Nowadays a number of our students choose to do grade exams on their instrument. The exams are a more formal and official way of illustrating someone’s ability and level of playing a musical instrument – when someone asks about your ability to play, by telling them of the grade that you are at will give them a good idea. At the same time, when applying for schools or scholarships, having passed your grade exams, will demonstrate our commitment to your instrument and you can score extra points from having passed such exams.
With any musical instrument that you play, it is better not to start doing grade exams till you feel ready and have mastered all the basics. It will be much easier to learn your materials for Grade One once you feel confident in your technique and your sight-reading ability. A good way to test whether you are ready for a grade exam is by going along to the Pre-Test. This Prep Test is ‘a soft landing’ to grade exams. It gives you a good idea of what the exams are all about and whether you are ready to embark on the exam journey.
The Prep Test has the same structure as the following exams – you will need to learn and memorize three pieces, do an aural test (consists of clapping, humming and some music theory related questions) and play scales. For the Prep-Test, you will receive a short written report with an indication if you passed. For the following exams, you will receive a full report with a break down for how many points you received for each sections followed by points. You will need at least 100 points to pass, 120 for a merit and 140 for a distinction.
There are 8 grades in total, after which you can carry on to study for a diploma.
After playing your instrument for a few years, you might have grown to like playing different types of music. For the Grade Exams, you can chose between Jazz Exams or Classical Exams. If you opt for the classical route, you will be learning beautiful classical pieces either by famous composers or more recent modern pieces by contemporary composers. For the jazz route, you will be learning blues and jazz pieces in more traditional or modern forats. All the jazz pieces will include sections for improvisations ad free styling.
In a nutshell, if you crave something more creative, go for the jazz ones; if you enjoy playing from notation and learning grand classical pieces, go for the classical route!