Grade 8 Music Theory (ABRSM)

A complete course covering the ABRSM Grade 8 Music Theory syllabus.

Grade 8 Music Theory - Complete Course

Grade 8 is the final level of music theory offered by the ABRSM as an examination subject.

At this level, you are studying topics similar to those studied at undergraduate level at a UK university. 
Grade 8 tests your knowledge and skills in harmony, composition and general knowledge through a variety of questions.

This course covers each topic in the ABRSM grade 8 exam in detail, with clear explanations, demonstrations, and course PDF included.
Please note, the course does not include marking, but this can be arranged separately.

Course length: Approx 6 hours

What's in the exam?

The exam begins with a Baroque Trio Sonata, which needs to be completed according to the instructions in the figured bass, and should conform to the typical Baroque style. This question tests your ability to interpret the figuring, to notice patterns and sequences and apply them appropriately elsewhere, and to obey the accepted rules of harmony that were practised during the Baroque period.

Question 2 requires you to complete a keyboard piece from the given skeleton framework. You are provided with example bars and harmony, and are tested on your ability to write in the same character throughout, while still obeying the conventions of harmony and in an appropriate keyboard style.

The third question in the exam is a composition piece. You will be given the opening melodic ideas of two pieces and need to choose one to continue into a fully formed piece. You will be tested on your ability to adapt the given opening, fitting a strong melody to a good harmonic framework built of phrases and cadences, as well as writing in an idiomatic style suitable for the instrument. You will be expected to structure the composition in a logical manner, and to include changes of key.

The final two questions in the exam use musical scores to test a wide range of general knowledge questions in music theory. Usually you will be presented with one score for a chamber work, such as a sonata or string quartet, and another for a larger orchestral work. Questions normally cover a variety of topics such as chords, key and harmony, intervals, transposition, knowledge of notation, special symbols and foreign terms, style and compositional techniques, and knowledge of the standard and extended orchestral families.

Grade 8 is a challenging exam, but one which you will find interesting and useful. The skills you learn at this level will help you to make sense of a large variety of music as both a listener and a player, and for those who are interested in composition, there are plenty of techniques covered to help you extend your skillset.

PDF & Introduction to the Grade 8 Course
Introduction to the Trio Sonata Question
The Exam Question
An Example - Corelli
Trio Sonata Characteristics
QUIZ - Trio Sonata Characteristics
The Trio Skeleton
Creating and Decorating a Skeleton
Perfect 5ths and Octaves
The Tritone
Minor Keys
Decorative Figures
Decorate Your Own Skeleton!
Figuration Practice
Reminder: 7th Figures
Types of 7th Chord
Doubling & Omissions in 7th Chords
Writing 7th Chords Practice
Approach & Exit of 7ths
Preparation and Resolution of 7ths Practice
Diminished 7ths
Added 9th Chords
Suspensions Practice
Sequences, Imitation and Motifs
Sequences and Imitation Practice
Trio Sonata Method
A Worked Example: Preparation
A Worked Example: Composing by Numbers
A Worked Example: Filling the Gaps
Untitled Lesson
Introduction to the Keyboard Reconstruction Question
Harmonic Rhythm
Working with the Harmony
Using Second Inversions
Voice Leading and Consecutives (Parallels)
Phrases, Patterns and Sequences
A Worked Example Part 1
A Worked Example Part 2
Creating a Structure
Analysis of the Given Opening
Adapting a Melodic Idea 1 - Sequences
Adapting a Melodic Idea 2 - Other Techniques
Creating a Contrast
Making Phrases
Cadences Cheat Sheet
Planning Modulations
How to Modulate
Performance Directions
Instrument Considerations
A Worked Example
PDF of Composition Openings for Practice
Questions 4 and 5
False Relations
Questions about Chords
Names of Chords
Triads and the Neapolitan 6th
Added 7th Chords
Augmented 6th Chords (It. Fr., Ger.)
Extended Dominants (V9, V11, V13)
Prevailing Key
Rhythm & Tremolo
Texture (Homophonic/Polyphonic)
Melodic Decoration
Writing Out Ornaments
Musical Eras
Describing Sound
Foreign Terms (including instruments, keys etc.)
What's After Grade 8?

What's included

  • 60 Video Lessons
  • 15 Text Lessons

  • Works on all devices
  • Certificate of completion

Victoria Williams