Grade 2 Theory – Essential Notes

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Grade 2 theory is a fair bit trickier than Grade 1, and will require some careful studying. Eric Taylor’s Music Theory in Practise is the best book for practice material, also using his AB Guide to Music Theory to help if you have any issues. Lina Ng’s Theory Made Easy is also great if you want to practise more exercises. Try working through the chapters in the following order, using these notes to help you to remember the essential points. When you have completed all the exercises in the book, try some grade 2 theory practise papers.

These notes are not a replacement for lessons with a grade 2 theory teacher – they are simply intended for revision. Theory lessons are now taught using our new online system, Cadenza. Email Lauren at to book a lesson now.

1. The Major Keys of A, B-flat and E-flat

  • You will need to remember the key signatures for major keys with up to 3 sharps and flats:
Key Sharps Flats
C major 0 0
G major 1 0
D major 2 0
A major 3 0
F major 0 1
B-flat major 0 2
E-flat major 0 3
  • The order of sharps and flats in a key signature is always the same. If there is 1 sharp, it is always F-sharp. If there are 2 sharps, they are always F-sharp and C-sharp, and so on.

Order of sharps:


Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle

Order of flats:


Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles’s Father

  • Sharps and flats always appear in the same place within a key signature, depending on which clef you are using. They always go on the line or space that corresponds to the note being written.

Key signature sharps

Key signature flats


  • Remember that a tonic triad is a chord made of the 1st, 3rd and 5th note of the scale.


2. The Minor Keys of A, E and D

  • You must be familiar with either harmonic or melodic minor scales, with up to 1 sharp or flat in the key signature. For simplicity, it is best to stick to harmonic minors for now.
  • Every minor key has a relative major, which shares the same key signature. This can be found by counting up 3 semitones. For example the relative major of A minor is C major, so both have no sharps or flats in their key signature.
  • Within every minor scale, there is an accidental. This is a sharp/flat which does not appear in the key signature, but is present through the piece. This can be found by sharpening the 7th note from the bottom of a minor scale. For example, A minor has no sharps or flats in the key signature, but has a G-sharp throughout the scale/piece.
  • Be careful when writing out a descending minor scale – the sharpened 7th note is from the bottom of the scale, so work backwards when counting!
Key Key Signature Accidentals
A minor 0 sharps or flats G-sharp
E minor 1 sharp D-sharp
D minor 1 flat C-sharp

3. Intervals

  • An interval is the distance between 2 notes. Paying attention to just the letter names, count from the lowest note, including the top and bottom.

For example, C – E is a 3rd, C – F is a 4th, and C – G is a fifth.

  • Accidentals are irrelevant here. Therefore, C – E is a 3rd, C – E-flat is a 3rd, and C – E-sharp is a 3rd.
  • Always count up from the lowest note.
  • A harmonic interval is the interval between 2 notes played at the same time.
  • A melodic interval is the interval between 2 notes played one-after-the-other.


4. Ledger Lines

  • Ledger lines are like extensions of a stave. Pretend there are imaginary lines going above and below the stave, allowing us to climb up and down in single steps, beyond where the notes already go to.

ledger lines

5. Grouping Notes and Rests

  • Read the AB Guide to Music Theory, chapter 5/1-3 for information on grouping notes and rests.

6. Time Signatures

  • 2/2 means 2 minim beats per bar – Cut common is another way of writing this.

cut common

  • 3/2 means 3 minim beats per bar
  • 4/2 means 4 minim beats per bar
  • 3/8 means 3 quaver beats per bar
Number of beats per bar Time
2 Duple
3 Triple
4 Quadruple
  • You may be asked to rewrite a rhythm using a different time signature, but without changing the way the music sounds. Ask yourself what has been done to get from one time signature to another, and repeat the process for each note. For example, each beat has to be doubled to get from 4/4 (4 crotchets per bar) to 4/2 (4 minims per bar). Therefore, you must double the value of each note in the exercise.

7. Composing Simple Four-Bar Rhythms

  • Given an opening bar, you will be asked to complete a 4 bar rhythm.
  •  Firstly, check whether this bar is complete – you may need to finish this!
  • Take ideas from the bar they have given you – use some of these, and come up with your own in addition

8. Performance Directions

  • Finally, you must know all of the words for grade 1 and grade 2 theory.

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