ABRSM Music Theory Exam Past Papers...
..are an established and effective way to prepare your students for music theory exams but sometimes they can seem like a bit of a "blunt instrument" The materials here are not designed to replace music theory (such as those provided by ABRSM, Trinity, Rock School etc) exam past papers but to improve results by allowing you and your students to use classroom time effectively and to devise targeted revision programmes tailored to the strengths and weaknesses of individual students
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Download a FREE alternative to a Music Theory Past Paper
Using The Music Theory "Mini Exams"
Music Theory "Mini Examinations" are an important part of our music teaching resources. The twenty "Quick and Dirty" tests outlined below and the free samples of our worksheets above are designed to help music educators to effectively assess both the entry behaviour and progress of their students as well as to provide a targeted alternative to the "blunt instrument" of using past papers to increase understanding and to prepare for exams
Using "official" past examination papers is a great way to prepare music theory students in the period just before an examination but those things take up a lot of time (usually a whole session) and the reality is that for learners who are struggling with music theory the process of spending an hour staring at an examination paper that they are ill prepared to complete can have a counter productive effect. They can come away from the experience convinced that they will never "get' music theory and that the whole thing is way too complicated for them.
What do your students know and how do you know that they know it?
Using "Music Mini Exams" as a Diagnostic Tool
If you have your students complete "Music theory Test No 1" at the beginning of your first session with them it will allow you to accurately and quickly judge where they are with regard to basic music theory. Scale construction, chord construction and the extent of their familiarity (or not as the case may be?) with notated music. The test provides an accurate "snapshot" of a learners grasp of the "nuts and bolts" of melody and harmony.At the end of a simple ten minute test you will have evidence of the strengths and weaknesses of each member of your student group. From there you will be able to come up with a plan to get them from where they are to where they need to be
Download a free music theory exam and student progress tracking system for your students today
By following the link below you will be able to download and print a free diagnostic and tracking system to use with your students today. After your learners have completed the test you can complete the tracking document to provide you (and your students) with reliable evidence of progress to date as well as allowing you to quickly and accurately identify just where in the chain of topics they "fell off" with regard to developing a "joined up" knowledge of music theory
Using the theory test as a diagnostic is just the first stage. The reality that we face as music teachers is that an ever decreasing number of our students read music fluently and as a consequence their exam results will suffer. If that were not bad enough we as educators tend to be judged to a large extent by how well our students do at exams. We need a way to have them understand how music theory works without having first to develop the ability to read music.
As educators we need to get away from the idea that in order to understand music theory you first need to be able to read music. It simply is not true.
When I graduated from music college (way back in the last century) reading music was the single skill that would get (and then keep) you in the music business as a professional working musician. Alongside playing with bands doing original material in search of the "big break" it was perfectly possible to make a reasonable living picking up gigs in theatres, holiday camps, hotels and cabaret clubs backing touring solo performers etc. The reality nowadays is that those kind of gigs do not exist to anything like the same extent that they did. I realise that I will annoy a lot of people when I say that it is now arguable that being familiar with technology and social media (Logic, Final Cut, Youtube, Twitter etc) is just as, or more important than sightreading when it comes to developing the skills that will get and keep you in the music business. We may not like it but that is where we are
If you look a it another way maybe its even more healthy? Rather than spend countless hours learning to sightread on an instrument so that you can walk into a room and read some (quite often) fairly dreadful music in order to perform to an audience who dont really care whether you play or not maybe it is better to be able to write a song, record it on a computer and (providing you can scare up enough people to listen to it) load it onto Itunes and Youtube etc and then sit back and get paid from downloads and adverts.
The music business has changed. There is of course still a huge role to be played for those who read notation but it is now possible to profit from music without leaving the bedroom. Our "none reading" students will be able to write better songs if they understand the melodic and harmonic elements of music theory
"If music students can count from one to twelve and and are able to recite The Alphabet from A through to G then they already have the tools that they need in order to understand the harmonic and melodic elements of music theory"
Teaching Music Theory from a "standing start"
Music theory is a little bit (or rather a lot) like maths. If you do not fully
understand the basics then you can never develop a "joined up" and reliable knowledge of the more advanced areas of study. The following material looks at the vital topics and (just as importantly) the order in which those topics should be encountered by our students. Many of our worksheets require our students to use notation but many do not. It is possible to use this material to ensure that learners can identify and name any note correctly and then go on to construct all major and minor scales and chords without having to deal with notation. This means that notation can be introduced at the right time (when our students already understand how music works)
Music theory: Which order should topics be taught in?
It does not matter which examinations board (ABRSM, Trinity, Rock School etc) our students are studying with if they cannot name notes correctly and with confidence they will fail.
The materials available here are designed to help teachers ensure that students become proficient at this most basic skill. We have a whole range of worksheets designed to help your students to "understand" the principles that govern music theory and being able to name notes correctly and with confidence is the vital first step. Having developed the ability to name notes correctly they will be ready for the next stage of study. Whole-Step and Half-Step intervals (or tones and semitones if you prefer?).....
Whole-Step and Half-Step Intervals
When our students have developed the ability to name notes correctly they are ready to begin to combine sequences of notes into scales.
In order to understand scales (and in due course the chords that are derived from them) our students are required to have a thorough knowledge of whole-step and half-step intervals.
They need to be able to identify any given note (and once they have completed the worksheets outlined above they will be able to). From there they should be able to go on to state the name (or potential choices of names) of notes both a whole-step and a half-step above or below the one originally identified. When they can do this correctly named notes can be combined in the established sequence of whole and half step intervals necessary to construct Major (or minor) scales
Using Whole and Half-Step Intervals to create and understand a C Major Scale
Using Whole and Half-Step Intervals to create all other Major Scales
Developing a "real and joined up understanding" of the factors (note names and the sequence of whole and half step intervals) which underpin the construction of the C Major Scale will stand our students in good stead. When they are required to construct or analyse other Major Scales. They will always be able to verify their assertions and conclusions by referencing the C major Scale. The logic that lies behind this is that "if you fully understand one Major Scale then you understand them all"
There is no need to "drip feed" scales to students gradually in accordance with the increasing numbers of sharps or flats in the key signature (as many exam awarding bodies do). Surely it is much better that they develop an understanding of all Major Scales
from a strong theoretical position. Following the scheme of work attached to this material will mean that all of your students will be able to identify the notes of any major scale after only a few classroom sessions.
Using The C Major Scale to construct a C Major Chord
Using other Major Scales to produce other Major Chords
Using Whole and Half Step Intervals to create minor scales
Using knowledge of minor scales to create minor chords
Using knowledge of major and minor scales and chords to understand which chords are contained within each key
As well as the many worksheets dealing with each topic in the above list you can use the early stages mini music theory exams (there are ten music theory tests in the download that are pitched at a similar level) with your student group throughout the study programme to let you and your students see how far they have progressed.
This will help enormously with regard to planning strategies that will allow you to move them on from where they are to where thy need to be.
Twenty "Quick and Dirty"
Music Theory Exams
More Music theory "Mini Exams" designed to allow you to assess entry behaviour and student progress
The first ten music theory exams in the download can be used during the early weeks and months to provide a "snapshot" of progress and attainment. They are a great way for your students to measure their progress. The tests can be used to help you and your students to identify areas of weakness. By quickly identifying those areas the tests will help you to come up with a plan to address those problems.
Personalised Revision Programmes for your music students based on "Quick" music theory exam scores
An effective way to do this is through personalised "revision programmes" composed of other targeted music worksheets from the download designed to strengthen students in specific areas (scale construction - chord theory - note naming etc)
The above graphic shows one of the basic level music theory tests which cover major and minor triads as well as basic major and minor scales. There are also ten advanced music theory tests which examine ans assess learners capabilities with regard to more "involved" areas of music theory such as 7th chords etc
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Download a FREE Music Theory "mini examination" paper
Please feel free to tour to tour the site and take a look at our music teaching resources designed to help take the stress out of teaching music theory. There are loads of freebies to download so that you can take a look at the high quality and well thought out music teaching resources that we offer
DOWNLOAD 300+ Music Theory Tests and Worksheets NOW!
A lifetime of Music Teaching Resources to use year after year for only $18.00
Its not just music theory examinations though
Our resources are designed by practicing music theory teachers and deal with the real "nuts and bolts" of music theory. Note Identification, Intervals, Scale construction, chord construction and key signatures.
Together they provide a structured and flexible path to higher understanding for our students.
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