"I love the percussion. It's a right brain, left brain thing. There are different beats, but cooperating together. It's your whole body doing it, you're doing the snare drum and the high top with your hands and the bass drum with your foot. You're this whole motion machine." -Shalom Harlow

A passion for percussion instruments such as the drums is shared by hundreds of thousands all over the world. With popularity on the rise as a result of the availability of percussion courses and the affordability of the instrument, drumming is a musical instrument to be reckoned with.

However, it is essential to state that when something piques a person's interest, such as the drums, curious individuals start asking valid questions such as, where can I learn the drums? Are there courses offered by UK-based organisations? Does it require a structured programme to master a percussion's instrument? Are there tips or a recommended technique to learn the drums more rapidly? And so on. 

But, truthfully, where does one find the answers? Dear readers, you're in the right place! Why? Because Superprof analyses reliable information from various sources to craft suggestions and details in a well-worded article such as this one.

Therefore, without further delay, in today's article, Superprof's expertise will be focused on helping drum enthusiasts learn more about how they can attend courses and become more qualified with the ABRSM. Let's get started!

How Many Drum Grades are There in the UK?

ethnic drums
There are many different kinds of drums that can be learnt in the Percussion Combined exam programme with the ABRSM. (Source: Unsplash)

Music makes the world go round. The everlasting appeal of playing a musical instrument is shared by various individuals who want to create unique sounds and beats that can be heard by all.

Nevertheless, since there are so many distinct instruments stemming from six primary categories, it may be overwhelming to select courses focused on only one instrument, such as the piano or the guitar. What's the solution? Percussion Combined courses with the ABRSM. Why?

The Percussion Combined programme with the ABRSM harmoniously joins three instruments together: the snare drum, the timpani, and the tuned percussion. By studying all the grades of the Percussion Combined exam, students become equipped with the necessary skills of different types of drums. Sounds pretty groovy to me!

However, how many grades or levels are students required to undergo to complete the Percussion Combined exams with the ABRSM? As is the case with all music-based reviews with the ABRSM, eight grades of study are required to complete the entire course.

The structure of the ABRSM exams is the recipient of a lot of acclaims due to its ability to teach students gradually from a beginner to an advanced level of music expertise. 

During all eight grades of study, candidates are required to memorise and perform three pieces of music: one from a snare drum, another from the timpani, and an additional part from the tuned percussion instrument. Also, scales and arpeggios, sight-reading, and aural tests are examined during each grade exam by assessors.

The only difference from grade to grade is the overall difficulty of the percussion-based material that is being studied. 

However, it is worth mentioning that to move onto the next level of music training a minimum passing grade of 100 marks is required, merit is achieved with 120 marks, and a distinction is nabbed by reaching 130 marks; which we will discuss in the next subheading!

How Can You Get a Distinction on Your Drumming Exam?

different drum exams
Learning percussion-based exams with the ABRSM will set aspiring drummers off to a successful career as a drumming master. (Source: Unsplash)

Of all music-based achievements in the UK, capturing a distinction on an ABRSM exam course is among the highest. Why? It means you've performed in front of the examiners successfully and they deemed your musical talents worthy of their most prestigious level.

But how does one get a distinction on an ABRSM drumming exam? Is it easy as one, two, three?

Well, as we slightly mentioned in the previous subheading, there are three levels of results after a music-based assessment such as Percussion Combined: a pass, merit, and a distinction. A distinction is achieved when the candidate receives a score between 130-150 marks on their music exam.

Examiners follow a very well organised rubric when evaluating candidates during music exams. Also, it is worth stating that the ABRSM exam criteria rubric is the same for the assessments of all music instruments; expect for singing that is graded differently.

Therefore, to achieve a distinction of at least 130 points, students need to be qualified as follows in the five distinct categories evaluated:

  • Pitch: accurate notes and intonation that surpass all expectations and rise above others,
  • Time: timing is everything and assessors examine candidates to make sure their drum playing has fluent and flexible schedule when needed,
  • Tone: the overall sound of the instrument must be highly sensitive in its overall tonal qualities,
  • Shape: candidates need to express idiomatic musical shaping and detail,
  • Performance: the performance in front of examiners is significant, and drum players need to be assured, confident, and willing to express their character and style.

To get a distinction on your Percussion Combined exams, you need to get between 27-30 marks on all of the five previously mentioned categories of assessment.

Although it may seem difficult for amateur drummers to achieve a distinction, anything is possible with hard work, determination, and a positive attitude knowing that you can and will succeed!

Can You Skip Drum Grades?

Like the piano and the guitar, the drums have become increasingly popular in recent years. Playing them frequently can have very positive effects. Really? Such as?

For example, playing the drums becomes a great stress reliever for players. Also, since the drums are so physical, players end up burning calories after each session; talk about a fun exercise! Another positive effect is the discovery that students who play the drums end up improving their academic performance in maths and technology.

There are so many great reasons to learn the drums; for what are you waiting? 

Nonetheless, it's important to state that the number of grades, eight to be precise, with the ABRSM to study a percussion instrument may be overwhelming and not feasible for all. Is there a solution to so many grades? Yes, there is!

Not many individuals are familiar with the fact that all musical instrument examinations with the ABRSM can be skipped. 

Although viewed as inappropriate and out of line by many conservative students, skipping a grade should not be scoffed at since it is an entirely viable option that is accepted by the ABRSM. However, it is essential to state that skipping a drums grade or two should be seriously considered. Why? Because it might not be best for all students. When moving forward, an exam grade should be for those who have a unique musical talent, and their abilities can allow them to analyse more difficult material at an amateur level.

However, when skipping ABRSM music exam grades, there are a few essential details that must be taken into consideration. Such as? You cannot skip ahead past Grade 5 since the examination during that level is crucial to completing the advanced levels of 6, 7, and 8.

Nevertheless, those with equivalent qualifications from other countries such as Canada, Ireland, and Australia may move onto if they have achieved a Grade 5 passing mark. 

In all fairness, the fact that students must undergo Grade 5 is a testament to the quality and prestige of the ABRSM. The examiners want candidates to be ready and succeed at all costs!

Tips to Help You Prepare For Your Drum Exam

drumming is a passion
The passion of drumming can be heightened with a drums tutor by your side. (Source: Unsplash)

Learning a musical instrument is not always easy. A lot of hard work, determination, and constant motivation is needed to masterfully learn how to play the drums and impress those around you.

Even though a tireless effort is needed to pass your drum exams with the ABRSM, there is a little thing called advice from fellow peers and professionals that can set you off on the right path of success. Therefore, without any further delay, we shall call attention to the following five tips to succeed during drumming assessments:

  • Practice the Pieces: at every grade of the Percussion Combined exams, three pieces of music must be completed by all candidates. Students can pick their pieces, but they must work hard to execute them flawlessly. Therefore, since examiners are carefully listening to how compositions are performed, it is in the best interest of the student to practice frequently.
  • Know Your Scales: by knowing your scales and arpeggios, not only are skills such as reliable hand movements, coordination, fluency, and muscle memory improved, but also examiners look to see if you know your stuff during the technical requirements section of the tuned percussion instrument.
  • Hire a Drums Tutor: of all tips and tricks offered by professionals, the one to hire a private drums tutor is the best. Why? Private drums or percussions tutors make it their goal to see you succeed on your ABRSM exams, and the guidance they provide is helpful and necessary. Their personalised assistance, non-judgemental suggestions, and overall support make hiring a drums tutor a worthy investment. Also, some of the best and most affordable drums tutors on the market can be found on the Superprof site.

In conclusion, we hope that the information in today's article has provided our readers with the information required to start drum exams with the ABRSM and request the assistance they need to have a successful time training that is equally as fun and engaging. May the force be with you as you drum your heart away!

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