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victoria Williams Music Theory

Victoria Williams

LmusTCL BA Mus (Hons) MISM

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C8. Technical Exercises

Grade Six Music Theory General Knowledge, Lesson C8. Technical Exercises

The technical exercises you might be asked to do in your grade six theory exam are basically the same as in grade five – the only difference is that you get less help (i.e. you have to work out more things for yourself), and you have to be comfortable with reading a full orchestral score.

In recent exam papers, the following types of question have come up – here’s how they differ from grade five music theory: 

  • Transposing a few bars. In grade five you are told the interval to transpose by to go to or from concert pitch, e.g. the clarinet in Bb should be transposed “down a major 2nd”. At grade six, you need to work out the interval and direction by yourself.
  • Rewriting in a new time signature. At grade six, you’ll need to locate the section of the score yourself, then work out how to change the time to compound/simple without changing the rhythmic effect.
  • Intervals. As in grade five, you need to be able to name any interval in any key, as major, minor, perfect, augmented or diminished. At grade six, you might first have to transpose notes to concert pitch to work out the interval, you’ll need to know which are the transposing instruments, and be able to read all four clefs. You might get a harmonic (vertical) interval which encompasses two different instruments on different staves, using two different clefs, playing at two different transpositions!

 For my top tips on how to do the technical exercises more quickly, watch the video!




Here’s an extract from the Largo from Dvorak’s “New World Symphony”.



How would you write out the cor Anglais part at concert pitch?

You might remember that cors Anglais are pitched in F. If you’ve forgotten that, you could look at the key signature of the cor Anglais (4 flats=Ab major), and then compare it to the violins (5 flats=Db major). Db is a perfect 5th lower than Ab, so we will transpose the part down a perfect 5th.

Here are the first four bars:
cor anglais transposed 


How would you work out the harmonic intervals marked A-D in the same score? 

  • Start by double checking the clef, key signature and transposition of each instrument. 
  • Mark down each note as it sounds at concert pitch on a scrap of manuscript paper. 
  • Be sure to write each note in the correct octave - you will need to know where middle C is for each clef.
  • Then work out the interval in the normal way. 

 (See the grade five music theory course if you have forgotten how to work out intervals!)


intervals in a score

Rewriting in a new time signature

A little later in the same piece, the flutes have the following passage:



How would you write out the passage, keeping the rhythm the same but using a compound time signature?

Remember that with a simple time signature, there are X number of plain beats per bar, (X is the top number of the time signature). In a compound time signature, you keep the same number of beats, but make them dotted. So instead of having four plain crotchets (quarter notes) per bar, we need four dotted crotchets (dotted quarter notes), which means the new time signature will be 12/8. (See the grade five music theory course if you need more help with this).

Here is the answer: 

rewriting in compound time

Notice the use of duplets and tuplets.

  • “Duplets” are used when two notes are sounded in the space of three. Duplets use the number "2".
  • “Triplets” are used when three notes are sounded in the space of two. Triplets use the number "3".
  • “Tuplets” can be of any number – just write the number of notes (of the same value) you’ve got, which replace whatever the usual number should be.
  • Duplets, triplets and tuplets should be beamed together, or bracketed if there are no beams.




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