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Theory Workbooks by Anna Butterworth - Still Current?


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#1 Dr. Rogers

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Posted 10 June 2019 - 14:25

Question: Are the Theory Workbooks by Anna Butterworth still current for the ABRSM theory exams, or have they been superseded by Music Theory in Practice?

 

I am studying for ABRSM G6 theory, hoping to take the exam in November.  I am working through Harmony in Practice (chords out the wazoo!), and recently picked up Butterworth's Grade 6 Theory Workbook.  But I'm wondering if I should have purchased Grade 6 Music Theory in Practice instead.

 

Thoughts?  Other recommendations?

 

 


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#2 Hildegard

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Posted 10 June 2019 - 16:58

Music Theory in Practice is very out of date - even when it first came out it wasn't particularly well focused on the exams.


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#3 Crock

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 11:22

Yes the Theory Workbooks by Anna Butterworth (and I think co-authors) are still current (Grades 6-8) and I think are very good.  There are some very useful explanations of how to approach the harmony and the composition questions and there are excellent examples worked through in detail in a way I haven't found anywhere else.

 

They are more useful than the Music Theory in Practice (although these are not formally out of date for Grades 6-8, since the syllabus for these higher Grades hasn't changed) simply because the style and the way of writing of these  Music Theory in Practice books is not particularly helpful in tackling the questions.

 

I worked through the Grade 6 Theory Workbook a few years ago for my self-taught Grade 6 Theory, and the exam went fine.  I've now worked through the Grade 7 Workbook, I just haven't got round to doing the G7 exam..... life keeps on getting in the way... (or am I just being cowardly?) 


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#4 Dr. Rogers

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 12:36

Thank you both for your feedback.  I bought volumes 1 - 5 of Music Theory in Practice back when I was preparing for G5 theory, but I wasn't very impressed with them and didn't use them much.  As general theory worksheets, they're probably fine, but not the greatest for test prep.

 

Crock, I'm glad to hear that you were able to do Grade 6 self-taught.  That's the situation in which I find myself.  Some of the material is review for me (I've been doing harmonization since I was a child) but some is new (figured bass and four-part writing - I studied four-part writing years ago, but that was more than 20 years ago and I never took it very seriously).

 

It seems like a pretty big jump from G5 to G6, especially since the ABRSM re-worked the G5 test to focus on general knowledge.

 

What is the gap like between G6 and G7?

 

My ultimate goal for theory is to do G6, G7, and G8 with ABRSM, and then do AMusTCL.  I'm doing this in parallel with preparation for ARSM (and hopefully DipABRSM after that) in piano performance, and at some point I should also take DipABRSM in teaching.  I'm not ambitious, am I?


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#5 Crock

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 14:22

Austin, I should add that decades previously (in the 70s) I had done O-level music (the then public exams done by 16 year olds in the UK) which as Aquarelle commented very recently had lots of theory and harmony in it back then, so my self-taught Grade 6 involved largely "revision" from long ago... I think the present G6 standard is pretty similar to that of the old O-level (I still have the O-level papers!). 

 

Yes, there is indeed a large jump from G5 to G6 in that G6 involves harmonisation, figured bass etc. whereas G5 is now just "rudiments" based, but I was aware of this before starting out.

 

The question about the gap between G6 and G7 is an interesting one.  We've discussed this before on this forum and forumite Sbhoa said she found G7 easier than G6.  The extra harmonic knowledge required is indeed very small. The very useful site https://www.mymusictheory.com/ (my second main source of help after the Workbooks) also says somewhere the difference is small.  In fact, I find some of the G7 harmony questions harder than G6 even though no more formal knowledge is needed.  This is because more stylistic awareness is required and it's more open ended, for example in adding passing notes convincingly to a cut-down Bach chorale, or adding a melody above a given piano accompaniment. It'll be interesting to see what you think.

 

I'm also planning to do Trinity Theory Grade 8 - the Trinity syllabus is rather different from ABRSM with more questions on form and less on harmony.

 

You have much more ambitious goals than I do!  All the best with them all (oh and many congratulations by the way on your Grade 8 Piano result which I saw on another thread).  Grade 8 Piano is another ambition of mine, having done G7 Piano some years ago too, but it will have to wait until I retire, which sadly is no time soon. Let alone the violin, cello and guitar which I never find time to practise at the moment...


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#6 elemimele

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 15:37

this is going off-topic here, but I'm just curious. I wonder whether the world would be a better place were there no requirement for grade 5 theory in order to take grade 6+ practical exams. I get a distinct impression that the unwanted side-effect of this very-well-meant requirement is that grade 5 theory can't be made "too hard", or it would have the knock-on consequence of messing up the grade6+ performers. Hence the sudden change in attitude between grade 5 and grade 6.

I almost think that the essentials of theory should be built into the practical exams themselves. Or if this can't be done on the day, perhaps some sort of on-line theory test associated with each grade?? (though it would be hard to ensure it was carried out properly). It would certainly be good if the lower theory grades could include some of the more musical topics - at the moment, there's very little up to and including grade 5 that's going to make a practical musician sit up and think "Wahooo, so this is how it all works! Keep going this way, and one day I could compose beautiful music/fill out accompaniments/write gorgeous melodies/fit music to words/arrange fuer Elise for three saxophones and a kettle-drum" or whatever turns them on.


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#7 Latin pianist

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 15:55

I suppose the musical knowledge questions for Trinity and LCM do mean that the candidate has to have done some theory.
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#8 HelenVJ

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 18:10

I don't know about LCM, but the Music Knowledge questions for Trinity are an option, as is Sight-Reading. So it's possible to avoid both until after Grade 5, when Sight-reading becomes compulsory and the MK section is no longer required.


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#9 Latin pianist

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 18:14

It's not an option in LCM, you have to be able to answer questions on any of your pieces. As you get to the higher grades, you do need good theory knowledge.
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#10 SingingPython

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 17:35

My (untutored, and about 3 years ago) impression of the Music Theory in Practice book for grade 6 was that it could be a source of exercises but contained little useful teaching material.  Certainly the teacher who taught my son for grade 6 mainly used other material.  He and a friend, having been very carefully and thoroughly prepared for grade 6, did their grade 8 two years later with rather less work.  At least for them the gap 5-6 was if anything bigger than 6-8.  But their other musical experience helped them, especially for the figured bass realisation stuff (choristers).

 

I grew up with AMEB exams (Australia), one thing I do think was better was their theory syllabus.  It was structured more gradually but introduced more of the rudiments of harmony much earlier.  The advantage to their system was that (I think) grade 2 theory was a prerequisite for grade 6, then up a theory grade for each practical exam till grade 6 as a prerequisite for L Mus.  So far fewer people may have got as far as grade 5 theory,, but many more will have done grades 3 or 4; the content of the latter was comparable to ABRSM grade 5 I think (except for including basic 4 part harmonisation).  Strings, wind, and brass instruments were spread over consecutive grades too.

 

Their practical exams also included general knowledge / structure questions on the pieces played too.  Many not so fond memories of rubbing all extraneous marks off the music before piano exams as a result ...


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#11 Aquarelle

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Posted 17 June 2019 - 15:35

As I have said on another thread I am seriously thinking of going over to Practical Musicianship  Grade 5 which is one of the alternatives the AB accept; I'm intending to try out some of the earlier PM grades with some of my younger pupils to see if this might be a better way through. It's a bit too late for my prospective G 6 pianists 2020 particularly as they have to do all their theory from work books in English. This makes progress much slower as they can't work on ahead of their own accord.

 

I am very keen on theoretical knowledge being in place but I have come over the years to dislike the ceiling against which many of my teenagers have bumped. As I said elsewhere I don't think "You can't do this because you haven't done that" is a very helpful piece of pedagogy. It wouldn't be too difficult to  drop this requirement (which might lose the AB some income) but would stop the flight to Trinity and therefore gain them some income. neither would it be too difficult to find an easier alternative such as theoretical questions on the pieces being presented in the practical exams.  I can't defect because Trinity don't examine in France at the moment and in any case I don't want to. I do moan about some things the ABRSM do  or don't do but there are many things I like.


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