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Music Theory - it's never too late

(40 Posts)
scanisiobi1 Sun 17-May-15 20:38:37

Just to give you hope, I gave up music as a teenager because I did not have a grasp of the foundations. Years later it still gnawed at me. It took me 5 years to find a teacher in London. And turns out it wasn't me, it was my old music teachers that were the problem. It simply wasn't possible for me to self teach grade 5 without a detailed and thorough music education. Now I am about to take grade 5, after two and a half years of studying the "Danish" and my lowest score to date was 93% for grade 4.

So if you or your child just doesn't get it - it's not you. It's the learning style. Keep the faith. Oh, and it can be fun too. Now I'm thinking about becoming a music teacher myself...

JassyRadlett Sun 17-May-15 20:44:38

Huge congrats! I loved theory but had a fab teacher, makes such a difference.

Wafflenose Sun 17-May-15 22:02:46

Well done to you! My DD9 is taking Grade 3 Theory soon - we have been working at it on and off for two years. Hopefully only another year or so to Grade 5. I know she has a better understanding than I did at her age, but some topics are a real struggle. It's really good to hear of someone who didn't get it at first, but got there in the end!

JulieMichelleRobinson Mon 18-May-15 13:52:34

I got a surprise student (another teacher's piano student) through grade 3 in a couple of months by focusing a lot on exam technique. The girl had grade 4 piano, so knew all the relevant scales etc. from playing them (theory is so piano-centric, growl). What she didn't have, was the know-how to apply her practical knowledge in the exam. E.g. that if you know how to play an E-flat major scale, you can probably write it out. A lot of our lessons were focused on understanding the questions and how to apply things you already knew about to your answers.

FWIW, I passed grade 5 theory at 10yo and only took my grade 6 this academic year, 20 years later, scraping a merit. I actually have a BMus from a reputable university, and I struggled with grade 6 theory. General musicianship exams rock!!! ;-) :p

Musicmom1 Mon 18-May-15 19:39:21

That is good to know OP - I had promised to take grade 5 theory with dd this June but I have opted out as I am so far behind; not playing an instrument really is a hindrance.

JMR you give me hope for dd (9) - she is so laid back about the exam and I am just hoping she knows enough through playing, and occasional random theory lessons that she will scrape through. And then go back to it when she is more 'ready' to study theory properly. She is not learning the piano (except for her own attempts) so does not even have that foundation! I suspect we are in for a major fail.....

Wafflenose Mon 18-May-15 19:50:15

I don't let DD move on to the next grade until she's consistently scoring in the 90s - am I mean? Anyway, I'm hoping to do a page a day of the Grade 4 book over the summer, a past paper each weekend in the Autumn, start the Grade 5 book in the new year, past papers from Easter and exam next June. Does that sound like a good plan? There's no real rush... she's doing Grade 6 Recorder in the autumn, but with Trinity, and I think Grade 6 Flute with ABRSM is probably a couple of years away yet.

scanisiobi1 Mon 18-May-15 19:58:59

This is all great news. Better to study slow and steady and fully understand it, than to race ahead just to bag the next grade. ABRSM has worked for me.

If anyone based in North London needs a good teacher please give me a shout and I'll pass on her details.

Musicmom1 Mon 18-May-15 20:53:30

It's not about bagging the next grade - or not for us anyway - for us its about pulling together lots of things without the benefit of a musical parent who can both 'know' their child's progress and support on a daily basis.; its about consolidating for dd and it may or may not work but I respect her or wanting to see where she is. I esp respect the practice and work she puts in when I am next to useless musically and I certai ly can't afford daily lessons! I think we all have to be careful not to judge other dc's musical journeys - they are individuals and each find their own path and motivations but presumably all love music or they would stall whatever; frankly none of dd's friends cars about music grades, swimming grades etc so their is little bragging benefit.

Some of our most inspirational uk musicians made major choices at a young age that could be called grade bagging but actuallly reflected sacrifices and choices they made ( not that dd is in anyway likely to end up with their amazing talent and achievement).

Wafflenose Mon 18-May-15 21:35:14

Oh gosh I'm not judging whatsoever... just explaining how slow DD1 is! I have known of a few children who managed to jump in with studying for Grade 5 without doing all the previous books and papers, based on their musical experience - most with great success - and I have every respect and think they are remarkable. I went very much slower (started Grade 1 Theory at 9/10, took breaks and did Grade 5 at 15) and DD1 is apparently the same. School gets in the way sometimes!

Wafflenose Mon 18-May-15 21:41:07

I also feel like I'm doing her a disservice, because we can't afford music lessons. She has to do Theory and Recorder with me (usually in the holidays only) and would rather have someone else. My mum pays for her flute lesson. I hope she will get some lessons through a local scheme eventually, although we are likely to have a long wait.

Ferguson Mon 18-May-15 23:38:58

It's not just the LEARNING of theory, but more importantly, UNDERSTANDING what is going on in music.

If you really understand why the black notes on the piano are grouped in two and in three, that I think that is a foundation to start from.

Then if you know and understand the 'circle of fifths' that is another useful step. There are several on-line explanations and demonstrations of these things.

MightHaveDoneBetter Tue 19-May-15 09:30:36

(Musicmom1 - I loved your post re young uk musicians & sacrifice! so true....)

kids - Theory papers -

get the past papers (available at any good music store), work through them using the pink Eric Hall book (AB Guide to Music Theory) to clarify concepts...

when scores for practice papers are consistently above 90%, enroll for the exam.

(enter for grades 1 & 3, practice for g 4... take grade 5)

When taking the exam -- On the side of the exam scratch paper - (for quick reference) always draw a picture of a keyboard (label the keys and the intervals (KNOW YOUR INTERVALS....) between each note), a circle of 5ths with the minor and major keys labelled as to number of flats and sharps - OR make a list of the flat and sharp keys... (maybe get your dc to practice doing all this quickly)

understand the difference between simple and compound time

understand how alto and tenor clef work ... 'C' just moves to a different place on the stave! (just like transposing really...)

know the intervals for transposing for instruments that transpose (know WHICH instruments transpose)

memorise the terms in the Eric Hall book (at the back of the book)

Theory is just new concepts ... the exams are about being able to apply them quickly. Good practice for any subject really and not all that difficult. I was rubbish at theory as a child cuz everybody made such a big deal out of it but successfully coached my own dc through g5

MightHaveDoneBetter Tue 19-May-15 09:30:36

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