Rockschool

Learn Music Theory

Rockschool Popular Music Theory is the essential guide for contemporary musicians, composers and educators.

Performance is a huge part of being a musician, but we believe it is a firm grasp of musical language that opens up the door to achieving your full potential. Our goal is to aid the development of articulate, accomplished musicians, and the Popular Music Theory resources have been specifically designed with this in mind.

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Full-Colour Guidebooks

Rockschool Popular Music Theory consists of two Guidebooks packed with helpful information to guide you through music theory.

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Read chord charts and notation

You’ll develop your music theory from Debut–Grade 8 using some of the best-known genres in pop and rock, whilst taking notes from some of the world’s biggest artists and composers.

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Analyse Score

Rockschool Popular Music Theory will give you the confidence and articulation to direct and work with bands, performers, studio engineers and composers.

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UCAS Points

All Rockschool exams at Grades 6, 7 and 8 are awarded UCAS points,which are vital currency for all university applicants.

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Understand Complex Rhythm Notation and time Signatures

Discover more about rock and pop’s more uncommon instruments, how they’re notated and how to arrange your own brass and string sections.

Learning Platform Virtual Classroom

Workbooks for Every Grade

Sample papers are supplied at each grade in your Workbook, so you can test what you’ve learnt in our Guidebooks and ensure your theory knowledge is up to scratch.

How it works

Music Theory is essential for all aspiring musicians and vocalists. Start learning music theory with Rockschool today

01

Download the syllabus and buy your Theory Guidebooks

Rockschool’s Theory Guidebooks are the ideal music theory resource for musicians, composers, students and teachers, designed for use with Rockschool’s theory exams, as study and teaching aids, or as standalone guides.

02

Start practicing with our innovative resources

Workbooks and Sample Papers are available at each grade, so you can test what you’ve learnt in our Guidebooks and ensure your music theory knowledge is up to scratch.

03

Sit the exam reap your rewards

If you’re ready and want to take a Popular Music Theory exam, you can achieve your very own Rockschool qualification after putting in the hours of dedication towards conquering music theory.

Popular Music Theory
Debut

At Popular Music Theory Debut, you’ll begin learning all the music theory you need for your music career, whether you’re a musician, a composer or a teacher. From sight reading to in-depth knowledge of scales and instrumental techniques, we’ve got you covered.

Estimated Examination Time:

  • Grade Exam: 60 minutes 
Rockschool Music Theory

Purchase Your Book & Exam Entry

Rockschool’s Theory Guidebook Debut – Grade 5 are the ideal introduction to music theory for musicians, composers, students and teachers, designed for use with Rockschool’s theory exams, as study and teaching aids, or as standalone guides.

The Rockschool Debut Theory Workbook is the ideal preparation for your Debut exam, containing example questions and a full specimen paper. Topics at this level include drawing different note values, writing scales, identifying parts of instruments and understanding BPM and tempo.

Please note: The popular music theory workbooks are only available in hard copy format. You can buy a copy from you local stockist or via Music Room & Amazon

Popular Music Theory Guidebook Debut - Grade 5

Popular Music Theory Guidebook Debut - Grade 5

Rockschool's Theory Guidebooks are the ideal introduction to music theory for musicians, composer...
Popular Music Theory Workbook Debut

Popular Music Theory Workbook Debut

The Rockschool Debut Theory Workbook is the ideal preparation for your Debut exam, containing exa...

Music Theory Exam: Grade Debut

Music Notation

At Debut you will cover the following aspects of music notation:

  • Drawing and recognising treble and bass clefs
  •  Drawing different note values (musical symbols)
  •  Writing and identifying accidentals
  •  Writing and understanding barlines and repeat marks
  •  Writing and identifying time signatures
  •  Understanding note lengths: adding barlines and time signatures, including double barlines
  •  Recognising note lengths, and being able to add missing notes and rests
  •  Understanding how to beam notes
  •  Understanding equivalent notes and rests
  •  Note naming, and identifying the correct clef
  •  Identifying accidentals
  •  Identifying chords
  •  Understanding and identifying melodic intervals
  •  Understanding and identifying harmonic intervals
  •  Understanding tempo markings
  •  Recognising the note values of: whole, half, quarter and eighth notes
  •  Understanding how to group notes and rests
  •  Naming flats, sharps, and naturals on the stave
  •  Understanding note “tails”
  •  Identifying pitch ranges: E on bass clef- middle C/ middle C to top G on the treble clef
  •  Understanding and recognising tones and semitones

Popular Music Harmony

At Debut you will cover the following aspects of popular music harmony:

  • Identifying scale intervals
  • Writing scales with accidentals
  • Writing scales with key signatures
  • Applying scale knowledge
  • Identifying arpeggios
  • Basic chord knowledge
  • Understanding and writing scales and arpeggios in a major key
  • Identifying tones and semitones
  • Identifying C/ G major scales, chords and arpeggios
  • Understanding major scale formula
  • Identifying C/ G key signatures

Band Knowledge

At Debut you will cover the following aspects of band knowledge:

  • Identification of Drum kit parts
  • Identification of Guitar and Bass Guitar parts
  • Identification of keys on acoustic and electronic piano keyboards
  • Understanding vocal pitch ranges
  • Understanding and identifying a variety of instrumental notation
  • Understanding and identifying instrumental scores and clef

Band Analysis

At Debut you will cover the following aspects of band analysis

  • Understanding scores with up to two different instruments
  • Identification of tempo including an understanding of BPM
  • Recognising time signatures
  • Identification of clefs
  • Recognising keys
  • Understanding pitch
  • Understanding duration and rhythm
  • Chord analysis
  • Recognising melodic and harmonic Intervals
  • Understanding note values and equivalent rests
  • Understanding the use of barlines
  • Identifying different parts of band instruments

Digital Popular Music Theory Exams

We’ve been working hard to make our Popular Music Theory Exams available online, and we’re delighted to announce that is now possible to continue your musical progression from the comfort of your own home.

The content of the exams remains largely unchanged and an interactive sheet music editor means you and your students’ exam experience will be straightforward and accessible.

You can learn more about how our Digital Popular Music Theory exams work, including how to enter for an individual exam or arrange a private exam day, here, and download the full list of FAQs below.

During your music theory exam, you will be expected to complete some tasks which involve writing notation. These are completed using software called ‘Flat’, which is embedded into the online exam system. Please download the guidance below for instructions on how to access the software and some sample tasks to help you practise prior to your exam day.

Popular Music Theory
Grade 1

Popular Music Theory Grade 1 will develop your music notation skills, help you identify intervals, familiarise you with other instruments and take a look at time signatures – then you’ll put your knowledge to the test in your grade exam.

Estimated Examination Time:

  • Grade Exam: 90 minutes 
Rockschool Music Theory

Purchase Your Book & Exam Entry

Rockschool’s Theory Guidebook Debut – Grade 5 are the ideal introduction to music theory for musicians, composers, students and teachers, designed for use with Rockschool’s theory exams, as study and teaching aids, or as standalone guides.

The Rockschool Grade 1 Theory Workbook is the ideal preparation for your Grade 1 exam, containing example questions and a full specimen paper. Among the concepts Grade 1 will test you on are beaming notes, identifying intervals, identifying vocal pitch ranges and scores with three instruments.

Please note: The popular music theory workbooks are only available in hard copy format. You can buy a copy from you local stockist or via Music Room & Amazon

Popular Music Theory Workbook Grade 1

Popular Music Theory Workbook Grade 1

The Rockschool Grade 1 Theory Workbook is the ideal preparation for your Grade 1 exam, containing...
Popular Music Theory Guidebook Debut - Grade 5

Popular Music Theory Guidebook Debut - Grade 5

Rockschool's Theory Guidebooks are the ideal introduction to music theory for musicians, composer...

Music Theory Exam: Grade 1

Music Notation

At Grade 1 you will cover the following aspects of music notation:

  • Understanding note lengths and adding barlines
  • Recognising note values and adding missing notes
  • Understanding how to beam notes of different values
  • Understanding equivalent notes and rests
  • Understanding note names
  • Recognising and adding clefs
  • Identifying chords#
  • Recognising and understanding accidentals: sharps, flats and naturals
  • Identifying and using repeat marks
  • Identifying and understanding dynamics
  • Identifying and understanding articulations
  • Understanding the major scale
  • Writing accidentals
  • Identifying the 2/4 time signature
  • Understanding ties
  • Understanding dotted notes
  • Recognising dynamics: p, f, cresc. and dim.
  • Recognising articulations: staccato, legato, accents
  • Identifying pitch ranges: D below 1 ledger line on the bass clef to D above middle C, B to B in the treble

Popular Music Harmony

At Grade 1 you will cover the following aspects of popular music harmony:

  • Identifying major 2nd intervals
  • Identifying major 3rd intervals
  • Identifying scale intervals
  • Writing scales with accidentals
  • Writing scales with key signatures
  • Understanding, and adding, accidentals
  • Identifying arpeggios
  • Understanding, and writing, chords correctly
  • Applying chord knowledge
  • Recognising tones and semitones
  • Applying scale knowledge
  • Understanding tones and semitones
  • Identifying F major scales, chords and arpeggios
  • Understanding major chord formula
  • Recognising the F key signature

Band Knowledge

At Grade 1 you will cover the following aspects of band knowledge:

  • Identification of Drum kit parts
  • Identification of Guitar and Bass Guitar parts
  • Identification of keys on acoustic and electronic piano keyboards
  • Understanding vocal pitch ranges
  • Understanding and identifying varied instrumental notation
  • Understanding and identifying instrumental scores and clefs

Band Analysis

At Grade 1 you will cover the following aspects of band analysis:

  • Understanding scores with up to three different instruments
  • Understanding time signatures
  • Recognising melodic intervals
  • Understanding note values and their equivalent rests
  • Understanding and recognising music symbols and directions
  • Understanding rhythms and note values
  • Recognising time signatures
  • Identification of clefs
  • Recognising keys
  • Understanding pitch, and pitch range of specific instruments
  • Chord analysis

Digital Popular Music Theory Exams

We’ve been working hard to make our Popular Music Theory Exams available online, and we’re delighted to announce that is now possible to continue your musical progression from the comfort of your own home.

The content of the exams remains largely unchanged and an interactive sheet music editor means you and your students’ exam experience will be straightforward and accessible.

You can learn more about how our Digital Popular Music Theory exams work, including how to enter for an individual exam or arrange a private exam day, here, and download the full list of FAQs below.

During your music theory exam, you will be expected to complete some tasks which involve writing notation. These are completed using software called ‘Flat’, which is embedded into the online exam system. Please download the guidance below for instructions on how to access the software and some sample tasks to help you practise prior to your exam day.

Popular Music Theory
Grade 2

At Popular Music Theory Grade 2, you’ll improve your music notation while learning to identify scales and arpeggios. You’ll also learn the pitch ranges, and how to write music for the different instruments in modern rock and pop band line-ups.

Estimated Examination Time:

  • Grade Exam: 90 minutes 
Rockschool Music Theory

Purchase Your Book & Exam Entry

Rockschool’s Theory Guidebook Debut – Grade 5 are the ideal introduction to music theory for musicians, composers, students and teachers, designed for use with Rockschool’s theory exams, as study and teaching aids, or as standalone guides.

The Rockschool Grade 2 Theory Workbook is the ideal preparation for your Grade 2 exam, containing example questions and a full specimen paper. At Grade 2, you’ll be tested on adding together notes and rests, applying scale knowledge, varied instrument notation and instrument pitch ranges among other concepts.

Please note: The popular music theory workbooks are only available in hard copy format. You can buy a copy from your local stockist or via Music Room & Amazon

Popular Music Theory Workbook Grade 2

Popular Music Theory Workbook Grade 2

The Rockschool Grade 2 Theory Workbook is the ideal preparation for your Grade 2 exam, containing...
Popular Music Theory Guidebook Debut - Grade 5

Popular Music Theory Guidebook Debut - Grade 5

Rockschool's Theory Guidebooks are the ideal introduction to music theory for musicians, composer...

Music Theory Exam: Grade 2

Music Notation

At Grade 2 you will cover the following aspects of music notation:

  • Understanding note lengths and adding barlines
  • Recognising note values (including 16ths) and adding time signatures
  • Understanding time signatures
  • Understanding how to beam notes of different values
  • Adding together equivalent notes and rests, including full bar rests
  • Understanding note names: two ledger lines
  • Adding missing notes
  • Recognising clefs
  • Identifying chords
  • Understanding repeats: 1st and 2nd time repeats, anacrusis
  • Identifying and understanding dynamics: mp and mf
  • Identifying and understanding articulation
  • Understanding scales: major and minor
  • Understanding grace notes
  • Recognising note ranges: 2 ledger notes above and below
  • Identifying pitch ranges: 2 ledger lines either side of bass and treble clef- bottom C to top C

Popular Music Harmony

At Grade 2 you will cover the following aspects of popular music harmony:

  • Identifying major and minor thirds
  • Identifying scale intervals
  • Recognising scales, and understanding how to write them with the correct accidentals
  • Applying scale knowledge
  • Identifying arpeggios
  • Applying chord knowledge
  • Recognising tones and semitone
  • Recognising chord patterns
  • Recognising D, Bb major scales and chords
  • Understanding relative minors: 2 sharps and flats
  • Understanding minor chord formula
  • Recognising the natural minor scale

Band Knowledge

At Grade 2 you will cover the following aspects of band knowledge:

  • Identification of Drum kit parts
  • Identification of Guitar and Bass Guitar parts
  • Identification of keys: acoustic and electronic piano keyboards
  • Understanding vocal pitch ranges
  • Understanding and identifying varied instrumental notation
  • Understanding and identifying instrumental scores and clefs

Band Analysis

At Grade 2 you will cover the following aspects of band analysis:

  • Understanding scores with up to three different instruments
  • Identification of tempo
  • Understanding time signatures
  • Identification of clefs
  • Recognising keys
  • Understanding pitch ranges across different instrumental disciplines
  • Understanding duration and rhythm
  • Chord analysis
  • Recognising chord symbols
  • Understanding intervals
  • Understanding note values

Digital Popular Music Theory Exams

We’ve been working hard to make our Popular Music Theory Exams available online, and we’re delighted to announce that is now possible to continue your musical progression from the comfort of your own home.

The content of the exams remains largely unchanged and an interactive sheet music editor means you and your students’ exam experience will be straightforward and accessible.

You can learn more about how our Digital Popular Music Theory exams work, including how to enter for an individual exam or arrange a private exam day, here, and download the full list of FAQs below.

During your music theory exam, you will be expected to complete some tasks which involve writing notation. These are completed using software called ‘Flat’, which is embedded into the online exam system. Please download the guidance below for instructions on how to access the software and some sample tasks to help you practise prior to your exam day.

Popular Music Theory
Grade 3

The Popular Music Theory Grade 3 exam will test your increasingly sophisticated understanding of music notation and theory with a thorough look at time signatures, scale intervals, and working with different tempos.

Estimated Examination Time:

  • Grade Exam: 90 minutes 
Rockschool Music Theory

Purchase Your Book & Exam Entry

Rockschool’s Theory Guidebook Debut – Grade 5 are the ideal introduction to music theory for musicians, composers, students and teachers, designed for use with Rockschool’s theory exams, as study and teaching aids, or as standalone guides.

The Rockschool Grade 3 Theory Workbook is the ideal preparation for your Grade 3 exam, containing example questions and a full specimen paper. Key areas tested at Grade 3 include adding time signatures, perfect intervals, identifying piano keys and recognising chord symbols.

Please note: The popular music theory workbooks are only available in hard copy format. You can buy a copy from your local stockist or via Music Room & Amazon

Popular Music Theory Workbook Grade 3

Popular Music Theory Workbook Grade 3

The Rockschool Grade 3 Theory Workbook is the ideal preparation for your Grade 3 exam, containing...
Popular Music Theory Guidebook Debut - Grade 5

Popular Music Theory Guidebook Debut - Grade 5

Rockschool's Theory Guidebooks are the ideal introduction to music theory for musicians, composer...

Music Theory Exam: Grade 3

Music Notation

At Grade 3 you will cover the following aspects of music notation:

  • Understanding note lengths, and adding barlines
  • Recognising note values
  • Beaming notes correctly
  • Understanding and adding time signatures: 3/8, 6/8, 12/8
  • Understanding how to beam notes of different values, and adding missing notes where applicable
  • Understanding and adding equivalent notes and rests
  • Understanding note names: up to three ledger lines
  • Recognising clefs
  • Recognising notes on the stave, and understanding enharmonics
  • Understanding repeat marks in beats and bars: Segno, D.S/ D.C al Coda and Fine
  • Identifying and understanding dynamics: pp and ff
  • Identifying and understanding articulation
  • Understanding scales: major and minor
  • Understanding triplets and swing notation
  • Recognising improv directions
  • Understanding vibrato
  • Understanding fermata

Popular Music Harmony

At Grade 3 you will cover the following aspects of popular music harmony:

  • Identifying intervals: perfect 4th and 5th
  • Applying interval knowledge
  • Identifying scale intervals
  • Recognising tones and semitones
  • Understanding, and writing, scales with accidentals
  • Understanding, and writing, major pentatonic and minor pentatonic scales
  • Understanding pentatonic melodies: major and minor
  • Understanding, and applying, scale knowledge, including the harmonised major scale
  • Identifying arpeggios
  • Understanding chords, and harmonised major scales, including diatonic chords
  • Understanding, and writing, chords
  • Recognising chord charts
  • Creating chord charts from roman numerals
  • Application of chord knowledge
  • Recognising melodic and harmonic intervals
  • Understanding notation: 3 sharps and flats

Band Knowledge

At Grade 3 you will cover the following aspects of band knowledge:

  • Identification of Drum kit parts
  • Identification of Guitar and Bass Guitar parts
  • Identification of keys on acoustic and electronic piano keyboards
  • Understanding vocal pitch ranges
  • Understanding and identifying varied instrumental notation
  • Understanding and identifying instrumental scores and clefs
  • Understanding and recognising musical symbols on instrumental scores

Band Analysis

At Grade 3 you will cover the following aspects of band analysis:

  • Understanding scores with up to three different instruments
  • Identification of tempo including an understanding of BPM
  • Understanding time signature
  • Recognising chord symbols
  • Instrument-specific techniques
  • Understanding pitch
  • Recognising dynamic markings
  • Identifying scalic patterns
  • Recognising Intervals
  • Recognising arpeggiated chords
  • Understanding articulation
  • Recognising keys
  • Genre-specific features of the music
  • Understanding note values: including equivalent notes and rests
  • Understanding musical devices in a variety of band scores

Digital Popular Music Theory Exams

We’ve been working hard to make our Popular Music Theory Exams available online, and we’re delighted to announce that is now possible to continue your musical progression from the comfort of your own home.

The content of the exams remains largely unchanged and an interactive sheet music editor means you and your students’ exam experience will be straightforward and accessible.

You can learn more about how our Digital Popular Music Theory exams work, including how to enter for an individual exam or arrange a private exam day, here, and download the full list of FAQs below.

During your music theory exam, you will be expected to complete some tasks which involve writing notation. These are completed using software called ‘Flat’, which is embedded into the online exam system. Please download the guidance below for instructions on how to access the software and some sample tasks to help you practise prior to your exam day.

Popular Music Theory
Grade 4

At Popular Music Theory Grade 4, you’ll learn how to notate different rhythmic values, time signatures and how to indicate dynamics and articulation in a piece. You’ll also work on scores with up to four instruments.

Estimated Examination Time:

  • Grade Exam: 120 minutes 
Rockschool Music Theory

Purchase Your Book & Exam Entry

Rockschool’s Theory Guidebook Debut – Grade 5 are the ideal introduction to music theory for musicians, composers, students and teachers, designed for use with Rockschool’s theory exams, as study and teaching aids, or as standalone guides.

The Rockschool Grade 4 Theory Workbook is the ideal preparation for your Grade 4 exam, containing example questions and a full specimen paper. At Grade 4, your exam will include understanding rhythm, applying scale knowledge, techniques across different instruments and scores with four instruments, among other topics.

Please note: The popular music theory workbooks are only available in hard copy format. You can buy a copy from your local stockist or via Music Room & Amazon

Popular Music Theory Workbook Grade 4

Popular Music Theory Workbook Grade 4

The Rockschool Grade 4 Theory Workbook is the ideal preparation for your Grade 4 exam, containing...
Popular Music Theory Guidebook Debut - Grade 5

Popular Music Theory Guidebook Debut - Grade 5

Rockschool's Theory Guidebooks are the ideal introduction to music theory for musicians, composer...

Music Theory Exam: Grade 4

Music Notation

At Grade 4 you will cover the following aspects of music notation:

  • Understanding rhythm: halving and doubling rhythmic values, 6/8 and 12/8, half notes and triplets
  • Understanding pitch: 8va and 8vb symbols, ledger lines
  • Understanding dynamics and articulation
  • Re-writing scores with a new time signature
  • Understanding and recognising trills
  • Identifying note names up to four ledger lines
  • Understanding time signatures of the same sound with different notation
  • Recognising triplets
  • Understanding the use of key signatures and accidentals in major and minor scales

Popular Music Harmony

At Grade 4 you will cover the following aspects of popular music harmony:

  • Identifying intervals: major 6th and 7th
  • Understanding scales: pentatonic and variants
  • Applying scale knowledge: Blues scale
  • Adding accidentals to scales
  • Writing and understanding scales
  • Writing and understanding accidentals
  • Naming chords: maj7, min7, dom7, m7b5
  • Applying chord knowledge: roman numeral progressions
  • Understanding key signatures up to four sharps and flats (Emaj, Abmaj)

Band Knowledge

At Grade 4 you will cover the following aspects of band knowledge:

  • Identification of Drum kit parts
  • Identification of Guitar and Bass Guitar parts
  • Identification of keys: acoustic and electronic piano keyboards
  • Understanding vocal pitch ranges
  • Different techniques used across instrumental disciplines
  • Understanding and identifying varied instrumental notation
  • Understanding and identifying instrumental scores and clefs
  • Understanding of musical symbols

Band Analysis

At Grade 4 you will cover the following aspects of band analysis:

  • Understanding scores with up to four different instruments
  • Recognising keys
  • Recognising chord symbols, including roman numerals
  • Instrumental features and techniques across all disciplines
  • Understanding tempo markings
  • Recognising note values and duration
  • Recognising pitches across different instrumental notation
  • Understanding dynamic markings
  • Understanding articulation markings
  • Understanding melodic intervals
  • Recognising musical devices on a multi-instrumental score
  • Recognising musical genres
  • Understanding genre-specific instrumental techniques
  • Understanding scales
  • Recognising key musical terminology on a notated score

Digital Popular Music Theory Exams

We’ve been working hard to make our Popular Music Theory Exams available online, and we’re delighted to announce that is now possible to continue your musical progression from the comfort of your own home.

The content of the exams remains largely unchanged and an interactive sheet music editor means you and your students’ exam experience will be straightforward and accessible.

You can learn more about how our Digital Popular Music Theory exams work, including how to enter for an individual exam or arrange a private exam day, here, and download the full list of FAQs below.

During your music theory exam, you will be expected to complete some tasks which involve writing notation. These are completed using software called ‘Flat’, which is embedded into the online exam system. Please download the guidance below for instructions on how to access the software and some sample tasks to help you practise prior to your exam day.

Popular Music Theory
Grade 5

For Popular Music Theory Grade 5, you’ll learn the unique instrumental techniques and technology exclusive to various popular music genres, and continue to make headway with harmony, notation and theory.

Estimated Examination Time:

  • Grade Exam: 120 minutes 
Rockschool Music Theory

Purchase Your Book & Exam Entry

Rockschool’s Theory Guidebook Debut – Grade 5 are the ideal introduction to music theory for musicians, composers, students and teachers, designed for use with Rockschool’s theory exams, as study and teaching aids, or as standalone guides.

The Rockschool Grade 5 Theory Workbook is the ideal preparation for your Grade 5 exam, containing example questions and a full specimen paper. Among the topics at this level, you’ll tackle rewriting with new time signatures, adding accidentals to scales, genre-specific techniques and chord inversions.

Please note: The popular music theory workbooks are only available in hard copy format. You can buy a copy from your local stockist or via Music Room & Amazon

Popular Music Theory Workbook Grade 5

Popular Music Theory Workbook Grade 5

The Rockschool Grade 5 Theory Workbook is the ideal preparation for your Grade 5 exam, containing...
Popular Music Theory Guidebook Debut - Grade 5

Popular Music Theory Guidebook Debut - Grade 5

Rockschool's Theory Guidebooks are the ideal introduction to music theory for musicians, composer...

Music Theory Exam: Grade 5

Music Notation

At Grade 5 you will cover the following aspects of music notation:

  • Understanding rhythm: halving and doubling rhythmic values, 6/8 and 12/8, half notes and triplets
  • Understanding pitch: 15ma and 15mb symbols, ledger lines
  • Understanding dynamics and articulation: fp, and spf
  • Re-writing scores with a new time signature
  • Understanding the use of key signatures and accidentals in major and minor scales
  • Recognising pitches across different types of scores

Popular Music Harmony

At Grade 5 you will cover the following aspects of popular music harmony:

  • Identifying intervals: minor 6th and 7ths
  • Scale identification: harmonic minor scale
  • Applying scale knowledge
  • Adding accidentals to scales: major and minor
  • Writing scales with the correct clef, key signature, and accidentals (where appropriate)
  • Chords: naming chords and their inversions (1st and 2nd)
  • Identifying chords: transposing roman numeral charts
  • Applying chord knowledge
  • Recognising melodic and harmonic intervals
  • Understanding chord sequences
  • Understanding slash chord notation, and the natural minor with V chord
  • Understanding the transposition of chord symbols
  • Identifying key signatures: up to 5 sharps and flats

Band Knowledge

At Grade 5 you will cover the following aspects of band knowledge:

  • Identification of Drum kit parts
  • Recognising genre-specific techniques applied to all instrumental disciplines
  • Identification of Guitar and Bass Guitar parts
  • Understanding the use of technology with band instruments
  • Identification of keys: acoustic and electronic piano keyboards
  • Understanding vocal pitch ranges
  • Understanding of varied music notation and clefs
  • Recognition of pitch ranges across SATB vocal ranges

Band Analysis

At Grade 5 you will cover the following aspects of band analysis:

  • Understanding scores with up to five different instruments
  • Recognising keys
  • Understanding instrument-specific techniques
  • Chord analysis, including inversions
  • Scale identification
  • Understanding various types of notation
  • Recognising rhythms
  • Recognising musical devices
  • Recognising musical styles
  • Understanding the parts, and functions, of band instruments
  • Knowing, and applying, articulation and dynamics across varied scores
  • Recognising scales: major and minor

Digital Popular Music Theory Exams

We’ve been working hard to make our Popular Music Theory Exams available online, and we’re delighted to announce that is now possible to continue your musical progression from the comfort of your own home.

The content of the exams remains largely unchanged and an interactive sheet music editor means you and your students’ exam experience will be straightforward and accessible.

You can learn more about how our Digital Popular Music Theory exams work, including how to enter for an individual exam or arrange a private exam day, here, and download the full list of FAQs below.

During your music theory exam, you will be expected to complete some tasks which involve writing notation. These are completed using software called ‘Flat’, which is embedded into the online exam system. Please download the guidance below for instructions on how to access the software and some sample tasks to help you practise prior to your exam day.

Popular Music Theory
Grade 6

At Popular Music Theory Grade 6 you’ll tackle complex pitch intervals, including enharmonic transposition and double accidentals, whilst building on instrument-specific techniques across scores with up to eight different instruments.

Estimated Examination Time:

  • Grade Exam: 180 minutes 
Rockschool Music Theory

Purchase Your Book & Exam Entry

The Rockschool Popular Music Theory Guidebook (Grades 6–8) follows on seamlessly from the previous Guidebook in the series with an accessible, in-depth exploration of the more advanced music theory encountered by students taking Rockschool’s later Grade Exams. Use it with the accompanying Popular Music Theory Workbooks (Grades 6–8) to ensure success in your exams.

Rockschool’s Popular Music Theory series is also ideal for Music Technology, GCSE and Further Education students.

The Rockschool Grade 6 Theory Workbook is the ideal preparation for your Grade 6 exam, containing example questions and a full specimen paper. Grade 6 exams earn UCAS points, and include sample questions from each of the following sections of your theory exam.

Please note: The popular music theory workbooks are only available in hard copy format. You can buy a copy from your local stockist or via Music Room & Amazon

Popular Music Theory Guidebook Grade 6 - Grade 8

Popular Music Theory Guidebook Grade 6 - Grade 8

Rockschool's Theory Guidebooks are the ideal introduction to music theory for musicians, composer...
Popular Music Theory Workbook Grade 6

Popular Music Theory Workbook Grade 6

The Rockschool Grade 6 Theory Workbook is the ideal preparation for your Grade 6 exam, containing...

Music Theory Exam: Grade 6

Music Notation

At Grade 6 you will cover the following aspects of music notation:

  • Understanding rhythm: double dotted rhythms and less-common time signatures
  • Rhythm: rewriting with a new time signature, and as compound and simple time
  • Understanding pitch: double accidentals
  • Understanding pitch: writing enharmonic pitches
  • Understanding pitch: enharmonic transposition
  • Recognising note values: 16th, triplet, double dots
  • Understanding time signatures: 2/2, 3/2, 4/2
  • Understanding key signatures: double flats and sharps

Popular Music Harmony

At Grade 6 you will cover the following aspects of popular music harmony:

  • Identifying intervals: b5, b2
  • Understanding modes: modal basics, modal transformation, modal differences, modal knowledge, writing out modes in notes and note names
  • Recognising modes: ionian & aeolian, dorian & mixolydian
  • Understanding, and identifying scales: country, pentatonic, major, minor, and blues
  • Chromaticism: completing chromatic scales, recognising gaps in chromatic scales, writing out chromatic scales, and identifying chromatic fragments
  • Transposition: transposing in major 3rds and perfect 5ths
  • Transposing chord charts
  • Understanding chords and chord inversions: 3rd inversion
  • Adding chords: 6th, sus 2 & 4, diatonic chords including maj 9th, min 9th and dom 9th
  • Identifying harmonic and melodic intervals
  • Identifying chords: naming chords, chord charts, chord sequences, and use of roman numeral notation
  • Understanding key signatures up to seven sharps and flats

Band Knowledge

At Grade 6 you will cover the following aspects of band knowledge:

  • Identification of Drum kit parts
  • Genre- specific instrumental techniques of band instrument
  • Identification of Guitar and Bass Guitar parts
  • Understanding the use of music technology with band instruments
  • Understanding instrumental performance technique
  • Identification of keys: acoustic and electronic piano keyboards
  • Identification of vocal techniques
  • Understanding the function of a microphone
  • Understanding how a singer uses music technology to improve performance
  • Genre- specific instrumental techniques of brass instruments
  • Identification of parts on a brass instrument
  • Identifying key musical terms associated with band performance
  • Recognising instrument- specific techniques
  • Recognising notation across different instrumental disciplines
  • Identification of instrumental parts across different disciplines
  • Identification of pitch range across different instrumental disciplines

Band Analysis

At Grade 6 you will cover the following aspects of band analysis:

  • Understanding scores with up to eight different instruments
  • Understanding the use of improvisation techniques
  • Genre- specific techniques: style and content
  • Understanding of stylistic traits across varied instruments
  • Understanding the harmonic content in band scores
  • Understanding score writing
  • Understanding the transposition of instruments whilst score writing
  • Understanding musical devices: melodic, harmonic, rhythmic
  • Recognising instrument-specific techniques

Digital Popular Music Theory Exams

We’ve been working hard to make our Popular Music Theory Exams available online, and we’re delighted to announce that is now possible to continue your musical progression from the comfort of your own home.

The content of the exams remains largely unchanged and an interactive sheet music editor means you and your students’ exam experience will be straightforward and accessible.

You can learn more about how our Digital Popular Music Theory exams work, including how to enter for an individual exam or arrange a private exam day, here, and download the full list of FAQs below.

During your music theory exam, you will be expected to complete some tasks which involve writing notation. These are completed using software called ‘Flat’, which is embedded into the online exam system. Please download the guidance below for instructions on how to access the software and some sample tasks to help you practise prior to your exam day.

Popular Music Theory
Grade 7

Popular Music Theory Grade 7 will teach you how to handle tricky notation challenges such as transposition and less-common time signatures. You’ll also identify the differences between modes and complex chords, and rewrite scores for transposing instruments.

Estimated Examination Time:

  • Grade Exam: 180 minutes 
Rockschool Music Theory

Purchase Your Book & Exam Entry

The Rockschool Popular Music Theory Guidebook (Grades 6–8) follows on seamlessly from the previous Guidebook in the series with an accessible, in-depth exploration of the more advanced music theory encountered by students taking Rockschool’s later Grade Exams. Use it with the accompanying Popular Music Theory Workbooks (Grades 6–8) to ensure success in your exams.

Rockschool’s Popular Music Theory series is also ideal for Music Technology, GCSE and Further Education students.

The Rockschool Grade 7 Theory Workbook is the ideal preparation for your Grade 7 exam, containing example questions and a full specimen paper. Grade 7 exams earn UCAS points, and include advanced time signatures, compound intervals, modes and scores with eight instruments.

Please note: The popular music theory workbooks are only available in hard copy format. You can buy a copy from your local stockist or via Music Room & Amazon

Popular Music Theory Workbook Grade 7

Popular Music Theory Workbook Grade 7

The Rockschool Grade 7 Theory Workbook is the ideal preparation for your Grade 7 exam, containing...
Popular Music Theory Guidebook Grade 6 - Grade 8

Popular Music Theory Guidebook Grade 6 - Grade 8

Rockschool's Theory Guidebooks are the ideal introduction to music theory for musicians, composer...

Music Theory Exam: Grade 7

Music Notation

At Grade 7 you will cover the following aspects of music notation:

  • Understanding rhythm: 32nd and 64th notes, and equivalent rests.
  • Rhythmic values: halving rhythmic values, doubling rhythmic values, working with less-common time signatures.
  • Understanding pitch: enharmonic transpositions
  • Transposing and re-writing scores across different instruments and clefs
  • Understanding time signatures: 5/4, 6/4, 7/4

Popular Music Harmony

At Grade 7 you will cover the following aspects of popular music harmony:

  • Identifying compound intervals
  • Understanding modes: ionian, dorian, phrygian, lydian, and mixolydian
  • Recognising modes and modal differences, and writing out modes in notation
  • Transposing melodies: 2nds, 4ths, 6ths
  • Chord identification: diatonic 11 and 13
  • Recognising harmonic and melodic intervals
  • Understanding chord inversions

Band Knowledge

At Grade 7 you will cover the following aspects of band knowledge:

  • Identification of Drum parts
  • Genre-specific techniques used across different instrumental disciplines
  • Identification of Guitar and Bass Guitar parts
  • Understanding the use of music technology with band instruments
  • Understanding instrumental performance technique
  • Identification of keys: acoustic and electronic instruments
  • Identification of vocal techniques
  • Understanding the function of a microphone
  • Understanding how a singer uses music technology to improve performance
  • Genre-specific instrumental techniques of brass instruments
  • Identification of parts on a brass instrument
  • Key musical terms associated with band performance
  • Recognising instrument-specific techniques
  • Recognising notation across different instrumental disciplines
  • Identification of pitch range across different instrumental disciplines
  • Understanding instrumental-specific notation
  • Recognising melodic ornamentation
  • Understanding transposing instruments
  • Recognising different parts on band and brass instruments
  • How to develop your performance technique across different instrumental disciplines
  • Interpreting musical directions on a score for up to 8 players
  • Knowing the pitch range across instrumental disciplines

Band Analysis

At Grade 7 you will cover the following aspects of band analysis:

  • Understanding scores with up to eight different instruments
  • Understanding instrument-specific techniques
  • Re-writing a score for transposing instruments
  • Chordal analysis and stylistics traits of band and brass instruments
  • Interpreting a score for up to eight players
  • Understating improvisation techniques across instrumental disciplines
  • Understanding style and content of specific instruments
  • Recognising the stylistics traits of varied instruments
  • Understanding musical devices across instrumental disciplines: melodic/ harmonic/ rhythmic
  • Recognising the stylistic traits in different instrumental disciplines
  • Generic band score analysis

Digital Popular Music Theory Exams

We’ve been working hard to make our Popular Music Theory Exams available online, and we’re delighted to announce that is now possible to continue your musical progression from the comfort of your own home.

The content of the exams remains largely unchanged and an interactive sheet music editor means you and your students’ exam experience will be straightforward and accessible.

You can learn more about how our Digital Popular Music Theory exams work, including how to enter for an individual exam or arrange a private exam day, here, and download the full list of FAQs below.

During your music theory exam, you will be expected to complete some tasks which involve writing notation. These are completed using software called ‘Flat’, which is embedded into the online exam system. Please download the guidance below for instructions on how to access the software and some sample tasks to help you practise prior to your exam day.

Popular Music Theory
Grade 8

Take Popular Music Theory Grade 8 for a professional test of your notation skills, theoretical understanding, and band analysis within multi-instrumental scores. Master this and you’ll have the music-theory grounding to take on any job in the world of rock and pop.

Estimated Examination Time:

  • Grade Exam: 180 minutes 
Rockschool Music Theory

Purchase Your Book & Exam Entry

The Rockschool Popular Music Theory Guidebook (Grades 6–8) follows on seamlessly from the previous Guidebook in the series with an accessible, in-depth exploration of the more advanced music theory encountered by students taking Rockschool’s later Grade Exams. Use it with the accompanying Popular Music Theory Workbooks (Grades 6–8) to ensure success in your exams.

Rockschool’s Popular Music Theory series is also ideal for Music Technology, GCSE and Further Education students.

The Rockschool Grade 8 Theory Workbook is the ideal preparation for your Grade 8 exam, containing example questions and a full specimen paper. Grade 8 exams earn UCAS points, and test enharmonic transpositions, advanced chord recognition, sophisticated mode writing and technology and band instruments among other subjects.

Please note: The popular music theory workbooks are only available in hard copy format. You can buy a copy from your local stockist or via Music Room & Amazon

Popular Music Theory Workbook Grade 8

Popular Music Theory Workbook Grade 8

The Rockschool Grade 8 Theory Workbook is the ideal preparation for your Grade 8 exam, containing...
Popular Music Theory Guidebook Grade 6 - Grade 8

Popular Music Theory Guidebook Grade 6 - Grade 8

Rockschool's Theory Guidebooks are the ideal introduction to music theory for musicians, composer...

Music Theory Exam: Grade 8

Music Notation

At Grade 8 you will cover the following aspects of music notation:

  • Clefs: rewriting into other clefs
  • Rhythm: adding missing time signatures, tuplet ratios, and beaming into different note groupings, and equivalent rests
  • Recognising music notation used by different instrumental groups including alto
  • Understanding odd note groupings
    Recognising time signatures: 5/8, 7/8

Popular Music Harmony

At Grade 8 you will cover the following aspects of popular music harmony:

  • Understanding scales: melodic and harmonic minor scales
  • Identifying scales and using accidentals in contrasting melody lines: altered, whole tone, diminished, melodic minor
  • Writing out scales with different clefs and varied pitch
  • Understanding the use of accidentals in varied modes
  • Transposing melodies across different instrumental disciplines
  • Understanding chords: extended and altered
  • Identifying intervals of varied keys and clefs
  • Recognising all keys and understanding how to transpose into any key

Band Knowledge

At Grade 8 you will cover the following aspects of band knowledge:

  • Understanding how music technology is used: identification of effects and how they are used
  • Instrument-specific effects and how to recognise them
  • How music technology effects have changed over the decades
  • Identification of parts on a string instrument
  • Understanding how to play a stringed instrument, the physical differences between them, and recognising instrument-specific traits
  • Understanding instrument-specific techniques across different disciplines
  • Understanding and recognising instrumental notation
  • Interpreting musical devices on a score
  • Recognising different clefs
  • Recognising the pitch range of all instruments studied

Band Analysis

At Grade 8 you will cover the following aspects of band analysis:

  • Understanding scores with up to eight different instruments
  • Instrument-specific techniques
  • Re-writing a score for transposing instruments
  • Chordal analysis and stylistics traits of band and brass instruments
  • Interpreting a score for up to eight players
  • Understating improvisation techniques across instrumental disciplines
  • Understanding style and content of specific instruments
  • Recognising the stylistics traits of varied instruments
  • Understanding musical devices across instrumental disciplines: melodic/ harmonic/ rhythmic
  • Recognising the stylistic traits in different instrumental disciplines
  • Generic band score analysis
  • Recognising scales, modes, and modulation

Digital Popular Music Theory Exams

We’ve been working hard to make our Popular Music Theory Exams available online, and we’re delighted to announce that is now possible to continue your musical progression from the comfort of your own home.

The content of the exams remains largely unchanged and an interactive sheet music editor means you and your students’ exam experience will be straightforward and accessible.

You can learn more about how our Digital Popular Music Theory exams work, including how to enter for an individual exam or arrange a private exam day, here, and download the full list of FAQs below.

During your music theory exam, you will be expected to complete some tasks which involve writing notation. These are completed using software called ‘Flat’, which is embedded into the online exam system. Please download the guidance below for instructions on how to access the software and some sample tasks to help you practise prior to your exam day.

Purchase your graded music exam entry

Booking your graded music exam is an extremely simple process. Simply purchase your exam entry from our online shop before completing your exam details via your RSL Awards secure account.

Sit the Music Theory exam from the comfort of your own home. The exam is conducted online – all you need is a computer and internet connection.

Downloads

Download the Rockschool Music Theory syllabus for free! Here you will also find a range of resources to support your journey with Rockschool.

Find a Teacher or Institution

Find your nearest RSL Awards teacher by using the search below. Our exams are also available across the globe. Click here to search international teachers or institutions.

Graded Music Exam Fees

Please find all graded music exam fees below. If you’re based outside the UK, hit the button below.

Popular Music Theory Graded Exams

Exam Grade Price
Debut £30.00
Grade 1 £35.00
Grade 2 £35.00
Grade 3 £35.00
Grade 4 £43.00
Grade 5 £43.00
Grade 6 £53.00
Grade 7 £53.00
Grade 8 £53.00

*E-certificate included. Printed certificate available for an additional £3 per exam (certificates are only issued for Pass, Merit or Distinction results).

Please see “other fees” below relating to UK Graded Music Exams.

Late Entry, Date Changes & Deferrals

Service Applicable When... Fee
Date Change Changing exam date/time after appointment slip has been issued £15
Deferral Deferring exam to future exam period 50% of exam fee

Please see the UK Graded Exams Date Change & Deferral policy for circumstances where the fee can be waived.

In the event that your video submission cannot be marked or marking is impacted because guidelines have not been followed correctly, you will be charged 75% of the entry fee to make a resubmission.

Enquiries about Results / Appeals

Service Fee Cap for Multiple Candidates Refundable
Informal Review No Charge N/A N/A
Clerical Check £10 £50 No
Remark 50% of Exam Fee £100 If marks change by more than +/-5 or there is a change of assessment band
Investigation and Report No Charge N/A N/A
First Level Appeal 60% of Exam Fee £150 If enquiry is upheld
Second Level Appeal 75% of Exam Fee £200 If enquiry if upheld

Replacement Certificate

Service Fee
Replacement Certificate £10

Ready to take an exam?

Simply purchase your exam entry from our online shop before completing your exam details via your RSL Awards secure account.

Exam Sign Up

Digital Files

For the RSL shop we’ve chosen the most widely used media for ease of use and flexibility when transferring across different devices.

Every complete digital book (e.g. Electric Guitar Grade 1) includes:

  • PDF sheet music
  • MP3 audio
  • Supporting tests

Download Limits

We know downloading digital content can be frustrating at times which is why we’ve given you multiple chances to download your audio and sheet music.

Each complete digital book purchased includes:

  • 5 audio downloads
  • 3 sheet music downloadsThis means if you misplace your content, or if your download times-out, you’ll still have plenty of attempts to download your content.

Purchase Options

1. Hard Copy

The hard copy or paperback version can be purchased from our shop for shipping to the UK. Orders for shipping to other countries can be placed via www.musicroom.com. The paperback version includes everything you need for your exam in one essential book, including sheet music, a code for access to MP3 audio and complete supporting tests.

2. Digital Download (where applicable)

Digital downloads is the most popular way of purchasing and downloading a Rockschool book, track or supporting test. Rockschool digital book downloads come complete with PDF sheet music, MP3 audio and supporting tests for instant accessibility on all your favourite devices.

Note: Digital sheet music is stamped with your email address and order number.

3. Digital Download + E-Book Access

The RSL e-books, utilising Learning Platform technology powered by MatchMySound, are the ultimate practise tool, giving you the ability to master your instrument like never before.