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Grade 5 theory - how to tackle this?

(27 Posts)
elevenclips Sun 24-Sep-17 11:57:17

Both my dc are working on grade 3 music instrument exams to be taken this term. The time when grade 5 theory is required is not too far off so I want to try and plan to get it done in time. I do have grade 5 theory myself (from when I was a child) but neither my mum nor I can remember what book/s we studied or where they were from confused

We have the music theory for young musicians grade 2 and grade 3 books and the kids are getting bogged down, particularly with beaming loads of seniquavers. I was wondering if there was a single book that prepares you for the grade 5 music theory exam or if they have to plough through every book - if that is the case, do they have to memorise material from all 5 books or just the last G5 one? Any help appreciated! Kids 10 yo and 11 yo. 10yo more motivated but neither are highly motivated when it comes to theory, they prefer to play.

Notcontent Sun 24-Sep-17 12:11:37

Watching this with interest as we are in the same situation! DD (11) is about to do grade 4 piano but has done very little theory... We need to get cracking.

Minimusiciansmama Sun 24-Sep-17 18:34:05

My DDs teacher said recently it's perfectly possible to prepare a kid purely for G5 theory though she prefers to work through it organically. Xx

Wafflenose Sun 24-Sep-17 19:33:43

I prefer to wade through every single bit of every single book and don't enter them until they are solid in every section, so capable of distinctions (sorry!). However, I've had a few students come to me for help, having already been entered and struggling. In those cases, I've quickly worked through the past papers until we've found the level they're struggling with (usually Grade 3) then worked through the text books from there. If I've had to miss bits out, it's been the rules around beaming/ rests, and massive chapters about converting simple to compound time, which rarely comes up.

elevenclips Mon 25-Sep-17 10:05:08

Will continue ploughing............aargh!

SugarMiceInTheRain Mon 25-Sep-17 10:09:50

I think the problem with going in at Grade 5 level, is that even if they're good at reading the music, there's a surprising amount of basic stuff they may have skimmed over. Best to work through methodically (I'm getting DS to do a page or 2 a day before/ after his music practice so that he doesn't have to cram it like I did when I wanted to do grade 6 practical.

Dapplegrey2 Mon 25-Sep-17 10:19:57

You have my sympathy op.
Are there any online apps on which your dc can practice beaming and other aspects which can be helped by plenty of practice?
Theory grade 5 is like a driving test - once done you don't have to repeat it and then it's onwards and upwards with playing.

Moominmammacat Mon 25-Sep-17 13:10:33

Agree with Wafflenose, wade through the ABRSM books from Grade 1, little and often. That said, one of mine did G5 very quickly, passed but has huge gaps in knowledge. Another one, who eventually got G8 theory, did it properly but it was slow.

LooseAtTheSeams Mon 25-Sep-17 13:59:44

I agree with Waffle. DS1 did a rather too accelerated plough through grades 4 and 5 with not enough practice. The result was he scraped through and got dazzling marks in certain sections but rather sad ones in others! Clearly there were some careless gaps or things he didn't know.
DS2 is doing it completely differently, He does 10 minutes at the beginning of his piano lesson, plus homework. He's done the grade 1 book and started grade 2. His teacher has asked him to do one grade 1 paper to check progress and then she plans to continue by topic through the grades so he covers subjects rather than books. She isn't going to let him sit the grade 5 exam unless there's a strong chance of a distinction! I think she's right - not so much for the grade but because it will mean he learns it thoroughly.

Nigglenotes Mon 25-Sep-17 17:47:52

I am typing as I sit with DD covering the last of g5 theory for the exam in Nov. She is 9 and we started in April. I use both the Theory for young musicians and the Eric Tylor books. I found the explanations in the former books better but there are loads of exercises and if I felt she had got the point, we moved to the same section in the latter book. We have done it ourselves and it has taken about 140 hours in total. Couldn't really afford for her violin teacher to do this, as at £40 per hour, it seemed rather expensive when it is entirely possible to do it yourself, and I never sat theory. When I got stuck, I looked up Victoria William's website,, and looked at the free videos and explanations.

For the words, I printed them out, laminated them a day we do them in bunches.

Greenleave Mon 25-Sep-17 17:55:59

Niggle, you did exactly what we did (and you wrote it beautifully in details) except we found out only 3 weeks before the exam, it was a great website and explain in friendly terms to my daughter(small difference that I didnt/couldnt help mine, we didnt have to pay any for theory. The books can add up though, loads of past papers practice. Eric Taylor eventually was her golden source. We didnt do any pregrade 5 and just went through past papers and abrsm practise book for each grade. I must have wrote about our gr5 theory experienc

Greenleave Mon 25-Sep-17 17:57:03

Experience 10 times now, the same question is asked every often.

LooseAtTheSeams Mon 25-Sep-17 18:29:25

Ah, must look up my music That sounds great!

Nigglenotes Mon 25-Sep-17 18:41:52

In about a week or so we will move on to 3 practice exams a week until she sits it. For composition I paid VW about £8 to mark 2of her earlier compositions and DD got 9/15 and 10/15, and the comments showed me what we needed to work on.

Nigglenotes Mon 25-Sep-17 19:41:44

Yes, Green, this is DD's first theory exam too. I think that is quite standard. A shame you found the website in the last weeks as it is quite helpful. Am thinking of doing g6 next year, as DD is in Year 5 at a small village primary and her homework consists of 20 minutes combined of maths/English homework. Per week. So she currently has plenty of free time, and after Primary, in Year 7, the increase in the workload will be a big shock to her so it may be better to concentrate on music now.

MiddlingMum Mon 25-Sep-17 21:07:51

Bear in mind that the syllabus has changed so any exams taken from Easter 2018 will be the new ones. Sample papers available on the ABRSM website. They are MUCH easier - although AB won't ever agree that they have been dumbed down.

The composition element has been taken out sad Such a shame as there is no chance for candidates to do anything creative now, it's just regurgitating fairly basic information.

A pupil who has been taught properly by their instrumental teacher should only need a few lessons to catch up on topics that may not have been quite so relevant. However, all too often the theoretical aspect is neglected as though it's somehow different to "playing".

Or, abandon ABRSM altogether and do Trinity Guildhall exams.

Nigglenotes Mon 25-Sep-17 21:31:16

Middling, I was aware the exams are changing, and from January composition isn't a requirement. But, you know, DD is very interested in creating her own pieces, in a very amateur way, and I decided that, if this is what she is interested in I wouldn't be doing her any favours by leaving it to next year. If she wants to compose, then she will have to learn how.

I have to say that I disagree though about being taught properly and only needing a few lessons to catch up. The reality is different, when with an exam coming up there is, in the last month, a five minute scramble at the end of a lesson to cover the aural aspect. It is always left to the last minute and always slightly unsatisfactory. Theory is on top of that, and assumed to be almost inhaled by the nature the lessons. This doesn't happen, as it has a very specific graduation of knowledge.

In the first couple of years the need to get children to really engage with their instrument by playing outweighs the requirement to teach theory. Depends on the child, but DD, who sits g5 in Dec having started 2 years ago wouldn't have been interested before she became reasonably able.

Nigglenotes Mon 25-Sep-17 21:32:25

I will look at the g6 sample papers though, to see what it looks like!

raspberryrippleicecream Mon 25-Sep-17 22:19:43

DS2 is sitting G6 theory this time and has found it quite a step up. I got the impression it isn't changing much in the new syllabus. If that's right it will surely make it a bigger step between the two.

We saw the oral surgeon today for his misplaced canine tooth, and it definitely needs to come out. Consultant said he hoped to get it done in the next 2-3 months, which probably means bang in the middle of Christmas concerts. Plus DS gets some paid work playing in December too! Consultant reckoned it would be no playing for a week. Am unsure whether to warn conductors etc it might be an issue, or to wait til we get a date

raspberryrippleicecream Mon 25-Sep-17 22:21:42

Ignore my post, in the wrong thread!

Malbecfan Wed 27-Sep-17 17:15:28

I made my older daughter plough through the books. She hated it, I hated it and she scraped through the exam at the age of 10. Younger daughter did what I now teach: get hold of the last 2 years of grade 5 papers. Look at question 7 - chords at cadential points. Teach them how to answer that question - work out the key (F, C, G or D only), work out chords I, II, IV and V then choose the best fit. 10 marks in the bag.

Then move onto something else straightforward e.g. voices in score. Do some of them. Then teach them the formula for major and both minor scales. Each time I use paper A as my explanation and they do B, C and S for practice. We work through a whole paper question by question. I never go near the books any more.

We spend very little time on beaming, musical terms etc as they carry so few marks. If they know them or can work them out, great! My average time working with my students is around 10 weeks and the average mark is a merit. Yes, I get distinctions and pass marks, and even the actual pass mark on more than one occasion but the fact is, they have passed the exam and that is all they need.

My school enters around 10 students each session for grade 5 theory and a couple each year for grade 8. They are all taught the same way and it works for us.

elevenclips Wed 27-Sep-17 19:13:30

Malbec - will the changed syllabus impact your approach (sorry am completely ignorant as to the changes)

Ferguson2 Sun 15-Oct-17 20:42:15

Get the Theory syllabus for the appropriate (presumably ABRSM) and all the Theory books and practice papers they do.

It is important to UNDERSTAND the Theory, and not just learn it by rote.

Ferguson2 Sun 15-Oct-17 20:49:56

Dr Helen Czerski did a BBC4 documentary on the Science of Sound Waves, a few months ago, that might go some way to clarifying some aspects of Theory.

tinypop4 Wed 18-Oct-17 08:48:17

I teach grade 5 theory as a stand alone. I have loads of pupils that come for an intensive period just to get through it so they can work on grade 6 practical.
I tend to start at about grade 3 level, work through the most important bits and then focus on the requirements for grade 5.

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