Category: Music Education

Practise with Purpose | Video Exams Edition

May 22nd, 2020 by

We’ve revamped our Practise with Purpose Diary so that you can use it alongside your preparation for your Rockschool video exam.

Unlike our face to face exams, there is no deadline to enter for a video exam, however you must submit your video no later than 3 months after entering. We thought it would be a good idea to support you over this period with a practice diary that will help you to get the most out of your sessions ahead of your exam submission!

Here’s Sky Sports cricket commentator and former cricketer, Charles ‘Daggers’ Dagnall, to give you some insight into how he’s been using his diary to get ready for his video exam!

Practising regularly is key to any musician’s development, regardless of where they are on their musical journey. An absolute beginner and an experienced professional will practise in very different ways, but both will need a routine that helps them to maximise their potential by attaining new skills, and then maintaining and building on them.


This practice diary helps you keep track of your daily practice and monitor your own progress. Master a technique, nail a performance piece, and prepare for your next Rockschool exam.

On each page you’ll find space to make notes on your weekly practice routine to ensure that your sessions are as productive as possible, and that you are well prepared for the different sections of the Rockschool exams.


We’ve also included a space for teachers’ comments. Many teachers are still offering video lessons during these difficult times, so be sure to reach out to them and support them if your face to face lessons have been cancelled.

Throughout the diary there are tips to make sure your performance is captured on video in the best way. You can read more about how to make the most of your performance here.

We have included some blank sheet music as well as individual boxes for warm ups, supporting tests, and performance pieces that will allow you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, ultimately leading to more efficient and rewarding practice.

Happy practising!


Rockschool video exams are available worldwide. Think you’re ready to practise with purpose and work towards your next grade? Learn more about video exams by clicking the gif below!

Rockschool VIdeo Exams

Teaching Drums Online with Alex Forryan | Setting Up

May 21st, 2020 by

Long time RSL collaborator, drummer, and educator, Alex Forryan gives his tips on how to make the most of teaching drums online.

Covid-19 has impacted our normal lives hugely, and the way in which we now learn music is no exception to this. A lot of teaching has now moved online with some very successful results, and with such uncertainty ahead this may become the ‘new normal’ for a significant period of time.

Many teachers who make up the RSL Teacher Registry and our associated centres across the world have seamlessly transitioned from face to face lessons to video lessons and are seeing some great results.

Video lessons may be more suited to some disciplines than others though. The drums is a potentially difficult instrument to teach online because it involves more physicality than other instruments and has a variety of pedals that cannot always be seen in the same shot.


Luckily, Alex has produced these fantastic videos that go into detail on how to smoothly make the shift to video lessons. We will be releasing three of these videos in total, starting with ‘Setting Up’.

In this video, Alex gives an overview of the basic equipment to get you started, takes a look at some of the free online apps and tools that are available to you, and looks at how these tools will help you get started teaching from home.

Alex also discusses safeguarding surrounding Zoom and equivalent video conferencing apps. It’s very important to be aware of safeguarding policy when starting online teaching, so simply click HERE to head to the ISM’s website and have a read of their detailed advice.

Alex Forryan teaching drums online

We hope you enjoyed the first of this series on teaching drums online. Stay tuned for next week’s instalment, where Alex will be taking a closer look at the online tools available to teachers and giving an overview of how to teach some of the Rockschool graded music exam pieces and technical exercises.

Music lessons have moved online, and so have some of our exams! If you’re interested in taking a video exam with us, simply click on the gif below to find out more about how your students can still achieve their qualifications from their own home!

Rockschool VIdeo Exams

Download Your Free Copy of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ and Join the RSL Family Today!

May 14th, 2020 by

In light of recent events we have teamed up with Hal Leonard Europe to make 500 copies of the ukulele sheet music and accompanying backing track for ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ available to download for free.

This song has become something of an anthem of solidarity and hope during the Covid-19 crisis, and we are delighted to be able to share this song with the RSL family.

All we ask in return is that you send us a video of you performing the track so that we can create a collage of your performances in support of the NHS and the key workers whose contributions are so crucial in these tough times.

Rockschool VIdeo Exams

Our Director of Academic, Tim Bennett-Hart, gives you his top tips for recording your version below. He also dives into the stylistic specifics of the song and reveals his top tips to get the most out of your performance.

Make sure to follow his advice on aligning your playing with the backing track so that the collage can be created smoothly. Count in “1, 2, 3, 4” before you start so that you can nail this classic tune!

Once you’ve recorded your version of the song, please email it to Don’t worry if your video is too big to send over email! You can use WeTransfer to upload your video and send us the link so we can download it.

Remember that there are only 500 copies available on a strictly first come first served basis, so sign up today to make sure we can send you the sheet music and backing track for you, your students, or your family!

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Rockschool Stories | Matt Furness

May 12th, 2020 by

We spoke to drummer, Matt Furness, about his experiences of teaching, how Rockschool inspired him, and why he loves the 100 Club.

A big thanks to Wendy Aitken Photography for her photography used in this blog. Explore more of Wendy’s photography here.

Can you give us a brief explanation of your teaching business? Include any achievements you’d like to highlight.

Principally I teach from home where I am set up with an acoustic kit and an electronic one. This gives the student different options, although I tend to encourage them to use the acoustic primarily. I then play along with them on the other kit to demonstrate what is required. I also visit schools to teach students during the school day where I use the Rockschool Grades.

How long have you been using Rockschool, and why has it worked for you?

I was taught using the Rockschool grades from the age of 8 through to 14, when I passed Grade 8 with a distinction. The Rockschool method worked so well for me and gave me a structured programme to learn a variety of genres and rudiments. This has been essential for my development as a drum teacher as well as a performing drummer. Because of my positive experience, I encourage all my students to take exams as this also helps in the development of their own social skills and learning.

Matt Furness drums Rockschool

What’s your favourite performance piece to teach, and how does it improve your learners?

There are so many. I use tracks from the Rockschool grade they are studying for, together with a total mix of songs: some of which they will be familiar with and others not. These songs may be tracks from the band I perform with or the musical I am playing in at the time. It is extremely important to keep students’ minds open to a wide selection of genres.

One song I definitely enjoy teaching though is “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson as it is full of both percussion and drums.

What’s your favourite test (sight reading, improv etc) to teach, and why is it important for your learners?

I teach the students how to sight read right from the very first or second lesson so that it becomes an integral part of their learning process. It is more difficult to introduce if a student comes to me having had previous experience in drumming, but none in sight reading.

Matt Furness drums Rockschool

What’s your favourite learner success story?

EVERY time one of my students passes their Rockschool grade exam, especially the youngsters! For someone who is aged only 7 or 8 to walk into a room with a stranger watching them perform is massive – not only for their drumming but also for their social skills development. They do so well.

What musician(s) inspired you to start playing, and why?

I have grown up with music being played in my parents’ house or car quite a lot, so there wasn’t really one musician who inspired me to start playing. But to continue playing and develop myself further it has to be Steve Gadd. There are many excellent drummers out there and I have been fortunate to see several play live, and even meet up with them, but technically Steve continues to be the best. He is very encouraging to the next generation too.

Do you have any favourite personal experiences as a musician?

I have played three times now at the legendary 100 Club in Oxford Street, London and it never fails to bring home to me how music is for everyone. The photos on the wall include the likes of Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Alice Cooper, the Sex Pistols, Paul Weller and many more playing on the same stage as myself.

Rockschool VIdeo Exams

Do you have any goals for the future of your teaching business?

To continue to build my business and proudly watch as my students enjoy success with their drumming.

What reasons would you give to encourage young musicians to teach others?

As with any learning situation, the student/teacher relationship is key and from my experience, being closer to the age of my younger students helps me explain to them where they could be in only 5 – 10 years time if they are prepared to put the time and effort into their drumming.


Overall I think the key is to do things in a professional way. This will include a good looking website, smart business cards, liability insurance, an enhanced DBS check and suitable course work for the students, as in the structured learning offered by Rockschool. Finally, to teach others, having good communication skills together with the ability to play a variety of genres to a high standard are essential. Having all these in place will help achieve success in a drum teaching career.

You can find Matt’s profile on our Teacher Registry, and explore his website here.

If you’d like to nominate yourself, a music teacher you know, or even an entire school for a new chapter of Rockschool Stories, click on the button below and drop us a message!


Free Rockschool Kids Activity Pack

May 6th, 2020 by

Download the free Rockschool Kids Activity Pack and keep your children entertained!


Junior rockers can get stuck into a free 16-page Rockschool activity pack, crammed full with fun activities, including imaginative colouring exercises, engaging word searches and crosswords, troublesome mazes, and entertaining dot to dot puzzles.

With lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures impacting recreational activities outside the home, we’ve put together this free children’s activity pack for kids to tackle whilst stuck indoors, and, most importantly, help parents keep their children entertained and mentally stimulated during these trying times!


Jam-packed with fun Rockschool themed content, our free 16-page booklet contains:

  • Music themed crossword
  • Rockschool themed word searches
  • Mazes
  • Dot to dots
  • Design your own bass and electric guitar
  • Draw your own Rockschool cover
  • Headline the Rockschool music festival, Rockfest

Rockschool’s Top 5 Jazz Artists

April 30th, 2020 by

Jazz can be wrongly dismissed as an ageing, increasingly irrelevant art form by some, yet this could not be further from the truth. Jazz is as relevant today as it ever has been, and is constantly evolving to survive and thrive in the modern-day music industry.

Knowledge of jazz is a crucial part of any music education to ensure that musicians are fulfilling their potential with a holistic understanding of the art form. Our understanding of harmony, rhythm, and, crucially, improvisation is informed by jazz in so many ways.

We’ll be focusing on 5 jazz stars found in our Rockschool grade books who have become giants in their fields whether it be because of the influence that jazz has had on them or how they carried the torch for the genre.

Snarky Puppy

Snarky Puppy have been one of the most influential instrumental collectives around since their ascension to the top table of music. A supergroup containing the likes of Cory Henry, Bill Laurance, and Larnell Lewis have acquired global success under the keen musical eye of bassist and bandleader, amassing an impressive haul of three Grammys.

Band members come and go (they have had 40 musicians perform as part of the group in 15 years), but League remains, anchoring the group with both his charisma and unrivalled sense of groove.

Their innate musicianship and ability to make the incredibly complex look effortless puts Snarky in a class of their own when it comes to instrumental music, evidenced in jaw-dropping fashion by Cory Henry’s watershed solo on ‘Lingus’, a tune that sits on our grade 8 bass syllabus in tribute to Michael League.

Herbie Hancock

An undisputed jazz legend, Herbie Hancock has evolved to stay current in every project he approaches.

From his early days playing in the Miles Davis Quintet in a trad jazz set up alongside jazz titans Wayne Shorter and Ron Carter, to his jazz-funk albums of the ‘70s with Headhunters, there’s little jazz music that isn’t influenced in some way by Herbie’s playing.

At the age of 80 he remains as relevant as ever. His next album is set to be produced by Terrace Martin and feature a host of stars at the peak of their powers, including Kendrick Lamar, Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, Flying Lotus, and Snoop Dogg to name but a few.

His composition, ‘Cantaloupe Island’, can be found on our grade 6 piano syllabus.

piano grade 6 book cover

Herbie Hancock is the cover star of our grade 6 piano book.

Hiatus Kaiyote – Breathing Underwater

One of the bands leading the way in the neo-soul resurgence of recent years, Hiatus Kaiyote deliver a brand of music that is both highly complex and jazz influenced, while retaining an accessibility and strong sense of melody that makes them such an enjoyable act in which to immerse yourself.

Grammy nods for their collaboration with Q-Tip back in 2013 made people sit up and take notice, and singer Nai Palm has had success with her own solo album which features original material, Hiatus Kaiyote tracks, and a gorgeous Jimi Hendrix cover.

Her soulful vocals soar above the band’s constant harmonic and rhythmic shifting on much of their music, as seen in their 2015 track “Breathing Underwater”. Found on our acoustic guitar syllabus, there’s a reason it’s grade 8 standard…

Sarah Vaughan

Sarah Vaughan has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an honorary doctorate of music from Berklee College of Music, and won four Grammys, including a Lifetime Achievement Award; on listening to her music it’s easy to see why.

A pianist and singer, Sarah Vaughan has one of the most distinctive voices of the jazz era, and should sits next to Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday in terms of importance. Her career spanned 38 years, yet her legacy lives on and can be felt keenly in the music of Erykah Badu and Amy Winehouse.

Rockschool VIdeo Exams

‘Black Coffee’, a bluesy tune where the singer reflects on their loneliness in the wee hours of the morning, has made it onto our grade 6 vocals syllabus. Treat yourself to the Sarah Vaughan rendition…

Jamie Cullum

Since winning the Rising Star award at the London Jazz Awards back in 2003, Jamie Cullum has become a torch bearer for British jazz. His debut album, “Twenty-something”, gained widespread acclaim for its reinvention of classic jazz idiom and contemporary soul singing reminiscent of Billy Joel. He has since become a fixture in entertainment, hosting his own hugely popular jazz show on BBC Radio 2 as well as putting his name to a nationwide search for jazz talent back in 2011 called “Jamie Cullum’s Big Audition”.

His song ‘These Are The Days’ is included in our Rockschool Piano repertoire, and is an infectious jazz tune complete with bluesy inflections and syncopations in all the right places to bring jazz piano right up to speed in contemporary music.

rockschool ukulele

Teaching Rockschool Drums – Grade 2 | Guest Blog

April 28th, 2020 by

Welcome to the third instalment from drum tutor and guest blogger, Michael Hutchinson, on how to teach Rockschool Grade 2 Drums.

You and your student are on a journey and have both reached a significant milestone in moving on from grade 1. We are now focusing on genre-specific education, and we should now be seeing the student leaning towards a specific style they enjoy playing, although this will be heavily influenced by family, peer groups (dependant on their age), and of course you, their teacher. I will be covering motivational factors in a separate article based around music psychology for more insight into what motivates music students, so look forward to reading that one.

What to teach in Grade 2?

Grade 2 is all about genre-specific studies and technicality.

You should be focusing teaching technique on:

• Linear systems – 8th and 16th note linear high-hat placements
• Pedalled high-hat – playing independently while the high-hat is pedalled on the quarter note if the student grasps this then move on to pedalling on the 8th note and then independently between the quarter note and 8th note.
• Ostinatos – introduce an ostinato (repeated pattern) to the student and then start with a three 16th ostinato on the high-hat as below and allow the student to gain comfort and independence on this by adding bass drums on the 8th notes.

rockschool drums grade 2
rockschool drums grade 2

• Development and Fills – You should be aiming for your student to develop a groove while varying the pattern slightly (cont sim) and applying fills in a genre-specific manner.
• Flams in quarter notes – Flams should be introduced using the 3 variants of flams: military flam, bounced flam, and power flam.
• 8th Note Triplets – Introduced in all sticking patterns, including double strokes, to prepare the student for higher grades.


The student will be able to identify musical notation from grade 1, so allow them to navigate through the chosen piece by themselves, with guidance from you if needed; however, there is some new notation within grade 2 you need to explain.

• Fermata symbol – sustained note/held note (Georgia On My Mind, Bar 36, sustain cymbal ring for the count of 4 or 12 )
• Time Signature – compound time signatures such as 12/8
• Accents and dynamics including – piano/soft, mezzo-forte/moderately loud, forte/loud.

Music theory to reiterate

Always get in the habit of asking students questions based on music theory learned to date. You could put in a monthly quiz or offer lessons that just cover theory for those students who struggle to grasp music notation. One idea is creating music theory flashcards, which you could randomly break out at the beginning or end of the lesson. Focus your teaching on the individual student’s learning needs, and ramp this up when you are in exam preparation.

Moving students online

rockschool drums grade 2

With today’s struggles, as a music teacher, moving your students online can be daunting. However, open yourself up to all platforms, including, but not limited to Skype, WhatsApp, Instagram, FaceTime to ensure that you cover all your students’ technological needs.

Ensure that you’re following the advice given by the Musicians Union including the safeguarding advice found HERE.

You’ll need a computer/phone with a camera or external webcam positioned, so the drum kit is seen by the student. A microphone, either internal or external USB style.

Once you have everything in place, then you are ready to go. Try and keep your lesson structure the same as you would in a face to face lesson and ensure that you are setting realistic goals for homework, and compliment the student’s home-school music lessons by encouraging the student to practise at the beginning or end of the lesson if time allows.

I like to give all my students a drummer of the week prize, which can be earned through either outstanding practice, or the student finally getting something they were struggling on, or something like always bringing a smile into the lesson. This is something that I have carried on in lockdown, so you may consider adding something like this into your lessons, just to let your students know that you are thinking about them in these difficult times.

Rockschool VIdeo Exams

About the Author:

Michael Hutchinson is a drummer, educator, and music psychologist from the North East of England. He runs Triple-T Drumming school of drums and has been teaching privately for 12 years. He is currently researching drumming from a psychological point of view studying with Sheffield University, music psychology in education performance and wellbeing and his main interest is drumming and its effects on working memory.


Instagram: @tripletdrumming

Twitter: @tripletdrumming

Our Support for the NHS: £5 donated for every exam entry*

April 23rd, 2020 by

To our valued RSL Awards Community,

We sincerely hope our global network of teachers, examiners and all our candidates are in good health, both in the UK and across the world.

Yesterday, the UK government announced that the UK appears to have reached the peak of the coronavirus. However, challenging times are still ahead.

We wanted to let you know that despite all the current restrictions in place, Rockschool is committed to ensuring our candidates can still achieve the qualification they have worked so hard for.

At this time, our priority is ensuring our customers continue to get the very best service we can provide. Our teams, although working remotely, are fully operational and happy to discuss via phone or email any issues you may have. We’re currently focusing our attention and resources on making sure we provide our very best academically rigorous online teaching materials and solutions to help you or your teacher prepare for your exams. Please visit our website or feel free to get in touch with us.

Our support for the NHS

As a team, we are humbled by the courageous acts of the NHS and we are excited to announce that we will donate £5 to the NHS National Fund for every exam entered over this difficult period.*

Video Exams


Latest update on exams

If you’ve booked a face to face graded music exam with us, you can choose to change your submission to a video exam or keep your exam on hold until you can go to your allocated venue, which we hope will be over the summer.

The Rockschool online video submission platform is now fully operational, allowing candidates to achieve their qualification anytime. The online video submission platform has been fully embraced by our teachers and candidates and we are now receiving hundreds of entries via this medium.

This new platform provides an excellent target for children who are practicing hard at home as they can achieve a real qualification in a convenient and accessible way. The qualification is fully approved by Ofqual and if candidates achieve a pass (or better) at grades 6, 7 or 8 of the Performance certificate, they come complete with UCAS points as well. Our Rockschool examiners will mark these exams remotely and will also provide a personal feedback video for every candidate as well as the normal mark sheet and certificate.

If you haven’t yet seen this fantastic platform, here’s how it works – candidates have the option of two types of recorded exam:

• Performance Certificate (Debut – Grade 8): Candidates must record and upload five performance pieces (up to three can be free choice pieces)

• Graded Certificate (Debut – Grade 5): Candidates must record and upload three performance pieces (up to two free choice pieces) and all of the technical exercises in the Rockschool Gradebook

Both of these exams can be recorded at a time and place that suits the candidate simply by submitting a continuous, unedited video recording of all the appropriate prepared elements in a similar way to a standard face-to-face exam. The same assessment criteria will be applied, but candidates will not be required to do the Unseen Tests.

To register for a video exam, please click here and fill in an online form with all the details about the candidate and the exam (instrument, grade).

Rockschool VIdeo Exams

Amazing offers

As the lockdown continues, we have been doing lots of extra things to make your Rockschool experience as accessible as possible and to keep you ‘rocking on!’

•  We’ve extended our discount on Replay, our interactive practice tool.

• We’ve launched the new Rockschool Ukulele Syllabus, Debut to Grade 8 – providing repertoires that are fun to play and academically rigorous for this great little instrument.

rockschool ukulele

• If your exam was postponed because of lockdown in March, we hope these will go ahead in June or July.  If you wish to convert your postponed face to face exam to a video exam you can do this free of charge and if you’re practising hard and want to move up a grade, you can also do this free of charge too.

• Watch out for our competitions! The brilliant winners of the iPad competition and the Ukulele competition have been notified, but there are more on the way so keep checking our website and social media channels.

Rockschool video exams are available to do anywhere, anytime.

Thanks for your continued loyalty to Rockschool. In these tough times, you can rely on us to keep you enjoying your music and achieving your goals. 

Keep Rockin’

John Simpson


*Please note: there is no entry deadline for video exams, though we do require a submission no later than one month after entry. This pledge only applies to UK & Ireland exam entries made between 23rd April and 31st May.*

Resources to Help You Learn the Ukulele with Rockschool

April 21st, 2020 by

Resources to Help You Learn the Ukulele with Rockschool!

The ukulele is not only a fantastic entry point into learning music, but also an instrument that can be mastered and specialised in. Our first fully-accredited suite of ukulele grades and method books takes learners on a journey from complete novice and gradually builds up their technical knowledge and dexterity grade by grade.

We want to go further as part of our commitment to supporting world class music education, so we have created numerous free resources for students, teachers, and enthusiasts alike.

Ukulele resources available:

  • Rockschool Ukulele Method Books
  • Rockschool Ukulele Grade Books
  • Rockschool Ukulele on Replay – the interactive sheet music tool
  • 7 step guide to learning the ukulele
  • Ukulele chord flip book
  • Ukulele chord chart

Up to 25% off Replay!

We understand that learning great tunes is key to keeping musicians motivated, regardless of which instrument they pick up. That’s why the new ukulele syllabus features some of Rockschool’s most exciting repertoire yet.

What better way to access that repertoire than on Replay – Rockschool’s interactive sheet music tool. Playing music has such a positive impact on keeping the mind occupied and in high-spirits, which is why we’ve introduced a discount of up to 25% on Replay until the 30th April for you to continue mastering your ukulele at home.


The interactive sheet music player gives you the ability to jam along with, slow down and loop tricky passages of your favourite Rockschool performance pieces. Finesse your technique when practising with Replay by switching between backing tracks, full performances, and MIDI audio accompaniments.

Ukulele Chord Chart and Flip Book

If you’re studying Rockschool’s ukulele syllabus, teaching the ukulele using Rockschool materials or just an enthusiast looking for ukulele learning tools, we’ve got you covered.

We’ve compiled 12 chords that will give you the ultimate introduction to playing a wealth of songs on the instrument, as well as kickstart your journey towards Rockschool debut & grade 1 Ukulele. We recommend printing these off and either sticking them on your wall or putting in your music bag so you can refer back to these chords whenever and wherever you need them!

Rockschool Ukulele Chord Flipbook Rockschool Ukulele Chord Chart

Ukulele Chord Chart and Flip Book

7-step guide to learning the ukulele

We’ve consulted some of the best ukulele experts around to create our FREE downloadable 7-step guide to learning the ukulele. Featuring guides and video to help you hold, strum, and pick your ukulele correctly, chord diagrams to get you playing your first few songs, and extended reading once you’ve got the basics nailed down.


Rockschool ukulele 7 step guide

Ukulele Method Books

Start on the right note with the Rockschool Ukulele Method books! Our Method books have been designed for beginners as a fun and interactive introduction to the ukulele, covering the fundamental skills and techniques of playing contemporary music to students who are new to the instrument. Each book has easily digestible topics that can be covered at the reader’s pace with their ukulele teacher.


RSL Teacher Registry

You can find thousands of teachers who teach the Rockschool syllabus on our Teacher Registry, plenty of whom are uke specialists. Take a look and see if there are any in your area who may suit your needs, or if there are some further afield who may be able to do video lessons.


You can find our full suite of ukulele grades on our online shop HERE. Happy playing!

rockschool ukulele grade books banner