I came upon this test when I was looking into some of the best music schools for rock music, such as Berklee, The Musicians Institute, and The Academy of Contemporary Music (UK).
While having already established contact with Berklee and MI, The Academy of Contemporary Music, or ACM, had some requirements that I had not met. While most music schools in the U.S. only require that you have the funds, ACM's Bachelor's program requires you to have completed a Grade Exam of 5 or above. On the application itself, it requires you to list the date you completed the test and the awarding body. Since I didn't have this, I felt motivated to get started.
Even if you have no intention of attending a British University, having completed this exam is the equivilent to being ready for a career in music on a professional level.
Just to make things clear from the get go, that this book is NOT to be your ONLY source of information. It is a guide to help you understand what is required on the test. While it contains exercises for transcribing, writing, and analysis, like most people that take the test, you will need at least 3 supplementary sources.
The test requires you to have knowlege about chord stucture, the ranges of the instruments, dynamics, classical music forms (eg. sonata, fugue, etc.), music history (eg. The Baroque Period), composers and their styles, and music symbols. In short, anything you need to know to be a working composer of classical music.
How do you even get started? Well, there are two very important places to start. Start with scales and intervals. Know how they look on your instrument, and on paper. There are a couple of books that summarize the basics of composition in less than 35 pages and contain mostly graphics. 'Gradus ad Parnassum'-Johann Joseph Fux, and 'Elementary Counterpoint'-Frederick Horwood are the most basic books in existence and every advanced concept will stem directly from the concepts you learn in these books. They are cheap and there are even pdf versions online.
Start writing! The only way to learn anything from any music theory book is to put it to work immediately, otherwise you won't learn the concepts. There are many music writing programs from Sibilus to Guitar Pro that you can start using to put these concepts to work. If you learn your scales, intervals, and the basic types of motion alone, you can write some pretty interesting Baroque and Classical type pieces. I also suggest taking a couple of your favorite songs and transcribing them by ear, or programing in sheet music from a book of your choice. Mess with new concepts, buttons and dynamics at any opportunity. You will gain a great deal of musical fluency by just learning the features of composition programs.
The theory workbook will introduce you to obscure forms of writing like Serialism. It's atonal music that uses all 12 tones in random order. I practiced with it using a number generator and the 'Circle of 5ths' assigning number values to each tone like you'd see on a clock. I learned about composers that used this style such as Schoenberg and Bartok. I listened to many of their compositions and watched a short documentary. This is just a sample of how many ways there are to go about studying the material in this book. Notice how personalized and methodical it is.
Don't be satisfied with just studying the worksheets. They aren't enough and it's made clear in the book that you will need other sources. Many students have three books or more that they used to pass their exams. I use GRADUS by Leo Kraft, as one of my main sources. I have already reviewed it and you may read it if you'd like. My study methods and sources are highly personalized, as you might find with others that have already taken the test. I still have at least 6 more weeks of consistent study before I take mine, and I have been studying theory regularly for 4 years. It takes time. There are forums full of people that have passed the Level 8 exam and lower levels.
I wouldn't suggest attempting Level 8 unless you are confident and ready to do so. You might just want a sneak peak to see what professional composers are expected to know. This book will offer you at the very least some insight into how high the bar is set. You can work up to it, and even explore the lower levels. The guides are so affordable that it couldn't hurt. Good luck!
|Liked about it ||
+Extras- It's embellished with tips, factoids, and it's colorfully presented
|Didn't like ||
+Not self sufficient
+There isn't a book that covers all the material in its entirety
+Clear in some areas while vague in others
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