City Lit Blog

Musicianship & Music Theory courses at City Lit

Story added 20th Jun 2018

Steve Reich - Clapping Music (1972)

Musicianship & Music Theory:

A guide to courses which support your instrumental and singing skills

Musicianship: essential skills for all musicians

Whether you are learning saxophone, piano or studying to be an opera singer you will have noticed that there are some universal skills all musicians need. Some of these skills relate directly to the Western music notation system (e.g. staff notation, major and minor scales) and some are universal (e.g. the ability to maintain a constant, steady pulse as you play music). These underlying principles and skill are all part of musicianship.

Here at City Lit we celebrate the diversity of musicians (you!) in our classes. We realise that you bring existing skills to class. Some of you might read guitar chords or staff notation from previous studies and some of you may be entirely new to a topic or in need of a refresher to boost your playing. Our musicianship classes are designed to target important fundamental skills which apply to all musicians and singers. In our classes you will develop your musicianship skills by humming, clapping, singing, writing, moving and listening. Through a variety of musical activities we will take you away from day-to-day instrumental/vocal concerns and focus on the internalisation of musical language.

Each course covers essential topics through an immersive approach: for example in Musicianship 2: bass clef, scales and rhythm you won’t just learn to identify and write scales, you will learn to clap them, hum them and hear the differences between them. This will help enormously when you return to your instrumental/ singing practice: not only will you read music more fluently but you will hear it in more detail and recognise recurring textures and patterns.

The full range of Musicianship courses


Music Theory: A systematic approach to learning western staff notation, with (optional) exams

Music theory is a systematic approach to learning how to read and write in Western staff notation. At City lit we follow the ABRSM exam syllabus for grades 1-8 and the Trinity Syllabus for the diploma topics. You don’t have to sit the exams, but if you do decide you would like a certificate to recognize your learning them we offer the opportunity to sit exams here in college. Each exam incurs an extra fee and is entirely separate from the course. Click here for current ABRSM exam fees. Click here for current Trinity diploma exam fees.

If you are taking practical exams on your instrument you will know that you need to take Music theory: grade 5 in order to take a grade 6 practical exam (or higher). So this system of exams is widely used by many teachers and colleges; they are recognised qualifications.

If you are joining the programme part-way through, please read the course outlines carefully as each separate course assumes knowledge of all the topics in the previous grades. E.g. if you enrol for Music theory: grade 5 then we will assume that you know and understand all the topics in grades 1, 2, 3 and 4! As ever, if you are not sure of your current level then come to a music department advice session and we will show you some past-exam papers to assess yor level and ensure that you choose the most appropriate class.

The sequence of Music Theory courses

Please note: before progressing to grade 6 studies we strongly recommend that you first reach a grade 5 practical standard on your main instrument. You will also find it helpful to have enough basic piano skills in order to play the chords and chord-progressions that you study on this course.