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Victoria College of Music Theory (2020) syllabus and practice papers now available

Victoria College Of Music Theory Syllabus (2020) and Practice Papers Now Available

 

 

December 2019 sees the publication of Victoria College of Music new Music Theory syllabus for First Steps to Grade V, which I have had the privilege of designing so that it fits in well with my All-In-One Music Theory books (the first exam session commences in Spring 2020) . I have been delighted to work in collaboration with Victoria College of Music Examination board and that my music theory books have been endorsed by them as ‘Best Music Theory’.
The new music theory syllabus is available as a download from Victoria College of music’s website at https://www.vcmexams.co.uk/requestsyllabus.php). Alternatively it can be viewed as a ‘Graded Checklist’ within All-In-One Music Theory books.

Photograph of ‘GRADED CHECKLIST: VICTORIA COLLEGE OF MUSIC’ (from All-In-One to Grade 5 – Revised Third Edition)

Please note that the Revised Third edition of All-In-one to Grade 5 and All-In-One: Grades 1-3 book ARE now available from our website at www.aaronpublications.co.uk. Please be aware that if you wish to receive this very latest version of All-In-One to Grade 5 you should request it in the comment box at checkout or via a quick email to us at info@aaronpublications.co.uk (otherwise you risk getting the non-revised third edition because we still have some of the ‘old/current’ stock to use up).  Victoria College of Music (VCM) students require the ‘Revised’ third version due to an alteration made to one exercise in the book so that it corresponds with VCM key signature requirements. Also, importantly, the All-In-One books contain a Victoria College of Music Graded Checklist which is essential for VCM students for ease of navigation).

Practice papers for each Grade are available here:

First Steps Music Theory Practice (VCM)
Grade I Music theory Practice (VCM)
Grade II Music Theory Practice (VCM)
Grade III Music Theory Practice (VCM)
Grade IV Music Theory Practice (VCM)
Grade V Music Theory Practice (VCM)

This is material written by myself (as part of the process of devising the new syllabus) which now can be viewed on this website as ‘Extra Practice’ material, to supplement the many exercises already found within the All-In-One Music theory books. These papers are intended to give students an idea of the contents of the new grades, as the syllabus sets forth. Please send us a message (info@aaronpublications.co.uk) or  leave a message in the comment box at checkout if you wish to receive a high quality pdf printout of one or more of the practice papers. Please note that my practice papers are not exam papers and bear no resemblance to Victoria College of music examination papers, which are not written by me and for which I am not responsible. To request exam papers, written entirely by Victoria College of Music you should contact VCM exam board https://www.vcmexams.co.uk/contact.php

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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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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!).