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Review of the new ABRSM Theory Books: "Discovering Music Theory Grades 1 - 5"

ABRSM have updated their “Theory in Practice” books that teachers and students have become so familiar with over past years. The new adapted books are much more visually appealing now that they are in full colour, and seem more neatly organised. Nearly all the content from the old books has remained the same - the same things are to be learnt, however there is some degree of more sensible reorganisation of the syllabus.

The new set of books have been released in conjunction with ABRSM’s move from standard paper theory exams to online theory exams. Questions have been formatted, with a lot of multiple choice styles similar to what candidates should expect in the online exams.

The new set of books will be much more familiar in presentation style to what learners now expect from the standard modern text book. ABRSM seem to have followed Trinity’s theory workbooks in design and format. However, it does need to be mentioned that the amount of exercises are far less in the new books compared to the older “Theory in Practice” books. Also, it is a shame that even though the practical syllabi of ABRSM is modernising with the inclusion of more contemporary composers and styles, this is not followed through into the new theory books. Trinity offer the learner a broader understanding of music theory by covering chord symbols, modes and popular genres. Since ABRSM have moved grades 1-5 music theory exams online, many teachers will be understandably moving over to Trinity.

For those who wish to take the new ABRSM online theory exams, my recommendation would be to move over to the set of new books. It seems over time ABRSM will phase out the Theory in Practice books. Learners who are learning alone without a teacher will be disappointed to find that the model answers books are more expensive than the older books. However, ABRSM have updated their website with more exam preparation theory resources. I recommend students to visit the site by clicking here to view guides on the new styled online exam and sample paper questions with model answers.

So all in all, these books are a welcome update. A fresh approach and a more modern design will be welcome to teachers trying to engage their pupils in the concepts of music theory.

For those looking for online theory music lessons, Grade 1 - 8, please contact Matthew Clayton at

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