"I wish they'd had electric guitars in the cotton fields back in the good old days. A whole lot of things would've been straightened out." -Jimi Hendrix 

Music has the power to move people and change their lives. Touching rhythms and impactful lyrics have turned even the most cynical people into believers of fundamental causes.

I think of the songs "Imagine", "Give Peace a Chance" and "We Are the World" and the influence they've had on popular culture when they were released and even to present day.

Honestly, there is no denying the fact that the art of mixing lyrics with musical sounds will always be treasured for generations after generations. And, if you want to take part in creating lively tunes that can be listened to forever, why not learn a musical instrument?

Instruments such as the piano, the guitar, the drums, the violin, and the clarinet, are currently being learnt by millions of people everywhere. And, now more than ever. How's that? As a result of staying home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals have more time to acquire the basics of musical instruments such as the guitar.

Therefore, without further ado, in today's article, we shall examine how guitar learners following courses with the ABRSM can get a distinction on all of their end of grade assessments. Are you ready to rock? I know, I'm punny!

History of the Guitar

Before analysing every detail about how to get a distinction with a fine-toothed comb, let us take some time to learn more about what makes the guitar a fascinating instrument.

As is the case with all instruments, the guitar started from somewhere as a result of the mind of creative individuals who had music running through their veins.

a distinction grade
Whether you wait to play in front of a large crowd or by yourself, getting a distinction grade prepares you for success. (Source: Unsplash)

Fun fact: did you know that the guitar can be traced back over 4000 years? That's quite the throwback! 

And although there are many theories about how the guitar came into existence and who first thought of the idea, it is a commonly known fact that the earliest stringed instruments known as bowl harps came from ancient civilisations such as the Babylonians and the Egyptians over 2500 years ago.

Nonetheless, despite a large number of variations that existed for centuries, the plucked stringed instrument that we commonly call the guitar originated in the 16th century. Where? In Spain.

The first guitar was called the "Guitarra Latina" in Spanish and was an instrument with a waisted body and four strings. 

The "Guitarra Latina" had four strings and was tuned C-F-A-D. However, from the 16th to the 19th century, the guitar experienced many changes that contributed to its sonority.

Also, although used frequently in the 16th, 17th, and 18th century, the guitar developed very quickly at the end of the 19th century and during the 20th century to become the most played instrument in the world. Now there are so many options that can be divided into subgenres with unique strings, shapes, and sizes.

Now let's get to the serious stuff and learn about how a student reviewing guitar exams with the ABRSM can get a coveted distinction!

Understanding the Marking System of the ABRSM

trusted tutor
A trusted guitar tutor becomes a friend that you can express your concerns to. (Source: Unsplash)

How does one mark an ABRSM exam? Is there a system that is followed by all examiners? 

Since the ABRSM is a reputable examinations board and charity, it has an established marking structure that works. It fairly evaluates students based on their overall skills when performing a musical instrument like the guitar or the piano.

It's good to know that since it's already structured, the tutor cannot merely judge you on how they are feeling that day! 

Nonetheless, it is essential to state that when candidates are preparing for the end of grade guitar exams, they should shoot for the stars and expect a result that is nothing but the best. What is the best according to the ABRSM? A distinction!

Guitar exams under the surveillance of the ABRSM consist of examining three pieces, scales and arpeggios, sight-reading, and aural tests. And, during the examination process, guitar students are given a score out of 150 points or marks. The following three levels explain how marks are provided:

  • 100 marks are required for a pass,
  • 120-129 points qualify students for merit,
  • 130-150 marks classify a guitar for the highest level of honour, a distinction.

A perfect distinction is the highest honour and a perfect score at 150 points, yet it is challenging to get. But, how is one classified as being a distinction level student? A rubric.

The rubric is divided into five sections, such as pitch, time, tone, shape, and performance. To get a perfect score on guitar exams, or highest level distinction, 30 marks on each section is required. Nonetheless, between 27-30 marks are needed on each section to get a distinction.

Want to learn more? The following list demonstrates how students can strive to get a distinction based on the ABRSM approved rubric:

  • Pitch: needs to be extremely accurate with substantial notes and intonation,
  • Time: fluent and flexible when needed with an intensely rhythmic character that is well conveyed,
  • Tone: nicely projected with thoughtful use of the tonal qualities,
  • Shape: expressive with idiomatic shaping and detail,
  • Performance: assured, committed, and featuring a vivid communication of character and style.

When all of the above are aced, you can expect a distinction grade at the end of your exam. We knew you could do it!

However, know that we have considered what examiners are looking for and how they grade you to get a distinction, some might ask if there are any specific tips or tricks that can significantly aid a candidate to get the ABRSM's highest classification?

The answer is YES! And Superprof is here to save the day by providing invaluable counsel about how to capture a distinction in the following subheading.

Learn more about how to skip guitar exam grades here!

Tips and Tricks to Nab a Distinction on Guitar Exams

are you full of anxiety?
Anxious and stressed out about your upcoming ABRSM guitar exam? Calm down, relax, and host a mimic exam with friends to reduce nerves. (Source: Unsplash)

Like everything in life, to be the best and reach the summit of success, a lot of hard work, consistent effort, and a diligent attitude are required. Therefore, to ensure success on guitar exams and capture the notorious distinction with the ABRSM, you need to pay close attention to the tips and tricks provided in the following subheadings.

At Superprof, we care about the success of our readers, and we sincerely hope that you can soar high above and reach the stars to be among the top guitar learners in the UK whether young or old, beginner or intermediate, the advice provided by Superprof is bound to work!

Practice Makes Perfect

We know, we know, you've probably heard it around a million times already: practice makes perfect. But, incredibly, it cannot be stressed enough.

Taking time to practice every single day makes the difference between a merit and a distinction grade. 

Therefore, dedicate a fixed time every day to practice a new piece, try out new scales and arpeggios, or hone sight-reading abilities. We recommend at least an hour every day, if not more. Why? Being the best doesn't come to those who slack off!

Hone Performance Skills

When examiners grade performance skills, they spend a lot of time observing the candidate's posture. Such as? The sitting position, the placement of the hands, feet, etc. Why? Because posture significantly affects performance skills and makes a nervous player look more assured and confident with only a single body movement.

Therefore, keep the following posture suggestions in mind:

  • Sit with your chest slightly sticking outwards,
  • Bring the instrument towards you and ensure that your leg is slightly raised,
  • Hold your strumming arm against your body,
  • Frequently make sure that your shoulders are calm and relaxed; tension in shoulders affects performance,
  • If requested to stand and play, carefully adjust your guitar strap so that it is comfortable.

Why do the previously mentioned posture tips help? Because by pinpointing the causes, your body will feel a lot less stressed, and you will portray confidence in the pieces that you are playing.

Host a Mock Exam

Are you so nervous about your upcoming ABRSM guitar exam that it has kept you up at night? Do you want a distinction grade so bad that nothing else will do? If so, you are not the only one. There are thousands of dedicated musicians around the world waiting for their impending guitar exam.

One way to reduce stress and feel more relaxed come examination day is by hosting a mock exam. What's that? A serious event that you perform in front of friends and family to mimic the upcoming end of grade assessment. It dramatically helps guitar students calm down and recognise that performance is worsened by being too worried.

Hire a Tutor

Of all the tips and tricks we can suggest to ensure a distinction grade in guitar exams, hiring a private tutor to guide you through the steps is probably among the best. Why? The following reasons point out the brilliant advantages of hiring a tutor:

  • Personalised Assistance,
  • Someone to Critique Performance Skills,
  • An Expert Who Provides Invaluable Tips and Pieces of Advice. 

Experienced tutors make it their goal to aid ABRSM guitar candidates to succeed. Nonetheless, with so many tutoring websites, it may seem not very easy deciding upon which is the best for you. Have no fear, Superprof is here!

With a massive community of online educators teaching a plethora of academic subjects, guitar learners in the UK are bound to find qualified, and experienced guitar tutors who have experience helping amateur guitarists ace their ABRSM examinations. Check out our site; you won't regret it!

In conclusion, we are confident that the advice in today's article will help all our diligent guitar players receive a distinction and be equipped for success. Godspeed!

Need a Guitar teacher?

Did you like this article?

5.00/5 - 1 vote(s)


Avid movie-goer, reader, skier and language learner. Passionate about life, food and travelling.