Music Theory Syllabus

Section 2 - Chords

Candidates are expected to have a good knowledge of chord symbols and the notes that make up chords - this is essential if the chords learnt in theory are to be used in a practical context.

  • From Preliminary to Grade 4 inclusive, some answers can be expressed by naming the notes in letter names (e.g. A minor = A C E), although candidates who are also able to write out chords using notation (in a clef of their choosing) have the possibility of gaining higher marks. From Grade 5 onwards all answers must be given in standard notation.
  • Candidates should have an understanding of chord spellings (e.g. C major = 1 3 5).

All chords are fully illustrated and explained in the grade handbooks - which also contain sample questions and answers.

Preliminary Grade

  • Major triads: C, G
  • Minor triads: Am, Em

Grade One

As Preliminary Grade, plus:

  • Cmaj7, Gmaj7
  • Am7, Em7

Grade Two

As Grade One plus:

  • Major chords: D, F, Dmaj7, Fmaj7
  • Minor chords: Bm, Dm, Bm7, Dm7
  • Dominant 7th chords: G7, D7, A7, C7

Grade Three

All major, minor and diminished triads from major and natural minor scales, within a range of keys to 2 sharps and 2 flats, plus:

  • Major 7th chords: C, G, D, F, Bb
  • Minor 7th chords: A, E, B, D, G
  • Dominant 7th chords: G7, D7, A7, C7, F7

Grade Four

From major and natural minor scales, within a range of keys to 3 sharps and 3 flats:

  • Major, minor and diminished triads.
  • Major 7th, minor 7th, dominant 7th and minor 7th b5 chords.
  • Sus 2 and sus 4 chords, 5th 'power' chords.

Grade Five

As for the previous grades, but extended to a range of keys to 4 sharps and 4 flats, plus:

  • Major and minor 6th
  • Diminished 7th chords.
  • 1st and 2nd inversions of major and minor triads.
  • Dominant 7th chords from harmonic minor scales in a range of keys to 4 sharps and 4 flats.

Grade Six

As for the previous grades, but extended to a range of keys to 5 sharps and 5 flats, plus:

  • All triads, minor/major 7th, minor 7thb5, major 7th#5, minor 7th, dominant 7th, major 7th and diminished 7th chords from harmonic minor scales to a range of keys to 5 sharps and 5 flats.
  • 9th chords (major, minor and dominant).
  • 1st and 2nd inversions of all triads.

Grade Seven

As for the previous grades, but extended to all keys, plus:

  • Minor and dominant 11ths.
  • Major, minor and dominant 13ths.
  • Dominant 7th and minor 7th chords with # or b5ths.
  • 1st, 2nd and 3rd inversions of major 7th, minor 7th and dominant 7th chords.

Grade Eight

All requirements from all previous grades, plus in all keys:

  • Dominant 7ths with # or b9ths; minor 7ths with b9ths; major 7ths and dominant 7ths with #11ths.
  • Commonly used altered bass 'slash' chords (e.g. Am/F#).
  • Commonly used 'add' chords (e.g. Cadd9)
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1-Scales and Keys | 2-Chords | 3-Rhythm Notation | 4-Knowledge of Popular Music | 5-Harmony | 6-Transpositions
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