Brian Pickering November 2009
A short guide to passing the Grade 5 Theory Examination
Introduction NB This guide does not give you everything you need to know in order to achieve a 100% result, but if you know all of this, then you will be in a position to answer many of the examination questions efficiently, and will be very likely to reach more than the 66% pass mark. Additional study of one or more of the relevant publications is advised, together with practice on previous exam papers. No liability can be accepted for any mistakes made in examinations as a result of reading this guide. First some guidance on examinations in general: 1. 2. 3. Be careful, calm, clear and concise, and always read the question twice! Read the whole paper before commencing the first answer. Select the question you find easiest and answer this first, then continue in order of your preferred questions, leaving the most difficult to last. Look through the paper and your answers carefully before leaving the examination room. One fact about music theory which sometimes surprises people is that there are no exceptions. The rules are always followed strictly in orthodox theory, unlike most languages.
Contents Item 1 Item 2 Item 3 Item 4 Item 5 Item 6 Item 7 Item 8 Item 9 Item 10 Item 11 Item 12 Item 13 Scales, Key Signatures and the Circle of Fifths Pattern of Tones and Semitones in Major and Minor Keys Intervals Chords Composition Time Signatures Transposition Degrees of the Scale Clefs Short Score and Open Score in Choral Music Ornaments Sundry Items including some special foreign words Standard Orchestral Families of Instruments
Scales, Key Signatures and the Circle of Fifths
Knowing the Circle of Fifths by heart will provide you with quick and accurate answers to a large proportion of the examination questions. You cannot, of course, take a copy of it into the examination room with you. However, you are always provided with blank paper in the examination room and there is no reason why you should not, from memory, write out the Circle of Fifths on a sheet of paper. If you do, it will provide you with a quick reference when relevant in any of the questions – and there will be several where it will help. To remember the order of the Sharps in any (Sharp) Key, we need to memorise the following sequence: F C G D A E B To do the same for Flats in (Flat) Keys, the sequence is reversed: B E A D G C F There are many ways of remembering these sequences, but most people use a mnemonic (memory aid). The most popular is “Frederick Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle”. This can be said in reverse, “Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles Frederick”. Many people find it better to make up their own sentences to remind them. Here is a full version of the Circle of Fifths.
You will notice that if you start from the 1-Flat position (F Major), and continue clockwise, the Sharp sequence is followed. Once you reach B Major, then the sequence restarts with F but of course since this is the first note to be sharpened, it must be included in the 6 Sharp Key, which is therefore F#. Similarly, Starting from the 2-Flat position with the Flat sequence, the Key is Bb since B is the first note to be flattened and therefore is one of the 2 Flats. When we turn to minor Keys, you will see that A minor is 3 positions anticlockwise from A Major, (You could say it is 3 hours back). This applies to all the other Major and minor Keys in the same way. Of course when we reach Ab minor, because this appears on the Sharp side of the circle, we have to give it its enharmonic equivalent name of G# minor. Similarly, Db minor becomes C# minor because 4 Sharps is a more easily understandable Key than 8 Flats. Normally when working in Flat Keys we use the Flat designation for accidentals, and similarly in Sharp Keys we use the Sharp name. Thus in a Flat Key we will talk about Ab, whilst in a Sharp Key...