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Although there is a lot more to learning an instrument than just entering for exams, music exams form an important part of every student’s musical progression and development.
They are important because ;
Below are the most commonly used examining boards in the United Kingdom.
The Associated Board Of the Royal Schools of Music offer exams for a wide variety of instruments from Grade 1 through to Grade 8 and diploma level. Although mainly ‘classical based’ the board also offer jazz exams in a selection of instruments. In order to enter for practical exams above Grade 5 candidates must have passed a Grade 5 theory exam. Whilst it is highly recommenced that students study music theory alongside their practical studies some students opt to take exams through other music examining boards where this is not a requirement. ABRSM exams are widely recognised throughout the world and accredited by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (OfQual) in England, and the DCELLS in Wales.
Trinity Guildhall offer exams in a wide variety of instruments. As well as classical based exams they also offer jazz exams and exams for instruments such as the digital keyboard and drum kit. Trinity Guildhall offer an ‘Initial exam’ which students can take prior to studying for Grade 1. Trinity Guildhall exams are widely recognised throughout the world and accredited by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (OfQual) in England, and the DCELLS in Wales.
The London College of Music is also recognised as a world wide examining board. It is also accredited by OfQual, which serves as a UK governmental stamp of approval and quality assurance, confirming parity of standards with other similar awarding bodies. It offers exams in all major instruments including a very good percussion and drum kit syllabus, and composition. As well as grade exams from 1 to 8 and diplomas LCM also offer ‘Early learning’ and ‘Steps’ exams for children who are not ready to enter for the main exams but would benefit from having their achievements recognised and gaining some exam experience.
Fully accredited by OfQual, DCELLS, CCEA and the SQA Rock School offer exams in drums, guitar, bass guitar, vocals, piano and band exams. Rock school focuses on styles such as rock, pop, jazz, latin, hiphop, reggae and most other popular styles that emerged from the twentieth century. They place an emphasis on developing the student’s ability to improvise. Rock school offer two types of exam; grade exams and performance exams. Grade exams consist of playing three pieces , technical exercises and musicianship tests whereas for the performance exams the student has to play five pieces but there are no other tests. Rock school also offer diplomas and vocational qualifications.
Remember learning an instrument isn’t just about passing exams. Try to do some performances either in public or just to your family and friends every so often, and remember your main reason for playing should be to have fun!