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Welcome to a series on Guitar Grades. In this series I will be discussing the topic of Grades and hopefully help you decide if you wish to study grades with Your Guitar Tutor or take a different approach to guitar lessons.

I have had some really positive results from working through a grade or series of grades with a student. Most students that approach me in Brighton wanting to take a grade are doing so to be able to study music at A-level and have realised that they are expected to complete the grade 5 as a requirement. So it has been my duty to do an intensive period of guitar lessons to help the student achieve this.

Guitar grades range from ‘Debut’ which is basically a complete beginner guitarist to Grade 8 which is of a high standard of playing and shows proof of a high level of dedication.

When approached by a student or parent of a student about taking guitar grades I first organise a half price introductory lesson where I find out more about the student’s current level of ability. When the player wishes to complete the grade 5 I have to be realistic about his or hers ability and if grade 5 would be a bit daunting. If the grade 5 is not a realistic challenge we can work up to it before tackling the grade 5 guitar books.

During the first lesson I also explain the Rock School Guitar Grade system so that the student has a good idea of what is expected of him or her.

Here is an overview of Guitar Grade 5 (see the link at the bottom for more information on Rock School grades).

3 Performance Pieces– You can choose 3 from the book or 2 from the book and 1 of your own choice that matches in difficulty.

Technical exercises– You will be given four technical exercises including scales, arpeggios, chords and legato study.

Sight reading OR improvisation and interpretation- In Improvisation & Interpretation candidates will be asked to prepare a twelve bar improvisation & interpretation test in a blues, funk, rock or jazz style, 60-90 bpm, time signatures 2/4, 3/4, 4/4 (keys to be taken from the technical exercise at this grade). There is a small element of sight reading. This takes the form of a two bar chord rhythm at the beginning of the test. The candidate will be asked to play the chords in the rhythms indicated and to complete the test using an improvised line made up of chords and lead where indicated. Candidates are given 30 seconds to prepare, then one practice run with the backing track before playing it for the exam.


Ear tests- Candidates will be given two ear tests which are played to them by the examiner on a CD. The tests are Melodic Recall and Chord and Rhythm Recall. In Melodic Recall candidates hear a four bar melody composed from the G, A or B minor pentatonic scales played twice and will then be asked to play the melody back on their guitar, having been given the tonic and told the starting note. The test may include hammer ons, pull offs, slides, vibrato and bends. In Chord and Rhythmic Recall candidates will hear a four bar rhythmic chord sequence played twice, and will then be asked play it back on their instrument. The test will include chord types used in the technical work up to and including this grade.


General Musicianship questions – Candidates will be asked five questions, which will refer to musical notation taken from a piece of music that the candidate has played in the exam and their knowledge of the instrument. *(Bring up the example minimized at the bottom)

After this run down of the expectations of the grade system I like to tackle one area of the student’s playing that is less develop before the student purchases the two necessary  books before the next lesson.

Buying the books

Hope you have found this article helpful and if you are interested in taking guitar grades or organising lessons on grades for your son or daughter then please contact me for a half price introductory lesson or call Tom on 07907674084.
Tom Clark

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