Should I take grades?
Approximately half of my pupils take graded exams and they like the sense of achievement in passing something that requires quite a lot of hard work and skill.
The focus of each grade is mainly on reading notation in order to play solo pieces or pieces to backing tracks, in a variety of styles. There are also rudiments to learn from memory, a little sight reading and some ear tests too.
Pupils taking grades will find lessons based more on learning from notation than pupils not taking grades, where lessons will be more evenly split between learning by ear and from notation – there will be more time for improvisation and composition too.
One thing that is very useful to have, whether taking grades or not, is a hi-fi system or a cd player connected to a small guitar amplifier (via a jack plug lead) that is loud enough to cope with the volume of the drums for when playing to backing tracks. This is ideal, as not only is it a good way of prepring pupils to play to a PA system at the graded exams but also at concerts and gigs too. An alternative to this is a pair of ear defenders to go over the top of some earphones connected to an iPod or portable/walkman cd player, which will subsequently reduce the sound of the drums enough to hear the music.
I prefer to teach Rockschool, Trinity College London Rock & Pop or London College Music (LCM) grades but am happy to also teach Trinity College London if you come to me already midway through one of these grades.
To take grade 8 with LCM, pupils need Grade 5 Theory or a C or above in GCSE Music. Alternatively they can take Grade 8 with Rockschool with neither.
Mock exams can be conducted.
The benefits of grades:
- Grades 6-8 count as UCAS points and a Distinction at Grade 8=75 UCAS points, which is a high D at A Level
- Grades 4-5 are the equivalent of GCSE grades C-A*
- Some schools like/prefer pupils to have grades if they want to study GCSE Music
- BIMM (Brighton Institute of Modern Music) and ACM (Academy of Contemporary Music) like degree applicants to be Grade 8 level (or the equavalent of) - these grades are guidelines only - applicants are expected to be at this level, but are not required to have passed the exams
Please appreciate that taking grades does not necessarily mean that a pupil will be a better player than one who doesn't take grades. In fact, many pupils who haven’t taken grades have ended up equally as good players as those who have – it’s just whether grades are the best way to go or not for the individual pupil; for some it is and for others it isn't.