The Musical Aptitude Test / Bentley Test explores of a student’s aural capacity before or during their music instrumental course. This test is commonly used as a guide for teachers wanting to award places for instrumental teaching or music scholarships. Parents often hear about it from specific schools using that test as guideline.
The test focuses on few musicianship elements of pitch, melody, texture and rhythm. They usually given to a number of students at a time, and are played from an audio source such as music files (CD, mp3 etc) . Utilising set gaps in the recording allows the students to respond individually to each section.
Generally, parents are not encouraged to prepare their children for these tests, but are told beforehand that the tests will be given. LMC provides materials which can be used to simulate the test conditions for practice before the event. The Music Aptitude Test has a direct link with the ABRSM Aural Test presented on every grade exams your child is taking .
What is the ABRSM Aural Test?
ABRSM’s core activity is the operation of an authoritative and internationally recognised system of exams and assessments. These are designed to encourage and motivate players and singers at all levels through the provision of goals and the measurement of progress. In addition to graded examinations, ABRSM publishes many collections of music, and provides training and workshop events for students and teachers.
The different sections of the Music Aptitude Test in details
1 . Get the Beat
This section contains exercises to get you to recognise the beat – 2 or 3 beats per bar. Any piece of music has a number of underlying beats, or counts, in each bar. The student learn to recognise how many beats in a bar by listening for the first beat, which is slightly more stressed than the other beats. Listen to the stressed/ “important” beat will be key here. Then count up the remaining weaker beats. Remember not to confuse the number of notes you hear with the beats. A ‘beat’ can contain two or more actual sounds
2 . Which Notes?
When music is made of the notes of a particular scale, we say it is in that key. Consider this: if a tune is made of the notes of the scale of C major, then the tune is in the key of C major. In the exercises the key chord sets the scene – it gives you an idea of the key the exercises are in. The key note is the first note of the scale. When you hear a musical phrase, and sing it, the most important thing is to get the intervals (gaps) between the notes exact. This exercise is a vital step in training yourself to do just that
3 . Get the Rhythm: Counting
Here you can get to grips with hearing rhythm and recognising the detail. By choosing the correct score in the exercises, you will be showing that you can hear small detail in the rhythm , very important for being able to reproduce the rhythm accurately.
4 . Singing/ Vocal
In this section, you get to put what you have learned with Exercises 1-B1 and 1-B2 all together. Sing each of the three phrases as an echo in the two-bar gaps. You will need to sing exactly at the same speed as the music you hear for it to fit in the two-bar gaps provided
5 . Spot the Difference; Harmony/ Melody
This section contains exercises to get you to recognise changes to the rhythm of a two-bar phrase. You will hear clicks to give you the number of beats per bar and the speed of the beat, then you will hear the example. As you listen, count the beats – this will help you to recognise changes in the changed version. Now listen to the second version. Which bar does the change occur in? How is the rhythm different from the first version? Here are the some differences you might hear: – Some notes might move quicker than in the original version – Some notes might move more slowly – A dotted rhythm might be introduced – A dotted rhythm might be evened out – A rhythm pattern might be reversed
The Music Aptitude Test isn’t as scary as some schools make it to be. It simply revises a great deal of the aural section of your child’s grade exams as is and so few lessons touching up on those subjects to ensure the child is well prepared for those is useful.
Working with the right teacher is an absolute winning strategy as s/he will incorporate those elements onto the ongoing weekly sessions without making a great fuss out of it and keeping it in the right proportion to the lesson duration making it easy and fun to cover and master!