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victoria Williams Music Theory

Victoria Williams

LmusTCL BA Mus (Hons) MISM

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13. Questions about a Score

Grade 3 Music Theory - Lesson 13: Questions about a Score

Question 8 in the grade three ABRSM music theory exam paper is based on a musical score. You’ll be given some music to look at – usually about 8 bars of a single line of music. It could be in treble or bass clef.

You’ll be asked several questions about the score. The kinds of question you might see include:

  • Explain Italian terms
  • Explain symbols
  • Give the time name of notes or rests
  • Say how many notes are equivalent of each other (e.g. how many semiquavers (16th notes) there are in a minim (half note)
  • Describe the time signature
  • Add the time signature
  • Find bars which contain the notes of the tonic triad
  • Say which degree of the scale certain notes are
  • Name the relative minor/major key
  • Find notes which are/aren’t in the key of the piece
  • Find notes which are an octave apart
  • Describe intervals marked with a bracket
  • Find similarities and differences
  • Count the number of times a certain pattern occurs


Many of these topics are covered in other lessons in this grade three course.
In this lesson we’ll look at the rest of them:


Finding Similarities and Differences

You might be asked to describe the similarities or differences between two sections of the music. You need to look at:

  • The melody
  • The rhythm
  • The dynamics and phrasing


For example, you might see two bars which have the same rhythm, but a different melody:


the same melody notes, but a different rhythm:


the same melody and rhythm, but different dynamics:


You should try to describe with a little bit of detail what the similarities and differences are. 

For example:

Bars 1-2
Similarity: Both bars use a rhythm of dotted quaver (8th note), semiquaver (16th note), quaver (8th note).
Difference: In bar 2 the melody is a scale step lower.


Bars 3-4
Similarity: Both bars use a leap of a perfect 5th D-A as the melody notes.
Difference: The rhythm is reversed in bar 2.


Bars 5-6
Similarity: Both bars have the same melody and rhythm.
Difference: The dynamics change from fortissimo in bar 5 to pianissimo in bar 6.


Counting Patterns

You might have to count the number of times you see:

  • a certain rhythm
  • bars which contain all the notes of the tonic triad
  • a certain note (e.g. 3rd degree of the scale)

This is a very easy question! Just make sure you don’t rush it and miss something.


Marking Phrases (Trinity only)

You might have to mark out the phrases in the score with a square bracket. The first one will be done for you.

  • Phrases will normally (but not always) be the same number of bars in length (often four times two-bar phrases in an 8 bar piece).
  • Phrase marks don’t include rests (unless they are in the middle of the phrase)
  • Use a ruler to draw the brackets.
  • Use clues like crescendos to help you understand which notes would be kept together in the same phrase.



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