Learning grades in music gives students the chance to understand the subtleties of their instrument. This is why so many people that have music lessons also take music exams. These exams provide a framework for learning a particular instrument and also teach the music theory associated with it.
Now how can you take these graded exams? You or your school will have a choice between three examining bodies. The main one that people use is ABRSM. This stands for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. The other two bodies are Trinity College London and London College of Music. ABRSM is hugely popular due to its detailed syllabus and range of sheet music it publishes in conjunction with this.
ABRSM offers exams in: practical musicianship, theory and jazz. But their most popular exams are the practical exams in any of a range of specific instrument. They currently offer 35 different instrument courses. Each student begins at grade one. The top exam is awarded at grade eight.
So here is what to expect from the actual practical exam. There are four separate elements in every music grade. The first is the set pieces element. This involves the student playing three set pieces. Each piece is worth 30 marks with the pass mark set at twenty. The set pieces must be chosen from the course syllabus in advance. This allows the student to demonstrate how well they can deliver a piece of music that they have thoroughly rehearsed.
Scales and arpeggios is the next component and carries a potential 21 marks. Quite simply the examiner will verbally request a number of scales and the candidate must play them back. There is no sheet music allowed for this. The pass mark is set at 14 for this component.
The third component is the aural. As the name would suggest, it involves listening comprehension. In this part, the examiner will play a short melody on the instrument and then question the candidate over it. The aural carries 18 marks with a minimum of 12 required to pass.
Sight-reading is often the most feared part of the music exam. This is because the candidate must play from sheet music that they haven’t ever seen before. They will be presented with a short piece during the exam and are allowed half a minute to look at it and prepare. They are encouraged to have a quick run-through during this time. After that they must play the music as best they can for the examiner. Sight-reading carries a total of 21 marks. The pass mark for it is fourteen.
The number of marks needed to pass the exam and be awarded the grade is 100 out of 150. Candidates that score 120 or more will be commended with a pass with merit. Candidates that score 130 or more will be commended with a pass with distinction.
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