Differences between ABRSM and Trinity College London music theory

Differences between ABRSM and Trinity College London music theory exams are outlined in All-In-One to Grade 5 music theory book

There are some similarities as well as differences between ABRSM and Trinity College London theory exams. All-In-One to Grade 5’ ,unlike most other music theory books, is suitable for BOTH Associated Board (ABRSM) and Trinity College London students. Students can easily keep track of topics studied and their corresponding grades by examining the two graded checklists. The main book is fully comprehensive to ABRSM requirements grades 1 to 5 whilst Trinity College London (previously called Trinity Guildhall) students will require the separate ‘Trinity Guildhall Supplement’ booklet (£2.99) to use alongside. You are advised to see the graded checklists within the book itself to understand in detail the similarities and differences.

ABRSM is the most popular examination board yet Trinity College London exams are equally recognised qualifications. Trinity is perhaps most suitable for instrumentalists learning pop music or jazz due to its inclusion of jazz chord symbols (as well as Roman notation). It also focuses upon composition (at an earlier stage) via adding a bass line to a melody or vice-versa. Trinity students, unlike ABRSM students, are expected to know about ostinato (common in jazz music) , syncopation, sequences (real and tonal) the ‘natural minor’ and pentatonic scale, inverted intervals, arpeggios, broken chords and a little about the guitar and saxophone.

Topics contained in the  Supplement booklet are closely related to topics already studied in the main book (e.g. ‘broken chords’ can easily be understood by anyone with knowledge of the tonic chord and inversions). Therefore anyone who is studying All-In-One to Grade 5 will find the Supplement booklet easy and the next logical step.

Compound time signatures are introduced at grade 3 for both ABRSM and Trinity students. However,  ABRSM students are expected to know a wider variety of key signatures at a much earlier stage than Trinity students.

Unsure which exam syllabus to follow? Why not start with All-In-One to Grade 5 book and decide when you are ready, in your own time. If you are happy to stick to ABRSM theory exams, grade 1, 2,3,4 and 5, you will need no other material. If you wish to learn the few extra subjects required by Trinity College London syllabus, get the extra supplement booklet which is available at only a small cost. Which exam syllabus do you prefer and why; Associated Board or Trinity College London?

One thought on “Differences between ABRSM and Trinity College London music theory

  1. Hi Andro,
    I am pleased to answer your query. In 2004 Trinity College London’s performing arts examinations merged with Guildhall School of Music and Drama to form the ‘Trinity Guildhall’ examinations board. The name Trinity Guildhall was dropped on 31st July 2012, and the board’s performing arts examinations are now offered under the Trinity College London brand.
    i.e. Trinity Guildhall and Trinity College London are one and the same.
    Regards, Rachel

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