"Music is a necessity. After food, air, water, and warmth, music is the next necessity of life." -Keith Richards

There is no denying the fact that music is essential in our lives. A catchy beat and thoughtful lyrics can change our emotions and make us feel beautiful things. A world without music is not a place I would like to be.

Also, there are plenty who live, breathe, and create music because if they didn't, life wouldn't be worth living!

So, are you thinking of joining the club and wanting to create powerful music? Could you do it? Learning a musical instrument such as the piano, the flute, the drums, or the famous guitar is a beautiful idea to tap into your creative side and do something worthwhile that you'll probably love.

So, without further ado, in today's article, we shall examine how guitar exams in the UK are conducted through the ABRSM. Let's get ready to learn!

How Many Guitar Grades are there in the UK?

When learning a musical instrument, many alternatives routes can be completed. Such as? Some people teach themselves how to play an instrument, others take classes at a music school or with a private tutor, and many prefer the structured guidance of the courses with a music examination board.

bass and electric guitars
Jamming out on the electric guitar is so much fun! (Source: Unsplash)

Which one is the best?

While all pathways are worthy of consideration, for argument's sake, let us consider the brilliance of studying a musical instrument such as a guitar with an organised charity. Such as? The ABRSM. The ABRSM is based in London and creates exams and programmes for music enthusiasts all over the world.

ABRSM stands for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, and with over 600,000 candidates it is one of the largest music organisations working today.

Studying the guitar with the ABRSM is much suggested since students practice essential music-based topics in a structured way that boasts fantastic results. But how many levels or grades are there? The Practical Guitar programme from the ABRSM, like all other instruments courses, boasts eight levels of instruction.

The eight levels of instruction have been carefully created to study and get better with time gradually. It is essential to mention that all grades of guitar, one through eight, feature the following curriculum:

  • Three new pieces of music,
  • Scales and Arpeggios,
  • Sight-reading,
  • Aural tests.

At the end of each grade of study, there is an examination that is evaluated, and candidates are graded out of 150 marks. For instance, 100 marks is a pass, 120 points is a merit, and 130 marks or above is classified as the highest honour, which is known as a distinction.

Throughout all grades, students must select three new pieces of music from three different lists: A, B, and C. Also, new guitar scales and arpeggios are introduced at every grade and increase in difficulty. Let us not forget the importance of aural-tests and sight-reading since they are reviewed frequently throughout the entire ABRSM examination process.

But how does one get the highest result, a distinction, on their guitar exam? Keep on reading to find out more!

How Can You Get a Distinction on Your Guitar Exam?

By understanding the ABRSM marking system, candidates better comprehend how to aim for the best results and get the prestigious distinction on guitar exams!

It is essential to state that to get a distinction, at least 130 marks are required with a perfect score being 150 marks that are usually rewarded to prodigies.

Evaluators carefully analyse the skills of the candidate during guitar exams and grant them an overall score based on a rubric that has five distinct categories such as pitch, time, tone, shape, and performance. We highly recommend taking a look at the examiner's rubric that is available on the ABRSM to see what skills are required to be qualified as a distinction level.

But how does one hone their skills to ensure a distinction level when passing through guitar exams with the ABRSM? The following are some valuable tips to work hard towards guaranteeing a distinction:

  • Practice As Your Life Depends On It: the common expression, "practice makes perfect" could not be more true when learning a musical instrument such as the guitar; especially for those who want to get a distinction! So, when understanding a new piece, a couple of scales and arpeggios, etc., it is exceptionally suggested to dedicate at least an hour of practice time on the guitar to improve skills and hone technique.
  • Work On Performance Skills: since performance is one of the five sections featured on the rubric that assessors grade, it is essential to transmit confidence, good posture, and assured technique when performing in front of others. Consider applying tips such as sitting with your chest pushed forward, holding your strumming arm against your body, and make your shoulders feel calm and relaxed. The overall performance grades are greatly enhanced when posture is improved; trust us!
  • Hire a Professional Guitar Tutor: you'd be surprised to find out that the number of professional guitar educators who have experience helping students through ABRSM exams is relatively high in the UK. Therefore, we highly recommend taking advantage of consulting with an online guitar tutor via brilliant sites such as Superprof. Private tutors provide personalised attention, valuable advice, and careful guidance to see their students succeed and capture a distinction!

Remember, nothing in this world comes easy. Achieving outstanding results on ABRSM examinations is the result of hard work, determination, and a diligent attitude. But, don't worry, we have confidence that you can do it!

Can You Skip Grades in Guitar With the ABRSM?

playing a band
Do you long to share your guitar playing skills with the world? (Source: Unsplash)

Is it true? Can I pass through guitar grades with the ABRSM without any consequences? The short answer is... YES!

While some more traditional folk might scoff at the idea of skipping grades with the ABRSM, there is no shame in the fact that it can be done since you are not breaking any rules. 

Like all exams conducted by the ABRSM, the guitar assessments are structured the same way. Such as? The following describes what is reviewed during each grade:

  • Three pieces of new music from a varied list that students can select,
  • New scales and arpeggios are learnt,
  • Aural tests are completed,
  • Sight-reading is analysed.

It is essential to state that the only thing that changes from grade to grade is the level of difficulty. Therefore, since the ABRSM exams are structured by hardness if an overachieving student wants to move ahead faster and have the ability to do so, there are no regulations that prevent him/her from moving forward. Well, except one. Which one is that?

According to the structured grades of the ABRSM guitar exams, moving up levels is something that can quickly be done before level 5. Why? Before starting the advanced classes of 6, 7 and 8, a candidate must have passed the Music Theory exam of Practical Guitar Grade 5. Equivalent programmes such as the Practical Musicianship and Solo Jazz Instrument from other musical instruments and other institutes are accepted.

Hence, before concluding this section, it is essential to mention that if you want to skip guitar exams, it is best if done before level 5 since much more concentration and attention to detail are necessary for the advanced levels of instruction. Forgot what the naysayers would say and if you can skip a guitar grade, go for it!

Tips to Help You Prepare For Your Guitar Exam

in front of people
Playing the guitar live in front of others is a dream of many. (Source: Unsplash)

Advice is not always well received by people who are trying to acquire new things; however, the importance of listening to the tips and tricks offered by experienced individuals cannot be stressed enough. Why? Learning something new, such as a musical instrument, requires a lot of humility, and it isn't always easy, so the help from others should be much welcomed.

Nonetheless, caution should be exercised when asking for advice since only experts should be consulted and not random people who only have superficial knowledge. 

Without further ado, the following are some tips from the experts at Superprof about how to succeed at ABRSM guitar exams:

  • Master Your Scales and Arpeggios: since scales and arpeggios are an essential part of each Practical Guitar grade with the ABRSM, it is necessary to spend time mastering them. Also, by having the custom of attacking complex scales from the beginning, you will feel more at ease as grade levels get more and more complex. There are some recommended Youtube channels such as JamPlay and Justin Guitar, that help guitar beginners hone their skills.
  • Set Goals: a goal without a plan is just a dream, haven't you heard? Therefore, try to set realistic goals that can be achieved when learning the guitar. Goals such as practising for an hour every day, learning a new piece once per week, and take lessons with a tutor once a week are objectives that can easily be achieved; you'll also see a lot of progress in your playing skills!
  • Use a Metronome: for those who have not had any previous experience studying music, a metronome might seem like an odd little tool. Nevertheless, metronomes are essential since they are developed to help new musicians develop rhythm and is set to beats per minute. Using a metronome will be extremely useful for guitar beginners to help them build timing from the beginning. Metronomes can be purchased at music shops or used on apps such as Tempo and Time Guru.

In conclusion, we much hope that the carefully researched information in today's article will put you at ease when you are studying for essential guitar exams from the ABRSM. Good luck and godspeed!

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