# Theory Lessons

If a student chooses to pursue the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) curriculum or the Conservatory Canada (CC) curriculum, there is corresponding theory knowledge that they need to have. Though there is theory knowledge to be learned at each level, theory examinations are only required as of Level 5.

## Elementary and Intermediate Theory

The recommended books at this level of theory directly depends on what age the student is, what prior knowledge they have, what time-frame they need to complete the level in, and/or what learning format they thrive best in. Each of these topics are discussed in the paragraphs below.

###### RCM's Celebrate Theory Series

This series contains all the requirements for each level of RCM theory examination. These books are geared for students aged 10 and above, with some exceptions. Each level assumes that you have completed and/or understood concepts from the previous level, so starting this mid-series with minimal or no prior theory knowledge is not recommended (eg. just because you are at Level 5 piano doesn't mean you can start on the Level 5 theory book).

For students that would like to start this series for the first time in any of the books above Level 4 I would highly recommend working through one or more of the Grace Vandendool books mentioned below. Some students choose to work on both series simultaneously for additional practice.

Students can often finish a theory book concurrently with their piano studies though sometimes they complete the theory is slightly faster. This series is not meant for students who need to fast track through levels.

###### RCM's Online Theory Tool

For students who are tech savvy, RCM does offer their theory curriculum online as well. This format is recommended for teens and adult students as I do not find it particularly engaging or comprehensive enough for younger children. I have found that it is a good tool for students who understand concepts very quickly and need minimal exercises to assimilate new concepts.

### Mark Sarnecki's Essential Music Theory

For students aged 8 through adult that are starting music theory. There are more exercises in these books than in the Celebrate Theory series and it contains a more gradual progression of difficulty. These books can be used for both the RCM and Conservatory Canada curriculum, though there is a small amount of content that needs to be supplemented to these books to cover everything needed for examination purposes.

### Grace Vandendool's Keyboard Theory

This series is often used for students that need to fast-track through the theory curriculum to match their current level of piano. Note that these books do omit the history component that is present in all the RCM publications.

Basic Rudiments = Preparatory through Level 5

Intermediate Rudiments = Level 6 and 7

Advanced Rudiments = Level 8

These books are appropriate for students aged 8 through adult.

###### Elementary Music Rudiments

Perfect for the teen or adult student, Barbara Wharram has written a book that contain all the content from Levels 5 through 8 in one book. This book does go at a much faster pace and are an efficient purchase for students needing their Level 8 theory quickly. The author uses three letters beside explanations and exercises to indicate the level of theory that it pertains to: “B” for Basic (Level 5), “I” for Intermediate (Level 6), and “A” for Advanced (Level 7 and 8). Using this system allows a student to go through the book three times (one for each B, I, and A) or just one time and learn everything about each concept. This book is also published in French and I am happy to teach from that book too.

## Advanced Theory

For the material in Level 9 and 10 there are two exams to prepare: Harmony (or Keyboard Harmony) and History. To complete the ARCT diploma you need 3 exams: History, Harmony & Counterpoint, and Analysis. For the Harmony content, I prefer working from the Mark Sarnecki's Essential Music Theory series Level 9 and Level 10 books. I find those books much more straightforward than the Celebrate Theory series. Since Sarnecki has not published a book at the ARCT Level, we would return to the Celebrate Theory series at that time. For the music history component, there are two options: the Celebrate Theory series or online through the RCM Online Theory Tool.

These levels are rather challenging to fast track as the concepts are so different than all the previous levels of theory. There are no books made for young children at this level as it is very rare that these levels are reached before the age of 12.

## Recent student Achievements:

Level 7 Theory: Achieved First Class Honours — Shuchi (2024)

Level 8 Theory: Achieved First Class Honours — Juliette (2023)

Level 6 Theory: Achieved First Class Honours — Shuchi (2023)

Level 6 Theory: Achieved First Class Honours with Distinction — Yufeng (2023)

Level 5 Theory: Achieved First Class Honours — Shuchi (2022)

Level 8 Theory: Achieved First Class Honours with Distinction — Bob (2021)

Level 8 Theory: Achieved First Class Honours with Distinction — Rachel (2021)

Level 5 Theory: Achieved First Class Honours with Distinction — Thomas (2020)