Huntingdonshire Music School Association

Sunday, January 18, 2004

A Typical Saturday Morning

Here we try to illustrate what goes on on a typical Saturday morning at the Huntingdonshire Music School.

The activities are split into the following categories:-

  • lessons. These happen throughout the morning with pupils dipping into and out of theory and/or group playing to take their lesson. Not everyone takes lessons.
  • theory tuition. Where you learn the theory (that makes sense of the black sqiggles on the page) and, if appropriate, prepare for exams. Not everyone takes exams.
  • group playing. Getting together in groups to practice, usually for a concert at the school or externally. Sometimes we do daft things, like turning the music upside down and seeing what it sounds like ...
  • socialising / eating / drinking. Catching up with the gossip, in the cafe when we have quieter moments. Some even practice their pieces for the benefit ( wink ) of everyone else.

Theory Tuition

Theory is important when learning an instrument. It is so much easier to read and understand music if you understand the basic building blocks.

Theory classes are organised by Grade. This aligns with the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music (ABRSM) examination grades. In terms of difficulty we start at Grade 1 and finish at Grade 8 (the hardest). We currently have two theory groups which take students up to grade 5, further grades can ba arranged as an individual lesson. You do not have to take exams and anyone can take theory lessons.

There are two types of theory tuition:-

  • written. This is covered by a range of set books, by teacher-derived quizzes, tests, games and learning aids. Often a piano or other instrument may be used to help illustrate theory principles, or practice such as key signatures, scales, chords or timing. Practice theory exam papers are available for those taking theory and practical exams or those who want to see how far they’ve reached.
  • aural. This aims to make the student better at listening to and analysing music. Aural is a requirement for ABRSM music exams. For all grades these are covered in the students individual lessons. If you feel you need more Aural this can be arranged as an individual lesson.
  • Groups Playing

    You don’t have to learn an instrument with us to play. You might take lessons privately elsewhere and want to learn the skills of playing as a member of a larger team (albeit in loose formation at times!). This sort of experience is very hard to get and almost impossible to get as an adult (most things are geared up towards the little dots, youngsters and teenagers (a decidely different species wink ). Not only that, but it’s convenient, sociable and you can join as many as you want.

    We are also looking at forming new ensembles, particularly choral/singing and perhaps blending music technology with classical instruments.

  • Groups below are all open to all age groups.
    • 9.00-9.30 Junior Theory (Moving to 08.45 spring term 2016)
    • 9.30- 10.00 Grade 5 Theory (moving to 09.15 - 10.00 Spring term 2016)
    • 9.00-10.00 Brass Group
    • 10.00-11.00 Family Community Choir
    • 10.00 -11.00 Intermediate Concert Band
    • 11.00 -12.00 Advanced Concert Band
    • 11.15 - 12.00 Beginner Strings
    • 12.00 -13.30 Big Band
    • register your interest at


    • 17.30- 18.30 Folk Group (taking a breay Autumn Term 2015)

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Music Exams

Any student can take exams. The normal process is that your teacher will tell you when they think that you are ready to take an exam. You then get an entry form from reception, the teacher signs it and you then hand it in with the entry fee before the closing date for entries. Exams are normally taken at the end of each of the 3 terms. The closing date for entries falls at the end of the first week of each term. Once entered you’ll get confirmation of the time and date of the exam by post.

The college deals with the following exam boards:-

Practical Exam Format

A practical exam lasts from just over ten minutes, at Grade 1, to possibly 30 minutes at Grade 8.

A typical exam has scales, sight reading and set pieces with various listening tests

A Typical Exam has Parts requiring You to Play and Aural Tests of Your Listening Powers

It typically consists of the following parts:-

  • playing scales. The examiner will choose some from the set that are specified for your instrument and grade.
  • playing of 3 pieces (which you will have chosen and practised - endlessly - in the months beforehand)
  • playing a piece provided by the examiner to test sight reading
  • aural tests. These usually involve listening to a piece and describing it in musical terms that you’ve covered in theory lessons, listening to a piece played twice but with rhythmic and/or melodic differences and identifying what the differences were, and singing - either repeating a phrase played by the examiner or sight-singing (at higher grades)

Theory Exams

It is possible to take practical exams without theory up until Grade 5. In order to be able to take Grade 6 or higher you first have to have passed the Grade 5 theory exam. The good news is that there is no theory exam needed beyond this at Grades 6 to 8. The bad news is that the Grade 5 theory exam includes everything you’ve learnt from Grades 1 to 5 inclusive.

The Music College provides, if you want to, the ability to take theory exams at any level. We usually use the ABRSM board. Practice papers are available and can be bought from reception.

Using Music Exam Results for University and College Entrance

It is possible to use the results of ABRSM practical and theory examinations to count towards the total number of points needed by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). [[ucas.htm]] More information is available….

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Music Exams - Not For Everyone!

If you wish to, you can be entered to take a formal music examination such as those run by the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music (ABRSM). These, for example, start at Grade 1 and finish at Grade 8 and include practical (playing) as well as a listening (aural) part. Your teacher will tell you if you are ready to take one. The exams take place at the end of each term and registration closes at the beginning of the term. If you have entered for an exam you have the option to practice with accompaniment (if relevant) and practice the aural as part of your theory lesson. Depending on the instrument other examination boards are used.

It is also possible to take exams at Grades 1 to 5 for music theory. In fact, to move beyond Grade 5 at the practical (playing) side you have to have passed a Grade 5 theory exam.

Pupils only take exams if they want to. Whilst a formal qualification is nationally recognised, if you simply want to turn up and play - you can!

See also

Music ExamsCounting Music Exams Towards UCAS Admission

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