it costs a little more [than the average], but there’s over 250 pages. Everything is broken down into it’s simplest form, with lots of humorous quizzes/puzzles to work through to make sure you can put what you’ve learnt into context. At no point do you feel you’ve been over-faced with a concept unlike the more traditional books.
Click the following image to read in detail about the differences between the third edition (now available) and the second edition of All-In-One to Grade 5.
Enthusiasts of the All-In-One series may also be interested to know about the differences between the first and second edition which, although less significant than the differences between second and third edition, are still note worthy. The 2nd  EDITION includes additional exercises for both ‘traditional’ and ‘fractional’ note values (alternative terminologies) because knowledge of the fraction method helps the understanding of Time Signatures. Importantly the second edition combines material from the previously separate ‘Reference Booklet – for the complete beginner’ (which was always sold together with All-In-One to Grade 5 but could also be purchased separately). Rachel was eager to avoid confusion by amalgamating the two books, especially because some Amazon customers reported not having received it (the main book makes little sense without it and unfortunately we know the booklet sometimes became detached from the main book at the Amazon depot).