Youth & Adult Learning

Over the shoulder of a student working on a written piece of music notation

Essential Music Theory

"We were taught a lot and I came away feeling like I had really learned some new things …the teacher was really nice and a very good teacher." Essential Music Theory participant 2013

The Guildhall School of Music & Drama is one of the world’s leading conservatoires. It's a fun, happy, encouraging and vibrant place to try something new or expand your skills. The School maintains its high standards through the expertise of its tutors.

Essential Music Theory is particularly suitable for students aged 11 and upwards working towards ABRSM or Trinity Guildhall Music Theory examinations (Grades 2–5), or who are just interested in improving their theory understanding. This course is ideal if you wish to improve your theory quickly, if you want to revise your theory skills for the Grade 5 exam or if you are just interested in improving your knowledge of theory in order to enhance your appreciation of music. It will cover:

  • A revision of basic music theory
  • Time signatures and key signatures
  • How to construct major and minor scales
  • Scale degrees and intervals
  • Triads and cadences
  • Introduction to composing melodies

Students work in groups of not more than 12, in two two-hour classes per day (10.30am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-3.30pm). Andrew Bottrill and Paul Whitmarsh teach Junior Guildhall and Guildhall School students; they can meet the needs of every age and level of experience.

Our London location
The Guildhall School is situated in the City of London within the Barbican Arts Centre, which houses two theatres, a concert hall, cinemas and galleries. It is also within easy reach of West End theatres, the Royal Festival Hall, the Royal National Theatre and Shakespeare's Globe on the South Bank, Sadler's Wells Theatre and Tate Modern.

*We are also offering an Essential Music Theory Refresher Day Saturday 25 October 2014 specifically for individuals sitting their ABRSM Music Theory Grade 5 exam in November.

You have three options:

Essential Music Theory Summer School: £365
Essential Music Theory Summer School & Refresher Day: £420
Essential Music Theory Refresher Day: £65

Accommodation and meals are not included in the course fee. However, affordable accommodation for students aged 18 and over is available in the School’s Hall of Residence, Sundial Court. For further information, please contact 

Monday 28 July – Saturday 2 August 2014

Participant requirements
Applicants of all ages are welcome; however, please note that the School does not provide supervision of children when they are not attending a timetabled activity. However, parents or guardians are welcome on the premises.

  • Applicants must be 11 years old or over
  • Students must have a working knowledge of reading treble and bass clefs before starting the course (about ABRSM grade 1)
  • A fluent standard of spoken English is essential 

A refund of fees can only be issued if written notification for a cancellation is received by Friday 27 June 2014 for Essential Music Theory and by Friday 26 September 2014 for Essential Music Theory Refresher Day. No refunds will be offered after these dates unless a medical certificate is produced.

Special access needs
If you have any special access needs, please contact us to discuss your requirements using the contact details below.

It is recommended that students take out insurance cover, including cover for theft and the loss of fees in the event of illness or accident. For international students needing help in finding an insurance company, you might try    

Although this course is intended as a preparation for Grade 5 Theory, this exam is not included as part of the course. We will, however, provide you with an informal assessment of the level you have achieved at the end of the course, if required. 

Email or call 0207 382 2310 for any enquiries.


Applications are now open. Apply for the Summer School, or apply for the refresher day only.

The welcoming atmosphere and the strong friendships I have made, made it feel like a second home. I wish I had discovered it sooner.


It’s the best step I ever took to further my music

Tuba, Junior Guildhall

It hugely inspires my playing...I come away enlightened each Saturday

Violin, Junior Guildhall

It's changed our lives by enabling us to learn from great tutors and giving us the opportunity to play with outstanding musicians

Richard, Rebekah & Peter
Percussion, Junior Guildhall

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