What You Will Learn in Grade 1 Music Theory

Knowing what is required of you is the beginning of success

It is important for candidates of the ABRSM Theory of Music exams to understand the syllabus. Understanding what is required of you in the theory examinations will only contribute towards your success!

Here are the topics that you will need to learn and master as you prepare for the ABRSM Grade 1 Music Theory examinations.

  1. Time Values: crotchet, minims and semibreves, quavers and semiquavers
  2. Bars and time signatures (2/4, 3/4, 4/4)
  3. The musical alphabet: letter names of notes
  4. The stave and clefs
  5. Learning to write on the stave
  6. Ledger lines, and learning to write and identify ledger line notes
  7. Understanding sharps, flats and naturals; how to write them, and how they function
  8. Semitones and tones (half steps and whole steps)
  9. The C major scale - and how semitones and tones are arranged in the scale
  10. More scales: G, D and F major scales
  11. Rests: semibreve, minim, crotchet, quaver and semiquaver rests
  12. Tied and dotted notes
  13. Keys and key signatures, namely C, G, D and F major
  14. Accidentals
  15. The degrees of a scale, again focusing on C, G, D and F major
  16. Tonic triads (C, G, D and F major)
  17. Intervals (by number only): 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and octave (8ve) - this includes identifying melodic AND harmonic intervals
  18. Grouping notes within the bar/measure (as applied in 2, 3 and 4 beat measures)
  19. Musical term and signs/symbols

Planning your study of music theory

Here's are some helpful tips in planning your study of music theory for Grade 1 (ABRSM).

Step by Step, but Start Early

It's important that you start learning the basics of music theory well before your exams.

The topics listed above are progressive - that means, they build on one another.

It's wise to start learning the basics from the first topic - and only move forward to the next topic once you fully understand the material.

Write lots, Practice lots

Grade 1 music theory can be so much fun! Armed with your pencil and several pieces of music paper (manuscript), practice writing the new music symbols you learn in each topic.

The quicker you can write the symbols smoothly and clearly, the better position you will be in when you take the theory exams.

For instance, learn to write your clefs, time signatures, key signatures and accidentals clearly and with ease. Practice these often on your pieces of music manuscript, because you'll be writing these symbols frequently!

Remember -write clearly and legibly. It counts for a lot in your exam!

You want to secure as many marks as you can on your theory exam and give no room for the person marking/scoring your examination paper to doubt what you write.

Write clear music notes and symbols, and you'll have a better chance of scoring higher in your music theory exams.

Reap the Rewards of Review

Take time to review the topics you have learned. Many of the topics in Grade 1 will be entirely new to you.

It's important that you not only understand the topics, but constantly review the topics you have covered. If you are at all unsure about an aspect of the topic, be sure to ask your music teacher questions - and get answers. Quickly!

In every music theory grade for ABRSM, you are responsible for learning a list of music terms and music signs/symbols.

Be sure to make a list of these and memorize them well. Writing these down on flashcards is a wonderful way of reviewing these music terms and signs.

Review, and review again - and you'll reap the rewards!