Tag Archives: advanced level

Trinity AMusTCL Resources

Trinity LogoNow that my AMusTCL exam is over, I’ve collated all the useful links to essays and analysis I’ve found throughout the course of my preparations. Over time, I hope to provide links and book recommendations for the sections I didn’t do as well, along with a series of posts to give some better guidance on preparing for the exam.

Section A – Lutheran Chorale

Tom Pankhurst’s Chorale Guide – Straightforward, step-by-step method for completing chorale-based tasks. Work through all the worksheets and you’ll be on your way to full marks.

JSBChorales.net – Most of Bach’s chorales are online at this site. It’s really important to get a feel for how the original chorales look and sound and this site has plenty of mp3s and MIDI files to help non-pianists listen to the music.

Section A – Orchestration

I’ve yet to find much about this one, but a good knowledge of instruments is key.

Section A – Popular Song

Music Arrangers Page – A blog all about arranging for popular music. Not all of it is relevant, but it’s worth looking through the articles and applying the ideas to your own practice.

Section B – Schubert Symphony No 5 in Bb
Topic list blog post

This was definitely the trickiest section to prepare for. However, plenty of work on identifying chords and musical features is important in gaining the more straightforward marks on part b.

Scott Foglesong – Scott Foglesong works for the San Fransisco Conservatory of Music, and he’s put up a fantastic essay analysing Schubert’s Symphony no 5 in Bb. Saved me a lot of time doing the formal analysis, so I can concentrate on the thematic issues.

Section C – Musicals
Topic list blog post

The best way to approach this section is to watch as many of the musicals as possible. Lots of these are available on Netflix and LoveFIlm, and you can also find various versions on YouTube.

“Inside” series from New Line Theatre – there doesn’t seem to be an index page, but the link will take you to the search which brings up most of the pages. There are articles on Chicago, and Jesus Christ Superstar

Notes, analysis & essays for OCR A level Music – a Scottish-based webpage with useful articles on West Side Story and Les Miserables.

Sweeney Todd: an analysis of the dramatic and musical structure – Someone has very kindly put up their entire PhD thesis on this particular show, with detailed analysis on several of the key songs.

Michael Bennett’s A Chorus LIne 101 – Three pages analysing the songs and structure of the show.

A Chorus Line: Does it Abide By Equity? – Ok, not strictly speaking useful for the exam, but a really interesting read! (link is to a PDF)

Have you taken an AMusTCL? What resources did you find useful? Post them below.

AMusTCL – Topics for Section C

Trinity LogoTaken from the past papers (2009 sample, 2010 and 2011 so far), here are a list of the topics which have been covered by previous essay questions in Section C: Stylistic Development – Musical Responses.

Toccata: Jacques Loussier Plays Bach

  • Spontaneity and improvisation
  • Inspiration from Baroque features
  • Creative limitations of arranging
  • Commonality between Baroque and Jazz
  • Compositions in their own rights?

Popular Music

  • Worldwide appeal
  • Variety of cultural backgrounds
  • Innovation
  • Distinct musical sound
  • Musical qualities that lead to success
  • Non-musical qualities that lead to success (video/fashion/publicity etc)

Film Music

  • Hallmarks of film music as a specific genre
  • Importance of music in film as an art form
  • Integration of music within the film
  • Music and emotional response
  • Relationship to Programme Music
  • Role of music in enhancing drama

Musicals

  • Conflict between speech and music v. unified artistic whole
  • Treatment of ‘the outsider’
  • Social and contemporary issues
  • Role as ‘Protest music’
  • Ingredients of a successful musical
  • Popularity of the music v. other reasons for success

For details of the full questions, the past papers can be purchased from Trinity. I have no insider knowledge, so this is by no means a guarantee that these topics will come up again. However, it should give an idea of what kind of areas to focus on in preparing.

I hope this is helpful if you are preparing for this exam. I’m hoping to get a resources post up soon with links to websites I’ve found useful.

AMusTCL – Topics for Section B

Trinity LogoTaken from the past papers (2009 sample, 2010 and 2011 so far), here are a list of the topics which have been covered by previous essay questions in Section B: Stylistic Development – Set Works.

Schubert Symphony no 5 in Bb major

  • Relationship to music which came before and after
  • Treatment of sonata form
  • Chamber-like nature
  • Hallmarks of the classical symphony
  • Markers of later symphonic form

Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms

  • Novelty of orchestral features
  • Use of orchestration to provide colour
  • The setting of the text
  • Innovation in the music
  • Neo-classicism
  • Latin as a language choice

For details of the full questions, the past papers can be purchased from Trinity. I have no insider knowledge, so this is by no means a guarantee that these topics will come up again. However, it should give an idea of what kind of areas to focus on in preparing.

I hope this is helpful if you are preparing for this exam. I’m hoping to get a resources post up soon with links to websites I’ve found useful.

The Mythical Grade 8

ABRSM Exam Certificates

Grade 8 is the highest available graded instrumental exam. For parents and students alike, it can seem like a glowing light in the distance – a magical target that once achieved will bestow the mythical status of ‘musician’ on anyone who can reach it.

Here are 8 myths about reaching Grade 8:

Myth #1 – Grade 8 means I’m good enough to be a professional

Nothing in music qualifies or says you’re good enough to be a professional. The people who decide if you’re good enough to be a professional are the people who pay you! Grade 8 is definitely a good target if you want to have a career in music. It should set you up with a solid technical foundation, and give you extra skills like sight-reading and aural awareness. By the time you reach Grade 8, you’ll also probably have a good idea of whether you want to make a living from music. However, Grade 8 alone isn’t going to get you paid work – you need more skills than what is included in Grade 8. Diplomas, higher education study and participation in plenty of amateur performing opportunities are the things that will help you get started as a professional.

Myth #2 – By the time I get to Grade 8, I’ll be able to sing/play anything right away

There’s some truth in this one. By Grade 8, if you’ve really achieved the all-round standard, you should be able to tackle most music. There’ll be very little that’s off-limits. However, there’ll still be things which take work and could take months or even years to perfect. There’ll be lots of things you’ll be able to sight-read (more or less), but not everything will be!

Myth #3 – Passing Grade 8 means I don’t need any more lessons

At Grade 8, you need lessons more than ever! As you get better, there’s lots you’ll be able to do in your own practice times to improve, but when you’re working at a post-grade 8 level you need a teacher who has experience working with advanced level pupils who can refine and improve your voice. The right teacher will also help you to work out what steps to take next in your music “career” – whether it’s full-time study, diplomas or a summer school.

Myth #4 – By the time I get to Grade 8, I’ll be able to write my own music

Grade 8 is a performance exam, so you never have to learn to compose as part of it. Some boards do have an improvisation option, but there’s no real composition element. If you get to Grade 8 with ABRSM you’ll probably have a good idea of what sounds good and bad, and some of the basic theory you need to back it up. However, composing is a different skill to playing.

Myth #5 – If I get Grade 8 in one style of singing, I’ll never be able to sing any other music

Not at all! Grade 8 is a sign that you’ve hit a good level of proficiency in one style of singing, but very few people who sing professionally (other than perhaps those at the top of their game) only sing in one style or genre. If you’ve reached the giddy heights of classical Grade 8, you can probably start in at a higher level for rock & pop exams or musical theatre exams, though you’ll still have new skills to learn. I’d actually recommend getting experience in two or more vocal styles to give you greater vocal flexibility and a wider range of options.

Myth #6: Once I’ve passed Grade 8, I can teach my instrument

This, for me, is one of the worst myths out there. Graded exams do not qualify anyone with teaching skills. This is, however, a point a which one could consider the possibility of teaching, and look for a mentor to guide you through the early stages of learning to teach. Grade 8 is one of the requirements for taking teaching diplomas, as are more advanced theory qualifications, and I would always recommend getting a teaching qualification so that you and your future students know you know what you’re doing. Please, whatever you do, don’t set up teaching the day after you get your Grade 8 certificate. You’re not doing anyone any favours. If you’re interested in qualifying as a teacher, please contact me. I’m not yet qualified to teach teachers, but I can recommend a number of other teachers across the UK who will be happy to mentor you.

Myth #7: Grade 8 makes me a musician

If you need a certificate to prove you’re a musician, you probably aren’t one. Being a musician is a gut feeling, just like becoming an adult. Whether it’s the moment sight-reading clicks, or the day you perform perfectly in a competition, you will, one day, find that thing which makes you feel like you can hold that title.

Myth #8: Grade 8 is the end

Grade 8 is not the end. It’s the end of the beginning. Go out and explore where you can go next!

 

ABRSM Grade 6+ Theory Resources

the_hand_writes_musical_notes_a_featherMany a theory student has reached the dizzy heights of passing ABRSM Grade 5 theory and thought ‘I’m enjoying this, why not do more?’, only to fall at the first hurdle by buying the wrong materials to learn with.

If you, or someone you know, would like to take ABRSM Grade 6 theory, here are my tips and book recommendations:

Tips

  • The exam format changes dramatically from grade 5 to grade 6, and many say it’s the largest leap. Have a browse through a past paper at a music shop to familiarise yourself with where you’re going.
  • Allow plenty of time to study for it – I would recommend at least a year.
  • Start with more general workbooks on harmony before trying to tackle the exams. This is not an exam which is simply regurgitating facts any more!
  • Listen to plenty of music, and get to know more about styles and composers as this will help with the score-reading questions.
  • Make time for learning musical terms and instrumental names throughout your studies.
  • If in doubt, find a teacher. You are best to look for someone who specialises in theory at advanced level, so use a resource like ISM’s musican directory to ensure you’re going to someone who knows their stuff.

Workbooks

  • Harmony is Fun (Maureen Cox & Claire Liddel) is your best starting point. Although these books don’t look like much, they review all the core harmony content from Grade 1-5, and then introduce more advanced building blocks with fun illustrations which will help you remember Mother chord, and Father chord for many years to come. Link is to the Boosey & Hawkes shop listing for the first book.
  • Harmony in Practice (Anna Butterworth) is a mighty tome, and can appear both dense and dull on first reading. It is kinda both. However, you will never forget how to write out all the chords you might ever need since there are extensive practice exercises. Answer book is sold separately. Link is to Amazon listing.
  • Practice in Music Theory (Josephine Koh) provides the best ‘graded’ introduction to the skills required to pass the exam itself. These books work through the new harmonic vocabulary and key concepts before seamlessly moving onto tasks which echo the exam questions. There is one book for each grade, and the link here is to Grade 6 on Musicroom.
  • My Music Theory.com isn’t a book, although you can buy their lessons as a pdf, which sort of counts. They do, however, provide a careful introduction through the theoretical concepts leading towards the exam questions int he same way as Practice in Music Theory. Well worth using, though there’s nothing for 7 and 8 yet. Link is direct to the grade 6 page.
  • Theory Workbook (ABRSM) gives a more exam-direct approach with each question as encountered on the exam itself being broken down into manageable steps. The authors work the questions slowly and methodically from start to finish, with working shown at each stage and then a selection of examples to practice. Again, there is one book for each level and the link is to Musicroom.

Reference Books

  • AB Guide to Music Theory (Part I & Part II) (Eric Taylor) are recommended reading for all theory exams. The information contained in Part I covers up to grade 5, and is recommended as a reference book from the start. Part II goes on to cover useful information like the names of instruments in multiple languages, which is required at grade 6 and above.

Hopefully, I will add to this list over time, but if you have any suggestions of things you’ve used and found helpful, please let me know!