"Finding ways to use the same guitar people have been using for 50 years to make sounds that no one has heard before is truly what gets me off." -Jeff Beck
Music is so complex and diverse that it can be studied for a lifetime and still be full of surprises and nuances that have yet to be discovered. When you change one, two, and three-note combinations between different instruments, you can create transporting melodies and unique pieces that are truly breathtaking.
Instruments such as the flute, the violin, the cello, the harp, the drums, the piano, and the guitar have inspired musicians for centuries.
Some people are so captivated by music that they decide they want to contribute and make some. Therefore, they start learning how to sing and how to play musical instruments. But which instrument should they choose? Among the incredible variety available, the guitar stands out. Why? It is versatile, portable, and customisable.
So, for what are you waiting? Take the plunge and learn more about the guitar today!
In today's article, we shall examine how guitar enthusiasts studying with the ABRSM can skip forward a grade or two to move faster through the structured curriculum of Practical Guitar grades one to eight. Are you ready to rock and roll?
Before analysing if it is even possible to skip grades when studying guitar exams, let us take some time to breathe, smell the roses, and learn about famous guitarists that can inspire us.
Although they say that you should never meet your idols, it isn't frowned upon to learn more about their musical contributions, unique guitar techniques, and rise to fame, right?
Therefore, without any further delay, the following list features five guitarists that have left their mark on the world of music and are recognised as the best in the business:
- Jimi Hendrix: although he left us too soon and became part of the sad "27 Club", Hendrix' influence can still be felt today. He explored the world of rock and roll and made it special. His playing seems effortless to mortals like us. The best guitarists study songs like "Machine Gun" and "Little Wing" are they still can't wrap their head around how he weaves through the chords and notes so precisely. Jimi Hendrix a talent for the ages.
- Eric Clapton: precise and straightforward, Clapton is known for plugging in a Gibson guitar into a Marshall and playing notes that still mesmerise. Eric Clapton's playing style has influenced hundreds of thousands of aspiring guitarists. His songs created melodies that have been hummed along to for decades.
- Jimmy Page: a true artist that transports you with every note and sound he plays, Jimmy Page's work with Led Zeppelin includes hit tracks such as "Kashmir" and "Heartbreaker." More than just a guitarist, Page pioneered the way rock bands should be.
- Keith Richards: when you think of a guitarist who comes to mind? Probably Keith Richards, am I right? With his unique personal style and powerful stage presence, Richards made The Rolling Stones a force to be reckoned with throughout the 60s, 70s, 80s, and let's be honest, until the present day. His dark, sinister, and complex sounds are truly unique and powerful.
- Jeff Beck: bright, edgy, and in your face, the music Jeff Beck created showed that he wasn't going anywhere and that he deserves to be called one of the best of all time. Never holding back, Jeff Beck made music the way he wanted it to sound, and for that, we are forever grateful.
By the way, in case you want to learn more about the world's top guitarists, consult the same resource I did, Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists; it truly is a gem of an article.
Skipping Guitar Grades With the ABRSM
We applaud you for making one of the best decisions ever to learn and learning guitar with the ABRSM!
While there are many divisive thoughts about how to learn a musical instrument, seeking the assistance of world-renowned examinations board is a fantastic idea. Why? Because programmes are well-structured, examiners have fully experienced professionals, and hands-on practice is wonderfully mixed with music theory.
Nevertheless, before embarking on learning the guitar with the ABRSM, students feel a lot of pressure because there are eight levels of practical assessments. But, what if I told you that they could be skipped? Would that make you feel better? We sure hope so!
While it is not officially advertised by the ABRSM, Practical Guitar grades can be skipped if you have the talent to take on more difficult information from the get-go. Since ABRSM guitar levels are structured identically with the same following information, it is easy to skip ahead:
- Three pieces of music must be selected,
- New scales and arpeggios are learnt,
- Aural tests are completed,
- Sight-reading is analysed.
The only difference from each grade is the level of difficulty and expectations from ABRSM examiners. Therefore, if after consulting with your tutor or trusted music teacher, you feel that you are ready to skip grades two and three and move forward to level four, go for it!
However, there is one thing that must be taken into consideration before skipping guitar grades. What's that? Moving up levels can only be done before Grade 5. Why's that? According to the rules and regulations of the ABRSM, before passing onto the advanced guitar levels six, seven, and eight, a candidate must have passed the Grade 5 examination in Music Theory or equivalents such as Practical Musicianship and Solo Jazz Instrument.
You won't be allowed to begin Grade 6 lessons with the ABRSM if you do not demonstrate that you have already successfully passed through guitar level 5.
Also, it is essential to state that Level 5 equivalencies from examination boards based in other countries such as Australia, Canada, Ireland, and the US are accepted.
Therefore, before concluding this section, remember that skipping grades is possible if you are an advanced student that will do well with the more challenging information from an early stage.
Benefits of Learning the Guitar
Sit back, relax, grab some cold beers, bring your guitar, and get ready to soothe your soul.
Listening to music is one of the most soothing things you can do. But what about playing a musical instrument? Does that relax stress out person? Absolutely!
As is the case with other famous instruments, learning to play the guitar has more advantages than disadvantages. Such as? The following are some of the most recognisable benefits of learning the guitar:
- Confidence Builder: when you become good at something that you are working very hard on, it is inevitable to feel pride and slowly build confidence. After each jam session on the guitar or successful completion of an exam with the ABRSM, you feel a sense of accomplishment knowing that you are successfully moving through levels and becoming a better guitar player.
- Improves Overall Music Knowledge: as you practice skills such as scales, arpeggios, and learn new pieces from artists all over the world, your knowledge of international musicians and the inspiration behind their pieces dramatically improves. Also, your appreciation for the artists before you and how they were pioneers in the field of music gives you an appreciation for guitarists such as Hendrix, Clapton, Page, and Van Halen.
- Sharpens concentration: while there are many health benefits to playing the guitar, one of the most remarkable is the fact that it sharpens concentration. It makes even the most unfocused people feel like they are concentrating better; great news for those who have a hard time paying attention during classes!
- Stress Reliever: had a rough day at the office, and you need a break? Play the guitar! Not only will dedicating 45 minutes to an hour of playing the guitar every day to help your playing skills, but it will also greatly aid those who need a therapeutic experience that does not focus on work. So you can relax and be productive? Count me in! It's almost impossible to be stressed out when learning a beautiful song from The Beatles like "Blackbird."
- Improves Necessary Skills: do you have enough skills to pay the bills? Well, if you don't, there is no need to fret since playing the guitar helps learners acquire necessary skills such as multitasking, communication, and concentration.
- Ability to Play More Instruments: they say that after you learn one new musical instrument, it is much easier to acquire the basics of another. How's that? You build up a musical knowledge that makes it easier to achieve the basics of the drums or the piano. Why? Rhythm is rhythm!
In conclusion, to make sure that you complete your ABRSM exams in the best way possible, we highly recommend hiring a private tutor on Superprof that has experience helping guitar learners study through the ABRSM. Remember, to have fun, work hard, and let loose, and you'll learn the guitar in no time!
Learn more about how to get a distinction here!