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Music Theory Syllabuses: what's the difference?

Federal Office AMEB

Learn the difference between our music theory syllabuses and how to choose the right one.

Are you preparing to enrol in a music theory exam? One of your first decisions will be which syllabus to choose from. Did you know we offer four types of music theory exams to ensure you find the syllabus that suits your needs?

Our four music theory syllabuses are Theory of Music, Musicianship, Music Craft and Rockschool Popular Music Theory. How do they compare?

Theory of Music, Musicianship and Music Craft syllabuses align with AMEB practical exams and can be used to fulfil Additional Requirements for higher (Grade 6+) practical exams. Rockschool Popular Music Theory is perfect for anyone interested in music theory in contemporary styles and is the ideal companion to a Rockschool practical exam.

Detailed information on syllabus features can be found below.

Theory of Music

Theory of Music is our most popular and well-known music theory syllabus available. Unlike our other syllabuses, Theory of Music does not include any testing of aural skills.

Theory of Music introduces candidates to all fundamentals of music theory (as they apply in classical music), reflecting a more traditional approach to music theory education.

Across Grades 1-6, candidates learn incrementally to gain a comprehensive understanding of keys and scales, rhythm and metre, intervals, chords, cadences, four-part writing, melody and rhythm writing, setting text to a melody or rhythm, musical forms, knowledge of instruments of the symphony orchestra, along with the study of specific set works of classical music. At the diploma level, candidates can further advance their skills, specialising in Musicology, Harmony and Counterpoint, or Orchestration and Arrangement.

Theory of Music candidates are supported by various AMEB resources, including our Integrated Course and Workbooks series, Diploma resources and Online Courses available through SCORE.

Musicianship

Our Musicianship syllabus offering is similar to our Theory of Music syllabus but is broader in scope. Its most significant point of difference is the introduction of aural skills from Grade 4.

Musicianship covers all the same content as Theory of Music (though with more history and context) at a similarly incremental rate. Like our Theory of Music syllabus, Musicianship focuses on concepts applied in classical music, with all forms and set works studied taken from the classical repertoire.

AMEB Musicianship is the only syllabus that does not have supporting publications. However, since the materials are similar to the Theory of Music syllabus, Musicianship candidates can still benefit from our Integrated Course and Workbooks series. For more information about our Online Courses through SCORE.

Diploma resources including samples and past papers, are available here.

Music Craft

Our Music Craft syllabus offers candidates the best of both worlds. It balances aural and written skills and addresses skills relevant to classical and contemporary musicians. Music Craft addresses much the same content as Theory of Music and Musicianship, though at a faster rate, while also addressing areas that are more relevant to contemporary music (e.g. modes and pentatonic scales, 7th chords, etc.).

Furthermore, Music Craft advances the study of traditional music theory, covering skills including species counterpoint and more advanced rhythmic features. Unlike Musicianship, Music Craft introduces aural skills at the earliest level, along with the other syllabus areas, including the study of instrumentation. All set works are taken from classical, contemporary, and folk music.

Music Craft candidates are supported by AMEB publications, including Student Workbooks and Teachers Guides (Grades 1-4) and Essential Exercises (Grades 5-6).

Rockschool Popular Music Theory

Rockschool Popular Music Theory targets candidates interested in contemporary music, mainly those learning guitar, bass, drums, keyboards/piano, or voice. Rockschool Popular Music Theory includes music theory elements specific to rock and popular styles, including music notation, harmony, knowledge of instrumentation, and band arranging and analysis.

Like Theory of Music, Rockschool Popular Music Theory follows incremental learning principles and does not include any aural skills component.

Rockschool Popular Music Theory candidates are supported by their own set of written publications, including Rockschool Popular Music Guidebooks and Workbooks

For more information

For more information on your relevant syllabus, explore our Manual of Syllabuses.
For Rockschool Popular Music Theory, free syllabuses are accessible through the AMEB Rockschool website.

Before you sit your official exam, explore our selection of real past exam papers to help you prepare.

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Music Theory Syllabuses: What's the difference?
Learn the difference between our music theory syllabuses and how to choose the right one.
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