If you have taken ABRSM grade 5 recently, you will have probably taken the online exam. You will find grade 6 quite a different experience, as 50% of the paper requires you to write music yourself. If you have not done much handwriting of music before, be sure to do plenty of practice to make sure your notation is neat, legible and accurate.

Please follow the course in the order it is set out. Each topic follows logically on from the next.

▶ Use the ABRSM menu for find lessons for this grade (on the right of this page on a computer, or scroll down on phones/tablets).

You will gain an in depth understanding of voice leading and harmony first, which will then allow you tackle question 1a of the exam paper. After this, we will learn about the conventions of figured bass, which will allow you to tackle question 1b and question 2.

The principles of implied harmony and modulation will enable you to tackle question 3, which is composition (but your knowledge of voice leading and harmony will also be necessary here).

Finally, we look at other aspects of theory which can come up in questions 4 and 5, which are general questions based on chamber and orchestral scores.

You will find the exam much easier if you are able to hear music in your head (in the same way that you can read words in your head). This is a skill which takes practice, but if you spend a few minutes each day you will quickly make progress.

I also highly recommend purchasing ABRSM past papers before sitting an actual exam. These can be obtained from shop.abrsm.org, Amazon or your local sheet music reseller.

ABRSM Syllabus (Grade 6)

As in preceding grades, with the addition of:

  • The use of 5/3, 6/3 and 6/4 chords on any degree of the major or minor (harmonic and melodic) scale.
  • The recognition of the dominant seventh chord in root position, first, second and third inversions, in any major or
    minor key.
  • The supertonic seventh chord in root position and first inversion, in any major or minor key.
  • Figuring for all the above chords.
  • Modulation
  • Cadences
  • Ornamentation and melodic decoration, which might include passing notes, auxiliary notes, appoggiaturas, changing notes and notes of anticipation.

Questions will cover:

  • Writing specified chords for voices in four parts or for keyboard (at the candidate’s choice) above a given bass part of about four bars.
  • The indication of suitable chords for the accompaniment of a diatonic melody of about eight bars in any key, using any recognised method of notation, or, at the candidate’s choice, the provision of a bass to a given melody, adding figures to indicate the intended harmonies.
  • Composition of a melody for a specified instrument (a choice will be provided), using a given opening. Modulation to the dominant, subdominant, relative major or relative minor may be required.
  • Questions on short extracts of music written for piano or in open score for voices or for any combination of instruments and/or voices, designed to test the candidate’s knowledge of the elements and notation of music, including the realisation of ornaments, the identification and notation of underlying harmonic structure, phrase structure, style, performance, and on the voices and instruments for which the works were written.

Read the ABRSM syllabus here.