There are three tests at this grade:

Note: Grades 1–3 aural tests are similar in structure but the tests change to a different format at Grades 4 and 5

5A – Repeat a melody (echo singing)

You will hear a key chord and then a two-bar count-in, for example, 'One, two, One, two' or One, two, three, One, two, three'. Then you have to listen and sing back a phrase, like an echo. You may sing any sound (such as 'Lah lah' of 'Dah dah') or you could hum or whistle if you prefer. Aim to keep in time with the pulse (beat) as well as singing the right notes. There is only one phrase to sing at Grade 5 but it is longer than the three little phrases at Grades 1 – 3 and a little more challenging to remember than the phrase at Grade 4.

5B – Singing six notes from the score

You have to read six notes from a score in this test and sing them. You will be given the key chord and starting note first, which will be the tonic (the last note in the score will also be the tonic). The tonic is the 'home' note, such as C in a C major chord. Sing slowly as this will give you time to think and also the examiner will be able to help you by playing the right note if you get a note wrong.

This test may feel challenging if you have never sung notes from a score before, or if you only did this for the Grade 4 exam, but the key to improving is simply practising doing it. There are a limited number of ways of arranging only six notes one after the other, so if you practise a lot you will start to remember the patterns.

Treble clef or bass clef: Which should you choose?

Some of the ABRSM sung tests allow the candidate to choose the clef they prefer. Most girls and women will choose treble clef simply because the treble clef corresponds with their voice range and because treble clef is the most widely used clef for instruments. Some men and older boys will want to choose bass clef because they have low voices.

However you may choose whichever clef you are more comfortable with reading. If you are a girl who reads bass clef for playing the cello, you may prefer to read in bass clef but sing an octave higher. Similarly, if you are a man who reads treble clef for clarinet but you have a low voice, you could choose to read in treble clef but sing an octave lower.

5C – Listen and notice musical details and time recognition

First: Listen and notice musical details

You will listen to a short piece played on the piano. Afterwards you will be asked two questions.

One question will be about one of the following:

  • What in the music gives the piece its character.
  • Whether the music is in a major key or a minor key.
  • Whether speed (tempo) of the music changed, or not.
  • Loud or quiet playing.
  • Smooth or detached notes.

These are rather like the questions you will have answered at Grades 1–4.

The second question will be about the style and period of the music. Style and period means pinpointing the approximate time in the history of music when the piece was composed according to stylistic features such as whether the piece has extreme variations in loud and quiet, whether it has very expressive tempo changes, or whether it is based mainly on scales and broken chords.

Knowing what style and period the music comes from depends on whether you have listened to or played music from that style or period before. It is highly unlikely that you will be able to recognise the style and period of music just from the pieces you have played, so you need to listen to lots of other examples. The four periods you may be asked about in an exam are Baroque, Classical, Romantic and 20th Century.

Then: Clap the rhythm and time recognition

Once you have answered the questions you will hear a phrase from the same piece and clap the rhythm back. Rhythm is not the same as the pulse (beat), which you clapped at Grades 1–3. Whereas pulse stays constant (unless the actual speed of the music changes), rhythm patterns change often. While both pulse and rhythm can be clapped, it is only the rhythm that helps us to recognize a particular piece of music.

After you have clapped the rhythm you will say if the piece was in 2 time, 3 time or 4 time. It helps if you had decided on 2 time, 3 time or 4 when you first heard the piece to notice the musical details, but if you didn't make up your mind then, hearing the phrase to be clapped will help you.

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