MyMusicTheory has been Renovated!

Regular visitors will have noticed a dramatic change to the MyMusicTheory website. This is not just a cosmetic change, it’s also a complete restructuring, and a large number of pages have also been rewritten. Apologies to anyone who was midway through reading a page when the update took place – there is never an easy way to perform a big restructuring job without a little chaos on the way!

In this post I’ll explain a little more about what’s changed, and why these changes have taken place. First, a little history.

I first started the MyMusicTheory website back in 2007. I started with no background knowledge at all about how to build a website, and set about writing the site in hand-coded HTML. I bought a “Teach Yourself HTML” book and worked though it page-by-page. The site initially only had lessons for ABRSM grade 5, so a fairly small number of pages, and hand-coding was feasible, although laborious.

mymusictheory in 2012
MyMusicTheory in 2012

These were fairly early days in terms of the internet, so although I didn’t advertise the site I found myself with a surprising number of visitors – there was no other site on the web aimed at the same niche, as far as I’m aware. I was quickly asked to add more grades, but in doing so the site was already getting too big to code everything by hand, and I needed more functionality.

At that point in time there were two main website platforms designed to make life easier for writers – WordPress, and Joomla. WordPress was aimed at bloggers, and Joomla was aimed at site-builders, so I moved onto Joomla (version 1.5 for those interested in these things!)

Within Joomla I was able to build out the site to eventually cover all 8 ABRSM music theory grades. This took me around 8 years in total, including making PDFs and books to accompany the free online courses. In 2015 I created my first video course, which was a short course for Grade 5 Composition. Complete courses for each ABRSM grade followed over the next several months.

In 2017 I was approached by Trinity to add some resources appropriate for their syllabuses. I began to do so, but then in 2018 the ABRSM made their first major syllabus changes since the early 2000s, culling composition from grades 1-5 and also removing a few other questions such as rewriting SATB scores. My time was then spent adapting the ABRSM web pages, PDFs, books and video courses to match the new syllabus, and the Trinity pages went on the back-burner for a while.

Almost as soon as the updates were finished, COVID struck and the ABRSM again made major syllabus changes, removing a substantial amount of tasks (including melodic minor scales in the earlier grades, figured bass from grade 5, and a huge number of theory terms).

Of course the biggest change was switching to online, multiple-choice exams instead of paper-based.

So another round of revisions to all my material was necessary, and again Trinity materials went on the back burner. Sadly, during this time ABRSM also made a number of poor decisions regarding the roll-out of the new-style exams and many teachers (as well as students and parents) lost faith in them as an exam board. Many people have switched to Trinity as they prefer the paper-based exams and because their syllabus is now more rigorous than ABRSM’s. Trinity grade 5 is accepted by the ABRSM as a prerequisite for higher practical grades.

MyMusicTheory in 2023

Finally, with all the ABRSM updates done, I got to work on finishing the complete suite of Trinity Video Courses early in 2023. I also came to three realisations.

Firstly, that I needed my materials to be more flexible, so that I could adapt more efficiently to any syllabus changes in the future.

Secondly, that the current organisation of the site by ABRSM grade meant that it was quite difficult to add lessons for any other boards, since other boards sometimes introduce the same topics at different grades (some earlier, some later).

And thirdly, the reduction in the ABRSM syllabus grades 1-5 meant that my existing grade 6 course was now simply too difficult. With no composition and little harmony done in earlier grades for example, a lot of assumed knowledge is now unlikely to be known by grade 6 candidates.

Whilst pondering the best way forward, it came to my attention that my current version of Joomla was coming to the end of its serviceable life, with no security updates available after August 2023. A major website renovation was inevitable.

All of this combined into a decision to move platforms, and start again! Not from scratch of course, because all the lessons, tests, exercises and so on are already written – but the website itself needed building from a different viewpoint. Instead of being a site based on the ABRSM grades, the site is now built around theory topics and each topic is then tagged with a board/grade. This means the same page (e.g.. “Syncopation”) can appear in two different places (Trinity grade 2, or ABRSM grade 6) and every page should be (I hope!) easy to find and cross reference with the relevant syllabus.

WordPress is no longer just for bloggers, and has given me the opportunity to make a tidier, faster and better-organised site. I hope you continue to enjoy using it, and excuse the disruption at this time. Hopefully the new format will allow the site to grow and more easily accommodate any changes at the whim of the exam boards!

I hope you are able to navigate your way to what you need, but if you are at all lost, please get in touch and I will point you in the right direction!


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