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victoria Williams Music Theory

Victoria Williams

LmusTCL BA Mus (Hons) MISM

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1. Introduction to Grade Four

Grade 4 Music Theory - 1. Introduction to Grade Four

In some ways, grade four is quite a big jump from grade three music theory. Grade three didn't introduce a lot of new concepts - it built up on the topics already learnt in grades one and two. Grade four introduces quite a lot of new topics which are then explored in more detail at grade five.

Grade 4 is a great preparation course if you know a lot of music theory basics but are a bit scared of jumping right in at grade 5!


Grade 4 teaches you about scales, chords and intervals in all keys with up to 5 sharps or flats in the key signature. A new clef is introduced - the C alto clef, double sharps and double flats are examined, as well as enharmonic equivalents. We look at how to construct a chromatic scale, investigate duplets, learn about various ornaments (trills and so on) and learn some useful facts about some of the more common musical instruments.


The grade four exam contains two score reading questions - this means you get an extract of real music printed on the page and then a whole lot of questions based on that piece of music. The questions test all the areas you are going to study in this course - key signatures, time signatures, triads, technical names, facts about instruments, foreign terms and symbols, ornaments, intervals and so on. Instead of having dry exercises for each of these topics, the questions are related to the extract of music. This is good because sometimes when we study music theory it's easy to forget that everything we learn relates to the real world of music - not just in exercises on the page. 


As you study this course, we strongly recommend that you constantly apply your theoretical knowledge to the real music that you're playing. This has two great benefits - firstly, you will remember the theory better because you are seeing it used in a real life situation, and secondly you will understand in more depth the pieces you are playing.

Here are some things you can try to do, whenever you start to play a new piece of music:


  • Describe the time signature as simple or compound, and duple, triple or quadruple
  • State the key of the piece and name the relative minor/major
  • Give the technical names of all the notes in the first two bars
  • Explain all the foreign terms in English
  • Explain all the symbols, double bar lines and ornaments
  • Try to figure out if the music changes key, and if so what key does it change to
  • For each accidental, name the enharmonic equivalent
  • Write out the ascending and descending scale of the key of the piece, and the three primary triads (I, IV and V)
  • Name the melodic intervals between each two adjacent notes in the first two bars (apart from those greater than an octave).


Don't worry if you don't understand all that right now - that's why you're doing this course! Keep coming back to this page from time to time and see if something in the list makes more sense to you. 

Good luck and enjoy the course!



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