Music A Level as hard as ABRSM Grade 6 Theory, or harder??

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Report Thread starter 4 weeks ago
I find ABRSM Grade 6 Theory really hard to get the hang of (am studying it now), and I barely scraped a pass in the Grade 5 Theory exam. I am better at performance. So, thinking of my A Level subject choices ahead, should I take Music A Level or not?

My true favourite subject is Art to be honest. So Art A Level is a definite. People think I should take Music A Level as well because I'm good at performing and am Grade 8, but I read on here that it's super hard, and if it's very theory intensive, I'm afraid I might fail. Any advice?
Last edited by rachelvt; 4 weeks ago
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Report 4 weeks ago
Hi I do Music Edexcel (I'm in Y13). I didn't actually do grade 5 theory until like the end of Y12 when I had no choice but to do it so I could do my Grade 6 violin lol. I've found it relatively easy in terms of understanding the content and analysing the music when compared to my other subjects (chemistry and biology). However, it is A LOT of content. Because of the pandemic they cut down it down and I think they are keeping the changes they made so it's easier to handle the load now.
In terms of why it's difficult, I think it's because you have to know all the set works in a lot of depth including historical context about the time the piece was composed in, context about the composer/genre of music/purpose, and you have to know several wider listening pieces for each set work to use them as sources of comparison or to back up your points when you write your essays. If you did music GCSE, I personally don't think that it should be that difficult to do music A-level as your teachers will help you understand/learn the points of analysis that are being pointed out in the music.
Here's an example video that includes the level of analysis that you need for each set work: . This is for Clara Schuman's Piano Trio in Gm (mvt 1) which I love. You'd also need to be able to say things like "The structure follows sonata form, which was a popular form of composition during the Classical and Romantic periods of music. This can be seen in Mozart's Piano Sonata K.333 which is also in sonata form and which follows the expected modulations to related keys e.g. Subject 2 is in *insert key here (I can't currently remember this off the top of my head lol)* which would be the norm."
In terms of the other parts of the A-level, Bach chorales may be the hardest part (I really enjoyed doing them but didn't do it in an exam due to it being cut due to the pandemic). There are a lot of rules to follow and you'd need a deep understanding of harmony, but you develop this as you go along and you can memorise fingerprints which you can then follow in an exam (I think you get 3 hours to do 1 12 bar chorales but you do 2 of these?? Idk). Composition should be ok if you get loads of feedback from your teachers, come up with/choose the right brief for you, and compose for an isntrument which you know well and can therefore comfortably write for and exploit properly.

If you love music/analysing music and it's just the difficulty that's putting you off then go for it because you can learn as you go along. But it depends on you really and what uni course you want to do or if there's another A Level that might benefit you more. I did it and loved it. I hope this was helpful lol. Good luck
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Report 4 weeks ago
I would say A-level music is slightly easier than grade 5 theory tbh. If you can read music, and by read, I don't mean spending 5 seconds working out what the notes and chords are one by one, I mean properly read it, you should be fine.

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