A re-enactment of my celebration. I was most like the guy on the right.
Grades are a great way for guitar students to challenge themselves and progress in a structured way.
Kids especially love getting a certificate to hang on the wall. When I was much younger I used to do Kung Fu and I loved working towards getting the next belt and showing it off to my mates.
I don't think however that grades are the only way to learn guitar, and personally I learnt guitar in a less structured way, and picked up most of my ability and knowledge playing with others and eventually playing professionally.
Regardless, to get the full experience of sitting a grading, in May 2016, I sat
the RGT Grade 8 (Acoustic) Grading in Penge (Grade 8 is the highest of the
standard grades). I felt pretty confident the day of
the exam, and even though I had played in front of decent sized crowds
solo before, I was still very nervous sitting in the waiting area at Twang
Guitars Music Shop.
For the months prior to the exam, I had been steadily working through the grading
material (all containedin the RGT Course book). I knew the marks would be
awarded out of 100:
Scales - 10 Marks
Two Guitar Pieces - 25 Marks Each
Analysis of Guitar Pieces/History of Pieces - 10 Marks
Accompanyment with Examiner - 20 Marks
Aural (Listening) - 10 Marks
The exam was in the exact order that it is set out in the book. The examiner could not have been nicer and told me repeatedly to take my time, which did calm my nerves (at least a little bit...).
The scales I breezed through because once you've learnt them you have learnt them and it is just a matter of recall.
The two Guitar Pieces (Derry Hornpipe and I Dare You) I had been working on for a few months, so despite a few little fluffs I got through OK.
For the accompanyment, the examiner gave me a sheet with the chords, played through the melody once by himself and for the second time I was expected to play through. I found this the most difficult part of the exam, because there was no time to really think things through.
And then after around 15 minutes we were already at the final section which required identifying chord movements, playing back a melody and identifying the different rhythms.
Once we were all done, despite my gentle
prodding the examiner would not give me
any hints about how I had done, and I just
needed to wait for the post. Two weeks later
I got a knock on the door and my postman
handed over an oversized envelope. Like
Charlie (of Chocolate Factory fame), I peeled
back the envelope to reveal a shiny certificate
and my results - 90.5% distinction. Yeah, I was
So, what advice would I give after sitting the exam?
I don't think that doing a grade necessarily made me a
better guitarist, but I definitely learned more about the
guitar, and it was good to put myself under pressure and
work towards a goal. I think these benefits would assist kids more than an adult learner, but either way, it is nice to have a shiny certificate to hang on the wall.
Hope that was helpful.
My Grade 8 Certificate