We believe in giving you (or your child) a well-rounded musical education. When you learn piano, it's also important to learn the theoretical concepts that go with it. We incorporate theory games, exercises and activities into your lessons, but your lesson fee does not include you (or your child) preparing for (and undertaking) theory exams.

If you wish to prepare for (and take) theory lessons, these are treated separately to your piano lessons...and theory lessons are charged at an additional $50/$75$99/wk.

$50/wk = Beginner to Grade 2

$75/wk = Grade 3 and 4

$99/wk = Grade 5+

You will receive separate theory lessons alongside your piano lessons (or instead of your piano lessons if you decide you only want to focus on theory from now on).

Just like piano grades, there are accredited theory grades. These go from Grade 1 to Grade 6 (grades vary slightly according to the accredited examinations board you choose).

Do I have to take Theory Lessons?

No, you don't. However, if you are doing piano grades through the AMEB or ABRSM, you are required to sit an equivalent theory grade in order to receive your official piano certificate.

If you haven't done the required theory component, you can still sit the piano exam, but the AMEB or ABRSM will withhold your certificate until you have completed the required theory exam.

Here are the pre-requisites:

While theory exams aren't "compulsory" until Grade 6 piano, it's a good idea to start theory exams earlier than Grade 6 piano, so you are not cramming for the required theory grade at the last minute.

We recommend starting Grade 1 Theory when you are in Grade 3 Piano.

Don't worry...you can learn and sit Theory Exams right here at Virtual Piano Academy.

Important Info If You're Thinking About Studying Music at Tertiary Level

If you wish to study music at tertiary level, there are often entrance requirements based on which Australian Music Examinations Board (AMEB) level you have achieved in your instrument AND in your theory.

Having completed your Grade 5 theory exam (Australian Music Examinations Board [AMEB]) is often a MINIMUM requirement for entrance into a tertiary music institution. It's not just enough to have completed up to Grade 8 piano. You must have the corresponding theory grade.

Please note: Grade 5 Piano doesn't mean you need to sit Grade 5 theory. The equivalent theory grade is about 4 grades behind your piano grade.

I took a Music Theory grade exam with another examining board (eg. Trinity, ABRSM etc.) Is my grade equivalent to the same grade in the AMEB system?

AMEB considers an AMEB Music Theory grade to be two grades higher than a grade of another examining body. For instance, an AMEB Grade 1 in Theory of Music, Musicianship or Music Craft is considered equivalent to a Grade 3 in ABRSM or Trinity Theory. For more details, you may wish to refer to Table A in AMEB Regulation 19.

The AMEB uses the following grades for written Grade exams:

High Distinction - 95%

Honours - 85%

Credit - 75%

Pass - 65%

Theory Exams can be taken online

All AMEB Theory Exams are sat online, using their examination portal. When you enrol for your theory exam, you are given login details and a practice exam to try, before taking the real thing. This gives you an opportunity to get used to their online system, as all theory exams require you to answer questions in a digital format. There are no hand-written answers! It can take a little while to get used to inputting notes and music via their digital system, so this is why as part of your exam fee, you are given an online practice exam to familiarise yourself with their platform.

You can sit for an AMEB Theory exam from anywhere in the world! And you can take your Theory exam online, at any point, at home :) The only condition is that someone needs to supervise your "at home" exam. Read below for more information.

You will need to take the theory exam on a computer (not a smartphone or tablet).

Can a family member supervise an online exam? Or do I need to get a teacher to supervise my child?

A family member may supervise an online theory exam. Any adult 18 years or older can supervise the exam. Supervisors are required to make an online declaration when the candidate begins the exam inside the portal. The AMEB does regularly check in with supervisors to ensure they are 18 years or older and that they supervised the conduct of the exam appropriately.

What will I receive when I complete my AMEB online theory exam?

You will be able to view your results online, and if you fulfil the requirements of the award, you will also be sent a certificate in the mail.

For a computer marked examination, you will be able to view your results directly after you have taken the exam.

For a manually marked examination, you will be notified by email once your exam has been marked and your results are available for viewing. This usually takes 3-5 business days.

Certificates will be awarded to candidates who fulfil the requirements of the award.

Certificates will be sent to Virtual Piano Academy, and we will then send to you. Certificates will generally make it to you within 2 weeks of your exam, but this may differ depending on your location. If your postal address changes, please let us know, or someone else might receive your hard-earned certificate!

There are actually three types of music theory exams you can take. What's the difference?

Theory and Musicianship are very similar, and quite closely linked (up to Grade 4 level).

At Grade 4 level, Musicianship introduces an Aural component, and your Musicianship exam will comprise a Written AND an Aural component. Theory exams have no Aural component.

Music Craft was developed to teach the theoretical and aural aspects of music in different ways. Thus, pitches are described using the Helmholtz system, harmonies are described using a mixture of Roman Numerals and figured bass, cadences are described differently to the Theory and Musicianship syllabi (e.g. Authentic rather than Perfect).

So the short of it is:

Theory has no aural component but focuses more on the creative aspects of Music Theory as the grades ascend, and has a stronger focus on learning theoretical concepts.

Musicianship has an aural component from Grade 4 onwards but up to that point, the two syllabi are quite similar.

Music Craft was conceived to provide alternative ways of teaching the theoretical and aural aspects of music and these are introduced right from the start.

Which Theory Syllabus Does Virtual Piano Academy Recommend?

We recommend preparing for Theory exams (as opposed to musicianship or music craft exams). In our opinion, this provides students with the strongest grounding in the theoretical approaches to music. It's the oldest (and most respected/recognised) syllabus. Because we incorporate aural/ear training into your piano lessons as part of your normal week, we don't see the need to add further aural training by undertaking the Musicianship theory syllabus.

Enrolling in a Theory Exam

Theory Exam fees are not included as part of your lesson fee. If you decide to sit a theory exam, you will be required to pay the exam fees as a one-off additional expense. This fee goes directly to the AMEB or ABRSM. Once paid, these fees are strictly non-refundable. Please be aware that these fees go up slightly each year. To find out how much each grade costs, please read this article.

Virtual Piano Academy can enrol you in a theory exam on your behalf, to make sure everything in your application is completed correctly. However, we add a $40 administration and processing fee on top of the AMEB or ABRSM theory exam fee. This covers the time it takes our staff to officially enrol you in an exam, and also includes your certificate shipping costs.

Will I have to buy a theory book?

Yes. We recommend buying the Dulcie Holland "Master Your Theory" books (see below). There will be a different book for each grade. You will need to purchase the required book (for whichever grade you are preparing for), as your lesson fee doesn't include sheet music, books etc.

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