Wednesday, 5 March 2014

ABRSM grade 5 theory exam post match analysis

Grade 5 Theory Post match analysis

Well today I sat my first ABRSM theory exam. This was grade 5 theory the questions tend to form a fairly set pattern of questions with a few minor variations

Question 1 first part is usually a question on rhythm either as in the case today putting bar lines in various tricky combinations of quavers, semiquavers and hemisemiquavers or alternatively (slightly harder) deducing the time signature as it varies across the melody. Think I got this correct

Question 1 second part gives a passsage and you have to ask various questions about identifying chords quite often they throw a wobbly in that they will sneak a treble clef in the bass line or vice versa. This question seeemed relatively straightforward so again think I got most of this correct.

Question 2 can either be a question identifying 5 intervals or rewriting a piece in open score in short form or vice versa. The latter although straightforward provided you ensure that the tenor part in open score is usually wrtten an octave higher that it would sound is really tedious fortunately the question was
of the former type and provided you are careful making sure that you take into account the key signature can be reduced to modulo 12 arithmetic something I'll expand on in another post.

Question 3 is usually a series of questions on a piece of music identifying various terms such as Adagio or more obscure one's such as Zart (German for play it tenderly yeah right sounds more like fart :) ) still . Fortunately the terms weren't that difficult but I interpreted sforzando as play the note suddenly loud as opposed to forced. So probably lost two easy marks there.

Question 4 is usually a transpositon which can be quite tricky still following my fail safe method outlined a few posts ago I feel I got this one correct . We had to transpose a piece in F major up a major second. Once you realise that the new key is G major and that Eb transposes to F natural whilst E transposes up to F# but the key signature of G major takes this into account so you don't need to put the acccidental in then this is straightforward but tedious as they say in the books. I tend to leave this question till second last

Question 5 is a question on various scales so you are given a starting note and you had to write the ascending harmonic or melodic minor on that note. This time the note was the lower F on a bass clef it's relative major is Ab and it was the ascending harmonic minor that you had to write. This is the same as the notes of Ab major but the leading note in this case Gb is raised a semitone to G natural. The second part asked us to identify a key with 5 sharps (B major) and write a descending scale starting from B easy once you have identified the correct key. So again I think I got most of this out

Question 6 you had to complete a melody given a few starting notes. Normally you have to make sure you reach the dominant note at the end of the first phrase and find a way back to the tonic note in this case D. In between I tend to use a logical chord progession either IV or VI chords unfortunately my melodies tend on the whole to be a bit boring essentially ascending or descending scales with an occasional leap. Still if the melody is logical harmonically then I can't see the problem. Also you have to add dynamics and tempo directions. Who knows how much I got say 10 out of 15

Question 7 the one I find the easiest and the one I normally do first namely identify appropriate chords to fit a melody. You only have 4 to choose from namely 1, II, IV and V and usually this is quite straightforward once you have identified the key of the piece.

So overall take off a few marks for untidyness, and the melody I feel I'm reasonably confident of getting a merit ie > 80 % maybe distinction but one can never realise if you have made a silly mistake fingers crossed I haven't but this is very much a subjective view point so who knows.

Do I feel that doing grade 5 theory is worth it after having studied music at allegedly degree level via the open university. You betcha the grade 5 exams are good at checking you know the basics and I feel a lot more confident about how scales are constructed and how to identify intervals. Yes  the OU is conceptually more advanced than grade 5 but it didn't really reinforce the basics. So they are complementary and I feel the better for it.

Bring on grade 6 (by the end of the year hopefully)

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