The Musicianship & Aural Training Series

Just a quick note to say congratulations on the new Level 3 textbooks. I think are simply fantastic. The interactive PDF is a godsend! No more messing around with CD players and less finding additional resources to support students. I can bring one device (my laptop) to class and everything is there. It also makes setting homework for students a lot easier. The online (linked in the PDFs of the teacher and Elite student books) resources are fantastic! When I add them to the resources I have already put together for the class, my aural and theory sections of Outcome 3 are pretty much set for the two years. In addition, the structure of the contents pages, along with all the curriculum documents on the website and the support from Deb, has made planning a breeze. Richard Linton, Music Teacher, Penola Catholic College)

The Musicianship and Aural Training series of textbooks and CDs are an invaluable asset to any secondary music teacher in any school, in any state of Australia. They are comprehensive and fun, well structured, easy to follow and simple to use even if you are not a Kodály specialist!
The texts and CDs cover every aspect of excellent music education, detailing curriculum content in a logical sequence, with relevant exercises, activities, songs, games, composition tasks and directed listening. Continuous assessment and evaluation in short well-conceived examples and revision sheets allow both teacher and student to map progress. Tests of a longer nature are also included to assist in the evaluation and reporting process.
For those on a limited budget, if you buy nothing else, these resources should be your ‘one stop shop’. Your students will enjoy their music classes, delight in both performing and creating music and learn to really hear the sound in the music symbol thanks to these wonderful resources created by a truly gifted music educator, Deborah Smith. Berwyn Roberts, Music Educator VIC and WA

I have used the full series of Musicianship and Aural Training for the Secondary School at four schools – Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar and Lauriston in Victoria and Meriden School and Wenona School in Sydney. The books were easily adaptable for the different curricula in NSW. These books provide a strong measure of continuity in students’ acquisition of both theoretical and aural skills through carefully graded activities. The books designed for Lower and Middle Secondary cover basic theoretical concepts through to dictations of chord progressions and simple modulations, and by the end of Year 10 I find that my students are fully prepared for senior music. The senior books are a stand-out success in my classroom as they don’t just merely test aural skills, they offer a sequence of graded teaching activities to develop the skills needed in rhythmic and melodic dictations, identification of triads, chords and scales, multi-part dictations and chord progressions.
Although the books are based on a system of aural training using moveable solfa and time names, I have been able to use them successfully in music departments which use alternative methods of sightsinging and rhythm reading. The students find them very useful because it fully explains each activity in clear language, and keeps all their dictations and theory exercises together in the one book.
I have been using these books in my classrooms since they were first published and they have been invaluable in solidifying particularly the aural and theory components of my curriculum, and in providing me with high quality exercises and activities to use in my lessons. I highly recommend them as a teacher-friendly tool which students also enjoy using. Melinda Sawers, Director of Performing Arts, Wenona School

Student Workshops

Brilliantly insightful and comprehensive. Engaging and fun. Well worth the money. VCE Student

It was a useful workshop that’s given simple and well thought through strategies on how to tackle aural and theory questions. VCE Student

I first of all want to thank you. The workshop, even though it was only two hours, was so much help to me. You made me look at the theory of music and the understanding of music in a different way. I couldn’t believe how structured “recognition of chord progressions” is! I also love your chord charts. I really do believe that they will help me tremendously. You truly are an inspiration, Meghan Hathaway, Monbulk College, VCE Student

I attended your workshop today and I would just like to say thank you. I got so much out of it and you definitely made some parts that I was having trouble with so simple to figure out and you clarified a lot of things for me. I am definitely attending future workshops and lectures; today’s was inspiring for me.
I was the only person from my class to attend and I find this sad because I know that everyone would have gotten a lot of today’s session. C. O. Nazareth College, VCE Student

Deborah Smith brings aural and theory to life during her workshops. My students arrived feeling very unsure of their direction and left with a musical roadmap leading to a successful end of year examination. Every aspiring young musician should attend one of her workshops as they can only benefit from the experience. Rita Jenkins, VCE teacher, Geelong Grammar School

Many thanks for your wonderful workshop yesterday. It’s a huge task working with so many students from such a diverse background, and yet you seemed to breeze through it with such ease. Speaking on behalf of my students, they thoroughly enjoyed the 7 hours, and although some of them are still struggling, the way you presented the content, they have the realisation that the Aural and Theory content is manageable, provided they work at it. Craig Minty, Music Faculty Coordinator, Casey Senior Campus, Maranatha Christian School

Deborah Smith is an accomplished musical literacy teacher who practices what she preaches. The difficulty with our musical language is that it requires the eye and ear to work together – to hear what we see and to see what we hear. Deborah has a way of making the mundane fun and the intricate easy as you sing and listen and learn the balance between the ear and the eye. Many of my students have benefitted greatly from her well- planned and committed approach to the teaching and learning of music literacy. In line with Kodály’s three “Ps” Deborah is Practical, Pertinent and Punchy. “He who has ears to hear and eyes to see – let him sing”.  Fiona Phillips, Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University

Teacher Workshops

I found Deborah’s workshops to be extremely eye (ear)-opening and encouraging. Her philosophy of giving tools and ideas that could be put into place when we teach the next day was spot, as there were a number of ideas and songs that I shamelessly tried out on my unsuspecting students with immediate success and much excitement and enjoyment from the students. One thing that I found particularly helpful was the reference material that she provided for developing curriculum. The ways of progressively introducing songs, and building challenge through introducing new material before students have achieved mastery, has helped me build continued energy and expectation within my classes. Having a long list of songs, that are easily memorised, that are full of fun, and unconsciously achieve many goals of a music class has really revolutionised my teaching practice. An example is “Ford Car” the tongue-twister that I use for fun, and also to teach inner-hearing.  I now approach my planning from a whole new perspective, rather than talk about a concept, I now think “what can I sing first to help bring understanding to what I trying to teach.” I am so glad I attended this PD!! Paul Ellis, Music Teacher – Middle/Senior School, Chairo Christian School. 

As part of my professional development, I have attended aural training classes with Deborah Smith along with other music teachers. I found her classes to be well-organised, extraordinarily challenging, a great deal of fun, and of great benefit to my own musicianship development. The aural “training” I received at University by comparison, was quite poor, and without any clear methodology. Basically we were tested weekly, and each week we would fail. By doing Deborah’s classes I found that I got a very clear handle on how to listen to music, and develop my own musical literacy much more efficiently. I can wholeheartedly recommend Deborah as a speaker, teacher, and aural skills trainer; and would be happy to attend her aural training classes in the future. John Handley, ACU

Just a small note to say a big thank you for all the sessions that you ran that I attended during the KMEIA conference. You are always an inspiration! It still seems like yesterday that I was doing teaching rounds at Scotch with you and I still always learn so much from your pedagogy. Jenni Allen, Head of Junior School Music, Scotch College Junior School

Online Musicianship Courses

The VMPC is a personalised music theory program that allows you to work closely with an experienced teacher all year, going through all the music aural and theory you need to know for the exam. You have the privilege of working at your own pace while also having someone other than your classroom teacher hold you accountable for your efforts and encourage you to improve. Deb will direct you towards the exercises and worksheets you need to compete to strengthen your weak areas, personally create any resources you may need and offer an immense amount of guidance and support throughout the year – these are all things, in my opinion, students at any level will greatly benefit from!  Personally, the VMPC helped me so much last year, and I think it is an incredibly valuable tool for anyone studying VCE music. At first I was skeptical of all the singing involved in the course, but over time my aural skills and understanding of music theory improved without me even realising it! In addition to this, the amount of time and effort Deb put into ensuring me and every other VMPC student was prepared for the exam (this includes correcting countless practice exams, skyping, creating personalised video and audio files and emails containing countless words of encouragement) was amazing – I cannot recommend this program enough. Susan Malikoff, Warrnambool College

I was lucky enough to work with Deb in her VMPC Direct group last year and I could not recommend it enough as it truly helped me improve my understanding in music.  In that group, I was able to work with Deb personally and complete a series of personalised tasks she set that would help to improve my aural and theory skills in preparation for the exam.  Upon completing each task, Deb would correct it and provide valuable feedback helping me to improve each week.  Through working with Deb directly, I was really able to remain motivated by her constant support and patience.
The VMPC Direct group allowed me to receive one on one support which cannot be provided in a classroom with so many students and only one teacher.  It is clear that Deb truly has a passion for music and teaching and cares about her students, helping whenever she can.  I found the whole experience extremely valuable and I have improved significantly from this and hope that all VCE music students and teachers enroll into the VMPC! CZ Ruyton Girls’ School

The VMPC Direct group aims to help you enhance your theory and aural skills at a rate that suits yourself; as many high school students have varied school timetables, it makes it hard to stick to a deadline. This is one reason why I found working with Deborah very helpful, and I was able to fit the course work/extra help in my busy schedule. Participating in this group also gave me personalised feedback, always within a day or two, which allowed me to further improve my music skills. Deborah also provided revision exam papers very similar to the actual exam last year, very helpful for gaining insight to the time limitations as well as the criteria of each section. It was always very easy to ask Deborah anything! Any questions I had on the work or tips, she would always answer. 

I honestly think joining the group significantly gave my study score a significant boost. Whether it be starting 2 months prior to the exam or at the beginning of the year, I think it would give you a large advantage over the majority of the cohort. JZ Scotch College

Working with Deb directly gave me one-on-one help which was specific and catered to the areas I struggled with. In turn, this enabled me to work on problem areas with a range of straightforward exercises written, aural and oral to truly pinpoint and work through theory questions. Having a realistic deadline to submit work every week ensured there was enough time to get work in –this being especially important during busy times at school. Deb provided constructive feedback just days after submitting work which meant I could immediately begin targeting tricky areas in my work. This has been a very valuable course to me as it helped boost my confidence in theory and motivate me to work at difficult areas by setting achievable goals.  JD St Catherine’s School, Toorak, Vic

The VMPC program is a practically designed guided course for all VCE Music Performance students. Deb takes you step by step in fortnightly tasks which revises material from her workbooks and applying this learned knowledge in practical means. I was very fortunate to be a part of the VMPC Direct program which allowed me to work with Deb personally to improve my music Aural and Theory knowledge on a regular basis throughout the year.
I was recommended Deb’s courses through a friend who previously took the VMPC program. I chose Deb’s direct program so that I would be continuously working on Music throughout the year without neglect. As someone with existing Aural and Theory knowledge, these classes were helpful in cementing areas of knowledge which I knew, and drilling down content which were VCE specific (such as modes, half diminished chords etc.). The tasks (through worksheets or videos) assigned each fortnight were tailored towards areas where we needed more work whilst completing the exam’s content within the three and a bit terms. For me, Deb created specific tasks and comprehensive videos and explanation sheets to help me understand and make sense of my weak areas.
Having Deb work with me throughout the year (in the direct course) is a decision I am so pleased with. The amount of effort she puts into ensuring you are your best for the exam is so significant – you couldn’t ask for more. To have someone coaching you on a regular basis ensures you won’t neglect your subject and you are constantly learning on top of any classroom work. No matter how knowledgeable you are at music,
Deb’s course (especially the direct) is such a strategic and effective tool to learn or cement content and help you do your very best at VCE Music Performance. I highly recommend this program for all students and teachers who are willing to put in the continuous work to see their desired results! JK Nossal High School, Berwick, VIC

The VMPC is a course that takes you through everything you need to know for the exam in a steady, progressive pace. More importantly, it adds meaning to and consolidates what you learn in class and in the Aural and Theory book, providing you with lifelong knowledge and a deeper understanding of music. When working with Deb directly, the resources are catered specifically to your needs, something very valuable that is hard to receive in class. I personally have noticed so much improvement in the areas I used to consider my weaker areas – so much so that I am probably most confident in those! To me, doing the VMPC and working with Deb was basically intense, private tuition!

The Direct Course – I cannot recommend it enough! I have found the VMPC to be so valuable and it has helped me more than I can say. Deb genuinely cares so much about your personal progress and improvement and invests so much time and effort to ensure you do well. She gave me numerous different methods of doing Melodic Transcriptions until I found the one that I understood and that worked with me. No matter what stage you’re at (or think you’re at) there is always something you can learn or improve on through working with her and participating in the VMPC. MC PLC, Burwood, Vic
As a singer coming late into the high school music scene, I was only familiar with music theory at a very basic level. My knowledge was based mostly on random patterns and acronyms, which whilst were effective when rote learnt, did not aid me in truly understanding the structure of music.

Working directly with Deb in what she calls her ‘Direct Group’ through the VMPC program kept me motivated and on track throughout the year; something that a lot of students struggle with. Being in this group meant that I had to complete and submit a series of tasks every week or two, whether that be in the form of worksheets or videos. Deb always gave me honest and constructive feedback on my work, and gave me specific ways to combat my problem areas. Having the clearly structured program and deadlines to meet gave me the incentive to continuously chip away at the tasks, as they are designed to be completed in as little as 15 minutes.
Honestly, I couldn’t recommend the VMPC more. It’s great for individual students who want to take control of their own learning and stick to their study plans, or even for whole classes and teachers who want to follow along. Best of all, it’s FREE! I strongly encourage all VCE Music students and teachers to register with the VMPC and follow through with it. You will see vast improvements yourself, and if you’re anything like me, music will finally make sense.
Do it!! Better yet, join the Direct Group. It’s not every day that you can work directly with the author of your textbook! AU Assumption College, Kilmore, Vic

Hi Deb, I just wanted to say thanks so much for making this course. The way your book is designed, with the knowledge like building blocks on top of each other, really simplifies the learning and makes it seem achievable – instead of overwhelming! I just wanted to email because I really appreciate your constant emails and the youtube videos explaining everything and everything else you’ve done with the course! It’s easy to rely on and I know that if all my other subjects were done the way you have set out this music course, everything would be a lot simpler and less stressful, so thank you! TC St Michael’s Grammar School, St Kilda, Vic

I actually feel as if I’ve improved massively. Especially in the intervals as well as my singing- I know it’s not really core to the course as I’m doing guitar but still I feel like I’m improving. Also I’ve found being more able to sing the theory elements is surprisingly helpful for recognizing them. I was a little skeptical about how much benefit this course would do me at first but I’m well and truly feeling the benefits now, thanks so much. Also with intervals it has been really helpful as with improvising on guitar, one good technique is to come up with a little riff on the spot, recognize the intervals and thus be able to play it- this has really helped with that. Overall feeling really good now, bring on the next week. Thanks heaps, CB Chairo Christian School, Pakenham, Vic

I have seen the benefits of tonic solfa and rhythm names seeping through my ears because I have been able transcribe rhythms and melodies that I used to think was utterly impossible. Now, my singing performance has reaped the positive outcomes of this program since I am now able to pitch not only through the note but through the visualisation of the hand-signs of solfege. KT, 2015 VCE Music Student

Using the moveable do system for chords is new to me and I am in the process of learning which chords start on which solfa name. So far, I am finding it really great for chord writing and identifying. It is such a consistent and reliable system, finding do and then building the chord from that key signature. For example, in any key signature, starting on ti will build a diminished triad. I know you already know this as you are the one teaching it, but I wanted to tell you that it is really smart and effective, as it applies to scales too and chord progressions and, well, everything theory based.
I’m feeling so confident for the end of year exam! This really is the ideal preparation! I am so glad also that I’m doing 3&4 music in year 11 because I can really concentrate on it!
Thank you so much, oh and the videos are really good to use and having a specific one for a specific task is so accessible and clear! AE Braemar College, Vic.


If you feel that do re mi is only for Junior Music Education, you’re missing out and so are your students. The best test of musical understanding and literacy is sight singing. How comfortable are you and your students with sight singing?  If you want to improve your aural skills in a non-threatening, positive, empowering and really enjoyable way, enrol in Deborah Smith’s workshops and immerse yourself in these fantastic musical experiences.  I guarantee, no matter how advanced your current skills, you will emerge a better, more confident musician and, with the further aid of Deborah’s superb textbooks and CDs, a much better music teacher! Jennifer Mackenzie, Music Educator VIC and WA

If you miss out on Deb’s workshops you’ll deprive yourself and your students of a rare and wonderful opportunity to discover much about the teaching of aural and theory. Deborah Smith has my profound respect. Richard Gill OAM (Noted conductor and music educator)

Thanks so much for your fantastic work in constantly producing such wonderful books and CDs for us all. It is very much appreciated. Lynley Bramble, Huntingtower

As a teacher of VCE Music Performance (Group), I have found Deborah Smith’s Musicianship & Aural Training book for the subject to be an invaluable resource for teaching this part of the course. I found her workshop for teachers inspiring, and my students who have attended her student workshops have come back to class excited and eager to pass on what they have learnt from her. Stephen Hardie, Assistant Director of Music, Blackburn High School

I have attended several of Deborah Smith’s workshops over the past few years.  I have always found her sessions to be informative, fun, and of inestimable value to my own teaching.  Deb’s workshops always leave me with new ideas about how to do things better in the Music classroom. Aaron Searle, Director of Music, Eltham College