Grade 1 Summary

Grade 1 Summary

Grade 1

Here is a summary of all of the aspects you need to be comfortable with before you pass grade 1.
There will be links to the lessons for each of the points summarised so you can brush up on any gaps in knowledge.
If you are comfortable with everything here, I recommend you look at the Grade 1 Exercises (Coming soon), have a look at purchasing some Grade 1 past papers to practice for your grade 1 exam, or move onto grade 2.


Note and Rest Time Values

You should be comfortable with all of the notes below. You should know the names of them all, (you may be more familiar with the US terms – sixteenth note, eigth note, quarter note, half note and whole note).
You need to also be comfortable with how many beats they all last.

All Notes and Rests

If you are uncertain of any of these, I recommend you check out the appropriate lessons below:


Musical Alphabet and Clefs

Knowing all of the names of the notes on both the Bass and Treble Clef – or the musical alphabet – is necessary for grade 1.

Musical Alphabet

These are covered in the lesson Names of Notes – The Musical Alphabet.


Time Signatures, Bars and Beaming

For grade 1, knowledge of the following three time signatures is necessary:

2/4 3/4 and 4/4 Time Signatures

You should also be comfortable with how bars are constructed according to the time signature of the piece, and how notes are beamed according to the time signature and their location within the bar, as per the excerpt below.

Bars and Beaming
Bach. 2-Part-Invention Number 1.

We covered these in the following lessons:


Semitones, Tones, Accidentals, Scales and Scale Degrees

You need to know the effects of accidentals, and how they raise or lower a note. An understanding of what semitones and tones are, and how these are used to construct major scales is also needed.
It is necessary to know the scales C Major, D Major, F Major and G Major, and to know what all of the scale degrees of these scales are.

All Scales, Tones and Degrees

You learn about these here:


Key Signatures

You need to understand how key signatures represent what key a piece is in, and are determined by the scale of that key.
Being comfortable in reading and writing a key signatures is needed.

Key Signatures

Key signatures were covered in the Major Key Signatures


Dots and Ties

Dots and Ties will also be present in the Grade 1 exam, and are extremely common throughout all music. You need to understand what a dot does to a note’s time value, and the effect that ties have on notes, whether in one bar or across bar-line(s).

Dots and Ties

Dots and Ties were covered in the lesson Dotted Notes and Ties.


Intervals, Tonic Triad

Recognising different intervals from the tonic of a scale is needed for grade 1, and is a foundation which further knowledge necessary for future grades will be built upon.
The construction of tonic triads is also an essential part of all music and music theory. Knowledge of both is needed.

Intervals and Tonic Triads

These were learnt in these lessons:


Performance Markings

The following performance markings followed by dynamic symbols occur regularly in music and theory, and you will be expected to know their names, and their function for grade 1.

Performance Markings

NameAbbreviationMeaning
Forte𝆑Loud
Piano𝆏Soft
Mezzo𝆐half

These can be found in the lesson Performance Markings in Music.


Foreign Terms

Due to the size of the list of terms necessary to know for grade 1, these aren’t listed here.
However, you should know all of the terms listed in the Grade 1 Foreign Terms, as you will be examined on them for grade 1.

If you are comfortable with this, I recommend checking out some of the grade 1 past papers:

ABRSM Papers
ABRSM 2017 Sample Papers + Answers
ABRSM 2016 Past Papers
ABRSM 2015 Past Papers
ABRSM 2014 Past Papers
ABRSM 2013 Past Papers

I wouldn’t buy more past papers than necessary, do as many as you need to be confident you will get the mark you want after the exam.
Be aware, however, the ABRSM syllabus has changed. Whilst the 2013-2016 past papers will be useful, they are slightly different. There is a question at the end where you must write a basic rhythm, this is not in the new papers, and so complete it upon your own discretion.

Should you purchase the past papers in the links above, it would be greatly appreciated as it would help provide the website with a bit of extra income, and allows me to devote time to keeping the site constantly updated.