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Grade 6 to 8 theory books


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#1 violingeek

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 01:35

Decided to finally continue my theory, so am looking do either my Grade 6 theory exam or just skip to 8. Not many teachers use Abrsm here, so even though I have found a teacher who's willing to teach me theory, she's not too familiar with the system and I have to go get the Abrsm books for her to take a look. I did Grade 5 almost 2 years ago and I only used the Theory of Music made easy for Grade 5 and loads of past exam papers. Should I get the Theory of Music made easy for Grade 6, 7, 8 or go with the Theory Workbooks? If I just get the books for 6. 7 and 8 and practise past year papers, would that be enough for the Grade 8 theory exam? Is there a book that covers everything tested from Grades 6-8?
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#2 BitterSweet

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 08:25

*really thinks a moderator should make a sticky thread about this, we get asked so often*

Firstly, some general advice:

- The exam format changes dramatically from grade 5 to grade 6, and many say it?s the largest leap. Have a browse through a past paper at a music shop to familiarise yourself with where you?re going.

- Allow plenty of time to study for it ? I would recommend at least a year.

- Start with more general workbooks on harmony before trying to tackle the exams. This is not an exam which is simply regurgitating facts any more!

- Listen to plenty of music, and get to know more about styles and composers as this will help with the score-reading questions.

- Make time for learning musical terms and instrumental names throughout your study time.

If in doubt, find a teacher. You are best to look for someone who specialises in theory at advanced level, so use a resource like ISM?s musican directory to ensure you?re going to someone who knows their stuff. You might be able to find someone who would help you over the internet, if you have access to a scanner and email, since your own teacher isn't familiar with the content.

Secondly, I would recommend getting the "Theory Workbook" over "Music Theory in Practice". The 6, 7 and 8 versions of the latter have a different author to the 1-5, and they're not as clear and easy to follow as the Theory Workbooks. However, even that's a daunting place to start, so I would have a look at some or all of these other resources first:

- Harmony is Fun (Maureen Cox & Claire Liddel) is your best starting point. Although these books don?t look like much, they review all the core harmony content from Grase 1-5, and then introduce more advanced building blocks with fun illustrations which will help you remember mother chord, and father chord for many years to come. It's a really good consolidation and transition option.

- Harmony in Practice (Anna Butterworth) is a mighty tome, and can appear both dense and dull on first reading. It is kinda both. However, you will never forget how to write out all the chords you might ever need since there are extensive practice exercises. Answer book is sold separately.

- Practice in Music Theory (Josephine Koh) provides the best ?graded? introduction to the skills required to pass the exam itself. These books work through the new harmonic vocabulary and key concepts before seemlessly moving onto tasks which echo the exam tasks. There is one book for each grade, and the link here is to Grade 6 on Musicroom.

- My Music Theory.com isn?t a book, although you can buy their lessons as a pdf, which sort of counts. They do, however, provide a careful introduction through the theoretical concepts leading towards the exam questions int he same way as Practice in Music Theory. Well worth using, though there?s nothing for 7 and 8 yet. Link is direct to the grade 6 page.

If you haven't already got both the pink and blue parts of the AB Guide to Music Theory (Eric Taylor) I would recommend getting them as reference material. They have, for example, a full list of all the musical terms which might come up and the names of the instruments in all four languages. These aren't enough alone, but are great for checking things like "how do I group demisemiquavers in 7/8?".

Of course, I have discovered since doing my Grade 7 that the Trinity syllabus doesn't have the horrible big gap between 5 and 6, and moves much more gently through the harmony content. I also prefer the fact that they range more widely and include things like blues scales and modes which the ABRSM don't cover. Therefore, you might also want to look at the Trinity and LCM as well to see if you prefer their content for advanced theory (though you do have to complete exams at a higher level for ABRSM to take them as a prerequisite for the teaching diplomas).

I hope that helps. If you have any more questions, please feel free to PM me, or ask in this thread.
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#3 katyjay

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 09:38

agree.gif with Bittersweet.

Trinity's workbooks are nice and user-friendly. I like their style, and the order in which they cover the ground.

But unless they've reprinted them very recently, all 3 of the higher grades contain a mistake in their instrument range descriptions - having changed it from a previous error sad.gif

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#4 jm-hamilton

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 10:04

I'd like to add a couple of books to the list that I found very useful:-

ABC of Harmony by Roy Wilkinson - there's a Book A, B and C that covers all the harmony you'll need for Grade 6 to 8 theory.

Also ABC of theory - same author - one book for each of the Grades 6 to 8.

I agree about Music Theory in Practice. I avoided it as I found other books much more helpful. The Josephine Koh books are also good.

I don't know Music Theory made Easy for the higher grades, but if you're used to it and you like the way it teaches the material then it'll be useful for you.


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#5 fadedpages

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 13:07

QUOTE(katyjay @ Mar 4 2013, 09:38 AM) View Post

agree.gif with Bittersweet.

Trinity's workbooks are nice and user-friendly. I like their style, and the order in which they cover the ground.

But unless they've reprinted them very recently, all 3 of the higher grades contain a mistake in their instrument range descriptions - having changed it from a previous error sad.gif


Can I ask what the mistake is? Then I can check my grade 6 book when I get home.
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#6 violingeek

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 13:09

That is really a lot of books! I did have a couple of lessons with my previous theory teacher before I moved so I have had a few lessons on harmony and know how mind-boggling it all is. I have tried working through the exercises on mymusictheory.com and at first, I found it really confusing but I went back to the first lesson, read through it and managed to work through most of the exercises till the harmonising a melody part. Didn't have answers for that so wasn't sure whether what I was doing was right or not. My teacher will be looking through the Abrsm books (specifically Harmony in Practice) at a music store before we decide which books to use. I shall keep these books in mind and see how it goes. Just a quick question, is Grade 6 to 8 theory really very difficult? How long would it take to Grade 8 theory if I have already done a little of Grade 6 theory and will study most of the materials on my own?
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#7 BitterSweet

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 13:34

Thanks to the Mod who pinned this, hopefully it will result in all the information being kept in one place smile.gif
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#8 Sunrise

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 13:48

The hardest part of teaching yourself Grades 6-8 is knowing if you are right or wrong...

The 6,7,8 workbooks do have good sample worked (step by step) questions, and give answers to the questions 4,5. However, the only place to find lots of worked answers for the harmony is via the Past papers as they have model answers.

I do recommend Harmony in Practice - together with the answer book - if you are looking to go up to grade 8. It has helped me immensely. I did also find mymusictheory.com a really big help.

I have the Josephine Koh Grade 8 book but again it comes with no worked answers, not even for the questions 4 & 5. For this reason, for self study, I would recommend the workbooks over it. However (I'm doing my grade 8 in Dec) I bought both for different worked harmony questions and a different explanation.

Hope this helps.
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#9 BadStrad

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 14:55

A second here for Harmony in Practice with the Answer booklet. I use that at home. In lessons we spend most of our time harmonising Bach Chorales as they're nice and short, but with plenty of scope for modulating and (trying to avoid) parallel fifths and octaves, leading note errors and so on.

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#10 BitterSweet

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 09:24

QUOTE(BadStrad @ Mar 4 2013, 02:55 PM) View Post

A second here for Harmony in Practice with the Answer booklet. I use that at home. In lessons we spend most of our time harmonising Bach Chorales as they're nice and short, but with plenty of scope for modulating and (trying to avoid) parallel fifths and octaves, leading note errors and so on.


I actually forgot I found this rather useful website http://www.choraleguide.com/ which is all about how to harmonise chorales, complete with all the details on the hallmarks of Bach's style.

There's also this website: http://www.jsbchorales.net/index.shtml which has mp3s and sheet music for all the choral chorales. It's a bit epic, but useful!
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#11 SingingPython

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 13:54

I'm not yet sufficiently familiar with the ABRSM theory syllabi, but would like to recommend the Australian "Master your Theory" workbooks by Dulcie Holland. As practice workbooks they are much more comprehensive and thorough than the ABRSM ones. Harmonising a tune comes in at grade 5 so the grade 5 and 6 workbooks between them would provide quite a lot of useful material in working towards grade 6 ABRSM and above. Other than marking my work, my piano teacher didn't really need to teach me much until grade 6 as it was "all in the book". I did need a bit of help now and then after that!
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#12 BitterSweet

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 15:52

QUOTE(SingingPython @ Mar 5 2013, 01:54 PM) View Post

I'm not yet sufficiently familiar with the ABRSM theory syllabi, but would like to recommend the Australian "Master your Theory" workbooks by Dulcie Holland. As practice workbooks they are much more comprehensive and thorough than the ABRSM ones. Harmonising a tune comes in at grade 5 so the grade 5 and 6 workbooks between them would provide quite a lot of useful material in working towards grade 6 ABRSM and above. Other than marking my work, my piano teacher didn't really need to teach me much until grade 6 as it was "all in the book". I did need a bit of help now and then after that!


Unfortunately, these books are not available widely or easily in the UK. Amazon, for example, has them listed as out of stock. The do seem to have some of the 'Practice Your Theory' books, but not a complete set and limited stock.
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#13 vulpus_rex

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 21:47

If I can offer one piece of advice then whether you look to do all the exams or leap to grade 8 then try and get your work attempts at past exam papers and work books looked at by a theory teacher.

Questions 4 & 5 at grades 6,7 & 8 are easy to prepare for in one sense in that you are either right or wrong, and can usually work out why when looking at the answers to past exams and the work books.

Questions 1,2 & 3 have model answers but make it clear that they are not the only solutions. Your solution will seldom match the given answer exactly so it is really helpful to know whether what you have put is satisfactory or complete nonsense, and then the reasons why.

I promise you it will make all the difference to your confidence when preparing for a real exam!
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#14 BitterSweet

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 10:56

QUOTE(vulpus_rex @ Mar 6 2013, 09:47 PM) View Post

If I can offer one piece of advice then whether you look to do all the exams or leap to grade 8 then try and get your work attempts at past exam papers and work books looked at by a theory teacher.

Questions 4 & 5 at grades 6,7 & 8 are easy to prepare for in one sense in that you are either right or wrong, and can usually work out why when looking at the answers to past exams and the work books.

Questions 1,2 & 3 have model answers but make it clear that they are not the only solutions. Your solution will seldom match the given answer exactly so it is really helpful to know whether what you have put is satisfactory or complete nonsense, and then the reasons why.

I promise you it will make all the difference to your confidence when preparing for a real exam!


I would also recommend making sure you're familiar with the marking criteria now that ABRSM have published it: http://forums.abrsm.org/...ria-grades-6-8/

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#15 violingeek

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 12:07

Great, I've just had a look at the marking criteria and I'm off to go get the books. I'm going to go get the Theory Workbooks for Grade 6 and 7. Not sure how fast I'll take to work through them so don't know if I should get 8 too. Would the Theory workbooks and past exam papers be sufficient? According to my teacher, this should be enough, but she highly encourages me to try getting the Harmony in Practice book if I can afford it because it's really expensive. Would I need the AB Guide to Music theory for all the general knowledge questions?
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