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victoria Williams Music Theory

Victoria Williams

LmusTCL BA Mus (Hons) MISM

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Next UK ABRSM Online Theory Exams Grades 6-8:
19th June 2021
Next UK Trinity Paper-based Theory Exams Grades 1-8:
Sat 8th May 2021
Grade 1 Tests

by Victoria Williams

30 grades 1 tests‚Äč 

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19. Handwriting Music

Grade One Music Theory Lesson 19: Handwriting Music 

Suitable for:  ABRSM Grade 1   Trinity Grade 1   GCSE   AP Music Theory Beginners 


Clearly and Neatly

Grade One Music Theory - How to handwrite musicIn the Grade One Music Theory exam, you need to be able to write music clearly and neatly. You will lose marks on any answer that the examiner finds difficult to read, has mistakes or is messy.

<<< Although we love Beethoven, we don't want to write our manuscript like he did!


Three Tools

You will need: pencils (take plenty of spares to your music theory exam!), an eraser and a ruler. Always write your answers in pencil. Make sure you've chosen a pencil which rubs out easily!


Clefs, Key Signatures and Time Signatures

How to draw the treble clef

The treble clef should curl around the G line. 

How to draw the bass clef

The bass clef begins on the F line. The two dots are placed on either side of the F line. 

D major key signature

The order of sharps in key signatures is always F sharp then C sharp. Don't make sharp or flat signs too small or too big. 

Postion of time signature in music theory

The top number of the time signature fills the top half of the stave, the bottom number fills the bottom half. 

Remember the order is always Clef - Key Signature - Time Signature (C-K-T)

Writing Notes and Barlines

Notes are oval and tilt upwards - how to draw a note head
Note heads are not perfectly round - they are egg-shaped and tilt upwards slightly.

Here's an extra-large crotchet (quarter note) to make it clear! 

Use your ruler to draw note stems. Make the stems the same length - about 1cm is fine.

Stems up and stems down - music theory

Notes above the middle of the stave usually have stems down, notes below the middle have stems up. Notes on the middle line should follow the general direction of the music.


To draw beamed notes neatly, first draw the stems of the first and last notes in the group. You will usually need to draw them a bit longer than normal.
Draw the first and last stems  - musical notes 

Then draw the top horizontal beam,
Join the first and last stems - music theory 

then fill in any other stems or beams as needed.

With stems and beams - music notes

The first note in each bar should be about one note-head's width away from the barline. The other notes in a bar should be placed at relative distances.
note spacing - music theory notation

This means that semiquavers (sixteenth notes) will be very close together, and semibreves (whole notes) will have a lot of space to the right of them. Point your mouse at the image to see how this should be written.


Ledger lines (the small lines on notes like middle C) should be the same distance as the other lines of the staff, and should not stick out too much to the left or right.

Ledger lines - music theory

Make sure you use the correct note value when you write scales. Usually you will be told to use semibreves (whole notes).

Always draw barlines with a ruler. Make sure they don't stick out beyond the top or bottom lines of the stave.

Rests should be placed in the centre of the stave. Be very careful about the position of the minim (half) and semibreve (whole) rests.


Copying Music Out Exactly (Trinity Only)

(Please note, the "copying out" question was removed from the ABRSM Grade 1 exam on 15th July 2020).

When you copy out music in your music theory exam, make sure you have copied absolutely every detail from the original.

If you are asked to correct a certain number of mistakes, double check that you have found them all.

Don't forget the dynamics, symbols like staccato or accents, any repeat bars, slurs, ties or bar numbers.

Use your ruler to make the distance between your notes as close as possible to the original.

It's a good idea to draw the barlines in first, to make sure you don't run out of space.

Read the question carefully - don't copy out the wrong bars!



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