xxilovedogsxx
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Hi, thanks for reading this. I am in Year 9 ( Year 10 from September) and I have picked GCSE Music - OCR as one of my options. We started our options this year, and I have loved doing the performance aspect of music, as I really enjoy playing the piano(I do grade 4) , however I am struggling with the theory. For example, we do the concerto through time, rhythms of the world etc and I find the topics so interesting but I find it so hard to improve on it. If anyone has any tips, could you please let me know?
Thank you so much.
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remussjhj01
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Hi, so I also did GCSE music (though on the old spec), as well as a-level music and am starting a conservatoire music degree in September. Here's what I would say:
-Try analysing the pieces you're working on for your performing. What key is it? Where does it modulate? Time signature? Tempo? Where are the cadences? Are there any other interesting elements?
-Get yourself a couple of graded theory workbooks. I would say if you're grade 4, you'll probably be able to do grade 2-3 theory without much of an issue. I personally prefer Trinity exams, including theory, but you can go for ABRSM if you like. If you can get through at least on of these books over summer, that would give you a really good headstart.
-If you do find yourself struggling, just ask your teacher, be it your piano teacher or your school music teacher. They should (hopefully) be more than happy to help and should be very aware of theory.
I'm around grade 8 theory, so if there's anything in particular you're struggling with right now, feel free to ask. I'm an aspiring teacher, so I'm happy to help if you need it.
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xxilovedogsxx
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(Original post by remussjhj01)
Hi, so I also did GCSE music (though on the old spec), as well as a-level music and am starting a conservatoire music degree in September. Here's what I would say:
-Try analysing the pieces you're working on for your performing. What key is it? Where does it modulate? Time signature? Tempo? Where are the cadences? Are there any other interesting elements?
-Get yourself a couple of graded theory workbooks. I would say if you're grade 4, you'll probably be able to do grade 2-3 theory without much of an issue. I personally prefer Trinity exams, including theory, but you can go for ABRSM if you like. If you can get through at least on of these books over summer, that would give you a really good headstart.
-If you do find yourself struggling, just ask your teacher, be it your piano teacher or your school music teacher. They should (hopefully) be more than happy to help and should be very aware of theory.
I'm around grade 8 theory, so if there's anything in particular you're struggling with right now, feel free to ask. I'm an aspiring teacher, so I'm happy to help if you need it.
Hi, thanks so much for your help! I must say the main thing I am struggling with is ear training like writing notes that you hear, however I also struggle with the slightly more difficult concepts like remembering key signatures ( I am a nightmare at that.) Best of luck towards your music career!
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remussjhj01
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(Original post by xxilovedogsxx)
Hi, thanks so much for your help! I must say the main thing I am struggling with is ear training like writing notes that you hear, however I also struggle with the slightly more difficult concepts like remembering key signatures ( I am a nightmare at that.) Best of luck towards your music career!
Hi. Ear training is hard! My aural skills are still not great. They are a part of grade exams though, so you can use that to your advantage. Also you will be told what to listen out for and given listening exercises.
Again, you can get graded books specifically for developing aural skills, which you may find useful.
For key signatures this is what I was taught:
For sharp keys, the sharps go in order of F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#. To find the major key, find the last sharp in the key signature, and go up a semitone. Eg. if it has 2 sharps, you go up 1 semitone from C# to D, so the major key is D major.
For flat keys, the flats go in the opposite order to sharps, so Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, Fb. To find the major key, you just look at the second last flat, and that is the key.
Eg. if a key has 4 flats, the second last flat in the signature would be Ab, so therefore, the key would be Ab major. The only exception is F major, which has 1 flat.
For minor keys, find the major key, and go down 3 semitones/a minor 3rd from the tonic. Eg. if the major key is E major, going down a minor 3rd from the tonic will land us on C#, so the relative minor (what we call the minor key with the same key signature as a major key), is C#m.
I hope this somewhat helps, and if you want anything else explained, or for me to go over this more, feel free to ask.
I'd also recommend musictheory.net. It includes theory and aural training and was recommended to me during my a-level studies, but it starts at a much lower level, and you'd be fine.
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xxilovedogsxx
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(Original post by remussjhj01)
Hi. Ear training is hard! My aural skills are still not great. They are a part of grade exams though, so you can use that to your advantage. Also you will be told what to listen out for and given listening exercises.
Again, you can get graded books specifically for developing aural skills, which you may find useful.
For key signatures this is what I was taught:
For sharp keys, the sharps go in order of F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#. To find the major key, find the last sharp in the key signature, and go up a semitone. Eg. if it has 2 sharps, you go up 1 semitone from C# to D, so the major key is D major.
For flat keys, the flats go in the opposite order to sharps, so Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, Fb. To find the major key, you just look at the second last flat, and that is the key.
Eg. if a key has 4 flats, the second last flat in the signature would be Ab, so therefore, the key would be Ab major. The only exception is F major, which has 1 flat.
For minor keys, find the major key, and go down 3 semitones/a minor 3rd from the tonic. Eg. if the major key is E major, going down a minor 3rd from the tonic will land us on C#, so the relative minor (what we call the minor key with the same key signature as a major key), is C#m.
I hope this somewhat helps, and if you want anything else explained, or for me to go over this more, feel free to ask.
I'd also recommend musictheory.net. It includes theory and aural training and was recommended to me during my a-level studies, but it starts at a much lower level, and you'd be fine.
Wow! Thank you so much for explaining it to me in so much depth , It is definitely helping me so much! I will also be sure to check out musictheory.net . Thank you so much once again!
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xxilovedogsxx
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(Original post by remussjhj01)
Hi. Ear training is hard! My aural skills are still not great. They are a part of grade exams though, so you can use that to your advantage. Also you will be told what to listen out for and given listening exercises.
Again, you can get graded books specifically for developing aural skills, which you may find useful.
For key signatures this is what I was taught:
For sharp keys, the sharps go in order of F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#. To find the major key, find the last sharp in the key signature, and go up a semitone. Eg. if it has 2 sharps, you go up 1 semitone from C# to D, so the major key is D major.
For flat keys, the flats go in the opposite order to sharps, so Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, Fb. To find the major key, you just look at the second last flat, and that is the key.
Eg. if a key has 4 flats, the second last flat in the signature would be Ab, so therefore, the key would be Ab major. The only exception is F major, which has 1 flat.
For minor keys, find the major key, and go down 3 semitones/a minor 3rd from the tonic. Eg. if the major key is E major, going down a minor 3rd from the tonic will land us on C#, so the relative minor (what we call the minor key with the same key signature as a major key), is C#m.
I hope this somewhat helps, and if you want anything else explained, or for me to go over this more, feel free to ask.
I'd also recommend musictheory.net. It includes theory and aural training and was recommended to me during my a-level studies, but it starts at a much lower level, and you'd be fine.
Also, sorry for asking a million questions, could you please explain to me when you mean the last sharp or second to last flat, does that mean going up or down? Thank you so much!
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laurawatt
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(Original post by xxilovedogsxx)
Also, sorry for asking a million questions, could you please explain to me when you mean the last sharp or second to last flat, does that mean going up or down? Thank you so much!
Hi, I know it’s not me that you quoted but I have a tip for remembering the key signatures - so for the sharps i used the acronym Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle, and for flats it’s the reverse: Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles’ Father.

By the last sharp, they mean e.g. if you have 4 sharps in your key, they’ll be F# C# G# D#, so your key is E major (if it’s a major key) as one semitone up from D# is E
Similarly for flats, if you have 5 flats, they’ll be Bb Eb Ab Db Gb, and the second to last flat is Db in that list, so your key is Db major (If it’s a major key)

Hope this helped!
Last edited by laurawatt; 4 months ago
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remussjhj01
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It's kind of hard to explain without a diagram.
Search up the E major key signature. You'll notice it has 4 sharps, appearing in the order F#, C#, G#, D#.
If you didn't know it was E major, to find out, you would look at the last of these, in this case D#, and go up a semitone, to E. This would then give you the major key for that signature.
Next search the Ab major key signature. You'll notice there are 4 flats in the order Bb, Eb, Ab, Db. The second last of these is Ab, so that's the major key.
Hope this makes more sense.
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xxilovedogsxx
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(Original post by laurawatt)
Hi, I know it’s not me that you quoted but I have a tip for remembering the key signatures - so for the sharps i used the acronym Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle, and for flats it’s the reverse: Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles’ Father.

By the last sharp, they mean e.g. if you have 4 sharps in your key, they’ll be F# C# G# D#, so your key is E major (if it’s a major key) as one semitone up from D# is E
Similarly for flats, if you have 5 flats, they’ll be Bb Eb Ab Db Gb, and the second to last flat is Db in that list, so your key is Db major (If it’s a major key)

Hope this helped!
Thank you so much! I will definitely be sure to use your acronym , thank you!
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xxilovedogsxx
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(Original post by remussjhj01)
It's kind of hard to explain without a diagram.
Search up the E major key signature. You'll notice it has 4 sharps, appearing in the order F#, C#, G#, D#.
If you didn't know it was E major, to find out, you would look at the last of these, in this case D#, and go up a semitone, to E. This would then give you the major key for that signature.
Next search the Ab major key signature. You'll notice there are 4 flats in the order Bb, Eb, Ab, Db. The second last of these is Ab, so that's the major key.
Hope this makes more sense.
Ahh, I understand this a lot more now, thank you so much for taking the time to explain it to me!
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