You may have heard at some point in your musical learning that you have to learn Music Theory. We often get students and parents a little confused by what this is, and whether it is essential for them to learn it. Here we have our responses and answers to some of the most asked questions by our students and parents, to hopefully give you a better insight as to whether you need Music Theory lessons or not.

What is Music Theory?

Music Theory is essentially learning the language of music. Apart from being able to play the instrument you are learning, it is also important to be able to read and understand musical concepts in the music.

In the same way if we were to learn any language, being able to speak the language is one aspect, but being able to read, write and understand the language is another. As music is a language in itself, learning music theory helps us to understand the mechanics of this language. It helps us to be able to read the music we play, and to communicate it effectively in the way we play it.

When do I need to start learning Music Theory?

The basics of Music Theory is already taught in our music lessons. Our students are taught how to read and understand musical terms and concepts in the lessons. However, since a significant part of the lesson is learning how to play the instrument, there can often be very little time to cover topics related to Music Theory. If students find they need a little extra time and help with understanding Music Theory, there are many books and exercises they can begin with to help grasp and revise these topics in their own time. When students begin doing this, they may find themselves understanding the music they play with much more clarity and meaning. As students progress on their instrument to a more intermediate or advanced level, they may find the music theory concepts are much more harder and complex to grasp. Therefore, spending dedicated time outside of the lessons or having separate music theory lessons can be helpful in reviewing these concepts.

Which books should I use to study Music Theory?

If you are a beginner student, there are many beginner Music Theory books that are great to help you with Music Theory. Please ask your teacher for advice as to what Music Theory book to get. Depending on the age of the student, some books are catered more for a younger age group and some for older students, so it is important to get one that is suitable. For students that are studying Music Theory for examination purposes, we would recommend books that are prescribed by the examination boards. Please ask us for more details.

I heard there are Music Theory exams, do I need to do it?

Music Theory exams become a requirement when a student has reached a certain level for examination on their instrument.

The AMEB sets the following requirements for Music Theory:

Grade 6 Practical – Pass Grade 2 Music Theory

Grade 7 Practical – Pass Grade 3 Music Theory

Grade 8 Practical – Pass Grade 4 Music Theory

Certificate of Performance – Pass Grade 4 Music Theory

AMusA Practical – Pass Grade 5 Music Theory

LMusA Practical – Pass Grade 6 Music Theory

Although it is not a requirement, students are highly encouraged that by Grade 5 Practical they have completed the Grade 1 Music Theory. This is to help give the student a better progression towards their Music Theory as they continue higher practical grades.

Students are also encouraged to start Grade 1 Music Theory earlier than when preparing for their Grade 5 Practical if possible. Many helpful musical concepts are taught in the Grade 1 Music Theory, so have learnt these musical concepts earlier can greatly benefit the students learning.

How do I take the Music Theory exams?

To start preparing for the Music Theory exams, it is recommended to complete the relevant Music Theory exam book. Once you are confident in your understanding of all the musical concepts and topics taught in the relevant Music Theory book, you can register for a Music Theory exam by visiting:

Once you have registered, you can use their online practice questions to familiarise yourself with the online exam format, and to further your confidence in answering the questions.

When you are ready, complete the exam and you will receive a result afterwards.

If I am not preparing for Music Exams, do I have to study Music Theory?

It is completely up to you and your teacher to decide whether studying Music Theory will be helpful for you. In most cases it is, but if learning to play your instrument is your sole priority, then studying Music Theory may not be necessary. Many students will find that studying Music Theory does benefit them greatly in the long term, and in many cases it grants them a deeper appreciation of the music and meaning towards what they play.

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