Grade 5


As in preceding grades, with the addition of:

1. Irregular time signatures of 5/4, 7/4, 5/8, 7/8, and the grouping of notes and rests within these times. Irregular divisions of simple time values.

2. Tenor clef (C clef centred on 4th line). The identification of notes in the four clefs in any of the keys set for this grade (see below), and the transposition at the octave of a simple melody from any clef to another. The writing at concert pitch of a melody notated for an instrument in Bb, A or F, and vice versa (the interval of transposition up or down will be given).

3. Scales and key signatures of all major and minor keys up to and including six sharps and flats. All simple and compound intervals from any note.

4. The identification of the 5 3 6 3 and 6 4 forms of the tonic, supertonic, subdominant and dominant chords in any of the keys set for this grade. The identification of the progression 6 4 5 3 (Ic-V) on the dominant note in any of the keys set for this grade. The choice of suitable chords at cadential points of a simple melody in the major key of C, G, D or F.

5. More terms and signs. The recognition of ornaments, including the replacement of written-out ornamentation with the appropriate signs, but not vice versa. Questions about a passage of music written for voices or instruments appropriate to the grade will include questions on the types of voice and names of instruments, the clefs they use, instrument family groups and the basic way by which they produce sound, as well as points of general musical observation designed to test the candidate’s ability to apply theoretical knowledge to actual music.

Importance of Grade 5 Theory

The ABRSM music theory syllabus up to grade 5 covers all rudiments relating to Western common practice music.  A good grasp on knowledge of music theory up to grade 5 of the ABRSM syllabus would involve proficiency in identifying the scales and key signatures of all 24 major and minor keys, simple and compound time signatures, the four most commonly-used clefs, basic harmonic progressions, scale degrees, simple transposition, and most terms and signs commonly encountered in notation.  Having a strong foundation in all these areas of knowledge is not simply helpful, but -absolutely essential- in progressing into higher grades in terms of instrumental performance, for these are the basic building blocks of Western common practice music.

A solid grasp on grade 5 music theory would form the foundation and pave the way for acquiring good sight-reading ability, good listening ability, as well as more advanced analytical ability in music, all of which should be in the toolbox of a competent performer, to help the performer make intelligent and informed musical decisions.  For example, being able to analyse the structure of a piece might help one better plan how to phrase a particular passage, apply the appropriate dynamics and articulations, or choose a suitable tempo. These are all decisions that should not be made arbitrarily, but after careful study of the music itself and perhaps the context surrounding the genesis of the work.

Therefore, in order to become a better performer, it is important to not only aim to pass the grade 5 ABRSM theory exams, but to solidly retain these skills and knowledge for more advanced application in the long run, in order to develop into a complete musician.

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