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victoria Williams Music Theory

Victoria Williams

LmusTCL BA Mus (Hons) MISM

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Next UK ABRSM Paper-based Theory Exams Grades 6-8:
Sat 17th June 2023 [Grades 1-5 now available online on demand]
Next UK Trinity Paper-based Theory Exams Grades 1-8 & diplomas:
from Sat 4th Nov 2023

Browse by Music Grade: Grade 1 | Grade 2 | Grade 3 | Grade 4 | Grade 5 | Grade 6 | Grade 7 | Grade 8 | DiplomasWhat Grade am I?

Music Theory Syllabuses Quick Reference

Quick Reference Guide to Music Theory Syllabuses

The following table shows you which elements of music theory are introduced at each grade of the ABRSM and Trinity syllabuses.

Click here to learn more about the ABRSM or Trinity.


This is intended to be a quick reference guide for teachers and students. For more information, consult the full ABRSM music theory syllabus or the full Trinity music theory syllabus.

The syllabuses are cumulative, which means that at grade 2 music theory you also need to know all the material for grade 1 and so on. At grade 5, you need to know the material for all the previous grades.

At grade 6 and above, you need to know ALL the material in the table (for your board) like the back of your hand - you are not tested much on the bare bones music theory, you are asked to put it into practice. For this reason, the table ends at grade 5.



Music Theory Grade Board 2 3 4 5
Note Values  ABRSM Semibreve, minim, crotchet, quaver and semiquaver - Demisemiquaver Breve -
Trinity Semibreve, minim, crotchet and quaver Semiquaver - - Demisemiquaver, breve
Clefs ABRSM and Trinity Treble and bass - - Alto Tenor
Time Signatures ABRSM 2/4, 3/4, 4/4 2/2, 3/2, 4/2, 3/8 6/8, 9/8, 12/8 2/8, 4/8, 6/4, 9/4, 12/4 5/4, 7/4, 5/8, 7/8
Trinity 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, common time 2/2, 3/2, 3/8, cut common time 6/8, 9/8, 12/8 5/8, 7/8, 5/4 4/2, 6/4, 7/4
Keys ABRSM C, G, D, F A, Bb, Eb, Am, Em, Dm E, Ab, Bm, F#m, Gm, Cm, C#m, Fm B, Db, G#m, Bbm F#, Gb, D#m, Ebm
Trinity C, G, F Am, Em, Dm Bb, D, Gm, Bm Eb, A, Cm, F#m E, B, Ab, Db, C#m, G#m, Fm, Bbm
Scales ABRSM Major Minor harmonic Minor melodic Chromatic Scales in C clefs
Trinity Major Minor harmonic and natural (Aeolian) Minor melodic Chromatic Pentatonic major
Composition Trinity only - Compose melody to a given rhythm, based on scale/arpeggio Add a bass line to a melody or vice versa Add a bass line to a melody or vice versa, with passing notes, setting words Add a bass line to a melody or vice versa, with decoration, set words to a rhythm
Transposition ABRSM  - - From treble to bass and vice versa From treble or bass to alto and vice versa From any clef to another at the octave, and to/from concert pitch for transposing instruments
Trinity  - At octave, no clef change At octave, treble to bass and vice versa By a perfect 4th/5th or for a transposing instrument for the grade By any interval within octave, or for transposing instrument for the grade
Intervals ARBSM  Above tonic by number - Above tonic by number and type Above any note, up to a perfect octave, by name and number Compound intervals
Trinity Above tonic, by number, excluding 6th and 7th Major/minor 2nd/3rd, perfect 4th, 5th, 8ve Major/minor 6th, 7th Aug 4th and dim 5th All intervals within octave
Harmony ABRSM  Tonic triads -


Dominant and sub-dominant triads Chords, supertonic triads/chords, 1st and 2nd inversion chords, cadences
Trinity Tonic triads, chord symbols, Roman numerals, arpeggio Broken chords, first inversion Dominant triads, second inversion, perfect cadence, chord progressions, SATB Dominant 7ths, harmonic rhythm, sudominant triads, plagal cadence, consecutive 5ths/8ves, modulation Supertonic triads, imperfect cadence
Other ABRSM Accidentals, tones and semitones, ties, single dotted notes,  degrees of scale,  Triplets - Double-dotted notes, duplets, double sharps/flats, enharmonic equivalents, technical names of notes, ornaments Cadences, progressions
Trinity Accidentals, tones & semitones, dotted minims, circle of 5ths, ostinato Ties, dotted crotchets, syncopation, degrees of scale, sequences,  Anacrusis, real/tonal sequences, similar/contrary motion, triplets Enharmonic equivalents, concept of compound intervals, unaccented passing notes Double sharps/flats, accented passing notes, auxiliary notes, ornaments
Instruments  ABRSM - - - Basic knowledge of standard orchestral instruments  Full knowledge of standard orchestral instruments & voice ranges 
Trinity   - Voice ranges Violin, flute, cello, bassoon French horn, descant recorder, oboe, viola, double bass, guitar Alto Eb saxophone, trumpet, Bb clarinet 
Form Trinity only  -  -  - Sections Strophic, verse & refrain (Chorus), binary