Music Theory - Melody Composition for Grade 6 ABRSM

How to get top marks in the composition question for the grade 6 ABRSM music theory exam.
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  • Lectures 15
  • Length 1.5 hours
  • Skill Level Intermediate Level
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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    Available on iOS and Android
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About This Course

Published 6/2015 English

Course Description

If you are taking the ABRSM Grade 6 Music Theory exam, this unique course will help you get top marks.

Many people find that working under exam conditions, without access to a piano or similar, makes music composition a difficult task. Others may have a natural talent for crafting a good tune, but are perhaps unsure of the specific requirements set out by the ABRSM examining board - just what are you supposed to write? And what makes a composition good or bad - is it completely subjective? (No!)

  • In this course, I will set out the marking criteria for you in a clear and structured way, so you know exactly what it is you are supposed to be writing.
  • You'll then learn how to complete your composition according to the expectations of the examiners, and you'll discover that with just a knowledge of scales, chords and intervals a beautiful composition can be invented even if you can't hear it in your head.
  • You'll learn specifically how to work with rhythmic and melodic ideas and to adapt them, how to create a plausible and confident harmonic structure, and how to create an effective modulation to any related key: to the dominant, subdominant or relative major/minor.

The course includes detailed explanations, (without overloading you with superfluous information), real-time worked compositions in a major and minor key, worked out before your eyes, and lots of freebie downloads including lesson summaries, exercises and compositions to work through yourself.

I'll also offer feedback on your personal exam-question compositions, if you post them in the discussion section.

After teaching music theory for many years, I've seen hundreds (if not thousands!) of grade 6 compositions, and know exactly what kind of mistakes candidates make. I'd love to help you this time around, and work with you to getting top marks in your exam.

Send me a message (click on my name) if you have any questions about this course, and do take a look at the videos marked "preview" in the list below, to see what's in store!

What are the requirements?

  • It's expected that you've already passed ABRSM grade 5 theory or equivalent.
  • You should be confident in your knowledge of major and minor scales, key signatures, basic chords and intervals.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Get full marks in the ABRSM Grade 6 Music Theory Composition question.
  • Know what the examiner is looking for
  • Be able to create a really good composition, even without being able to hear it in your head.

Who is the target audience?

  • Candidates who are preparing for the Grade 6 ABRSM Music Theory exam.
  • Grade 7 candidates will also find the course invaluable.

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Introduction

Introduction to the Course


How to use the Udemy plaftorm


Learn about the exact wording of the composition question in the ABRSM grade 6 exam.

  • There are two types of question - one with compulsory modulation one optional modulation
  • Length of the composition 8-10 bars
  • Performance directions must be included
  • Usually each question will be in a different clef
  • Choose the instrument you know best

Find out what the examiner expects of your composition: and where to get access to the official marking criteria.


How to get hold of the complete resources which complement this course, including PDF summaries of each step, and practice questions to work through.

Section 2: Compose Yourself

You need to analyse the given opening, then use the rhythmic and melodic ideas presented there to create the rest of the piece. The character/style of the composition will also be defined in the given opening. This lesson teaches you how to analyse, and how to use the information you have gathered.


Analyse the implied harmony of the given opening, then plan out a good, plausible harmony for the rest of your piece. This lesson shows you how to pick chords to fit the cadences of your composition, how to use common progressions for a bullet-proof harmonic structure, and explains why you need to take into account repetition and avoiding certain chords.

This lesson looks at major key harmony.


Using the ideas from the given opening, and building on the harmonic structure planned out in the previous lesson, watch a composition develop from the initial ideas into a finished piece.


Minor keys present a special problem - the added accidentals mean that awkward augmented intervals sometimes appear, and you need to know when and when not to alter a note with an accidental. We examine the harmony appropriate for minor keys and look at the available chords and progressions.


Using the given opening, we create a minor key composition from scratch. Watch as I go through the potential pitfalls of using certain harmonies/chords, and learn about the thought process which should be applied before choosing each and every note of your piece.


When accidentals are added to a piece, sometimes they are there because it's a minor key, and at other times they are for decoration, or even to change key. This lesson shows you how to identify chromatics which do not alter the key or harmony of the piece, but are there for decoration. You'll learn how they slot into the available scale notes, to provide a wider painting palette for composing with. Using chromatics in the rest of the composition is essential if they have been used in the given opening, which frequently is the case at grade 6.


Modulation, or changing key, is an optional part of the composition question, but by being able to do it you will open up your options. Also, knowing the mechanics of modulation is essential in other areas of the exam, such as in the score reading question. In this lesson you'll learn how modulation is achieved, and what precisely you need to do in order for your modulation to be deemed "convincing" in the ABRSM's opinion.

5 questions

Test your memory on what you've learned in this section.

Section 3: Further Resources

How to get hold of real past exam papers and get them marked.


Take a look at this real example of a student's composition, and learn how it can be improved.

BONUS! Lots more music theory resources!

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Instructor Biography

Victoria Williams AmusTCL BA(Mus), Music Theory Specialist - Founder of My Music Theory

"This course was absolutely first rate in every way. Ms. Williams presented the material clearly, thoughtfully, and with an obvious love of teaching. The only way this could possibly have been any better is to have had the privilege of studying with her in person. I'm amazed by how much information I learned -- and in such an enjoyable way! Ms. Williams is someone who not only has a deep understanding of music theory, but a rare and wonderful creativity that makes her such an effective teacher of it. Bravo and thank you!"

Victoria graduated from the University of Leeds in 1995 with a BA Honours in Music, specialising in Musicology. She also holds the AmusTCL diploma in Music Theory, from Trinity College London, with distinction.

Since 2007, Victoria has been teaching music theory online and by email via her acclaimed website MyMusicTheory, offering free music theory tuition following the structured syllabus of the ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music).

Victoria teaches all ABRSM levels, from grade 1 (beginner) up to grade 8/diploma (undergraduate level) and has an in depth knowledge of both the syllabus requirements and examiners' marking schemes. As well as teaching the ABRSM syllabus, Victoria is equally at home preparing students for the Trinity Guildhall exams, the Australian AMEB exams and the AP Music Theory exams taken in the USA.

Victoria's lessons break the tricky concepts of music and music theory down into easy-to-understand steps. She approaches teaching from the learner's point of view, building up on existing knowledge little by little, and avoids the “baffling with detail" stance taken by traditional music theory text books. She has an outstanding track-record with her students' exam successes, with the vast majority gaining top rated “merits and distinctions" from the ABRSM.

Victoria is an accomplished pianist and clarinettist, holding ABRSM grade 8 in both, and also composes in her free time. She has three children and two crazy cats.

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