Category: Music Education

Why Use A Rockschool Piano Method Book?

September 9th, 2019 by

Rockschool’s first Piano Method books bring a contemporary approach to a student’s first steps on the piano.

Learning to play the piano can be one of the most rewarding things you decide to do, which is why we’ve created our first ever set of Piano Method Books for the contemporary pianist. No matter how a beginner learns, the books used to kick-start their journey can be really important. When it came to developing a book for such a well-trodden path, RSL reached out to the most important people in any of their new projects: music teachers and their students. What they found was that the best piano books for beginners are those that reinforce the fundamentals while also keeping the student engaged throughout.

Whatever your motivation, learning to play an instrument has never been easier in our digital age. With e-classes, YouTube or physical lessons, and self-guided learning resources, you have an array of option to choose from. No matter what avenue you explore, a good method book can go a long way to providing a platform to load all future skills upon. For older learners, self-teaching using a method book can be less expensive and less time-consuming; and for teachers of younger students, using a method book can help provide an effective methodology you can consistently rely on.

Piano Method Book 1 Inside


Why Use a Rockschool Method Book?

You can find a slew of method books online today, but many of them seem to lack a contemporary feel that can truly captivate a new generation of music students; potentially motivated to play by a wider variety of musical influences than ever before. With this in mind, the Rockschool Piano Method books should give a new player time to ease into the craft of playing the piano, whilst providing an in-depth understanding into the fundamental techniques that the greatest pianists still rely on today.

“It was an absolute pleasure being involved in RSL’s first beginners’ method book for the piano. With my experience of developing learning materials for young musicians along with my knowledge of the RSL brand, I worked together with the RSL team to create this wonderful new method. I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved and can’t wait to see how the next wave of music students react to it.” Noam Lederman, Musician/Educator/Author

After being a music examiner for many years, in 2009 Noam was appointed Chief Examiner for Rockschool, where he led of training and moderation of the examiners panel, as well as developing and producing the highly successful 2012 syllabus (the tracks created for this release now re-labelled as Rockschool Classics in the 2018 edition).

In 2014, Noam founded the company Jungle Jam Publishing, providing high quality educational products and services to music institutions and anyone else who has an interest in music education. Given Noam’s continued success and wealth of experience in the sector, it was a no-brainer for us to bring him back to help produce a book for an audience he has an intimate knowledge of.

Where to Start?

Before your first lesson with a student, it’s worth getting a full understanding of the current ability to ensure your neither repeating old ground, or jumping ahead.

If you have answers to these questions, you’ll most likely be in an ideal state to begin:

  • Are they an absolute beginner?
  • Have they studied the instrument in some way before?
  • If so, what have they learnt?
  • Do they just know the basics, like their scales and chords?
  • Have they studied another instrument before?

Sound & Vision

Rockschool’s Piano Method books contains everything a beginner needs to learn all the way up to Grade 1 level – to be covered at the readers own pace – whether self-learning or with a music teacher. Each book is broken up into 10 easily digestible sections, with pictures, stickers and engaging exercises, specifically designed to maximise the enjoyment of learning a new instrument in a fun, refreshing way.

REMEMBER: Pictures and bright colours aren’t just for the kids. We’ve found that visual learning at the earliest stage is an ideal form of presentation for absolutely anyone looking to learn a new instrument, regardless of age. Embrace your inner child and make it work for you. A big part of playing music is having fun – don’t forget it!

With embracing the fun at the forefront of the Rockschool Method, every performance piece included has duet parts specifically written for a teacher (or anyone else partial to the piano) to help the bring colour and collaboration that makes playing music a special thing. As always, all of the music included are professionally produced, high-quality recordings giving every player the backing they deserve. Rockschool’s Piano Method books ensures that every new lesson brings learning modern music to life.

Piano Method Book Inside 2


What Next?

In order to provide the most fluid transition possible into our Piano and Keys Grades, these books has been benchmarked to the same standards as all of Rockschool’s syllabuses, these contemporary Piano Method books cover all the aspects of traditional piano techniques from a more accessible and engaging angle, whilst preparing students to take Rockschool Piano Debut and Grade 1.

Once the elementary skills, techniques and co-ordinations are suitably assured, the Debut material can be introduced with a confidence that all material included can be well understood. What this learning platform also enables, most excitingly, is the perfect opportunity for a young players first foray into personal expression via the introduction of basic improvisation. The last thing we want is to aid the production of inexpressive, robotic players; so as far as we’re concerned it’s important this skillset is explored early on.

If said player is approaching up to a year of practise, it might be more profitable for them to explore Grade 1. At this stage, candidates have more than likely mastered the debut level skills already and have since acquired greater use of technique, rhythms, co-ordination and musical understanding.

This transition also has the added bonus of being able to see all of the hard work rewarded by one of the most satisfying experiences in your music education: learning to play some great songs. You may not think it when you start, but it won’t be long before the wonderful worlds of Yan Tiersen, Elton John and The Beatles, or the professional-pop-punch of Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift. Regardless of what song, artist, genre or style a student is focusing on, at this stage the hope is that they are already developing a deeper appreciation of the musical choices that make each composition work, thus unlocking the door to their own possibilities as a developing musician.


From (Rock)School to Stage … An Interview with Emma Henderson

August 28th, 2019 by

Emma Henderson fell in love with the electric bass guitar at the age of eight…

Born in Sydney, Australia, she was greatly inspired by a school music teacher early on and began her journey in music supported by a passionate, supportive environment, both at school and at home. From day one she was taught within the Rockschool framework, completing all grades (1 to 8) with distinction before her 16th Birthday. Not too shabby!

Upon finishing school, Emma’s studies were furthered at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and then at the Australian Institute of Music where she was awarded the National Excellence scholarship. With a strong desire to take her music education as far as possible, Emma’s dedication gained her a scholarship to study at the Berklee College of Music’s summer program in Boston, Mass (USA). At Berklee her talent was further recognised as amongst 70 bass players she was chosen to perform for the All-Star Ensemble.

Emma’s performance experience has been extensive and has seen her work in Australia, Asia Pacific, Europe, and the US. Always wanting to work with different cultures and genres, Emma has performed in numerous touring musicals, gig venues and summer music festival for a variety of artists. The most recent highlights coming In 2018 when she was taught by 5-time grammy award winning bassist/producer/educator Victor Wooten in Boston and in 2019 when she managed to meet her music idol, bass-master, Marcus Miller in London.

Emma’s love for musical collaboration has also led her become an inspirational music tutor, and has been working with young musicians since 2017. From this platform, she has since overseen a music collective set up to enable other young musicians to work professionally together in a variety of professional opportunities across the whole of Australia.

Welcome to RSL HQ, Emma! You began playing bass at 8 years old – why the bass guitar?

In Year 3 (8 years old) we were introduced to instruments played in bands and had the opportunity to try them out. We had a female bass teacher and she just looked really cool and presented the bass in such a fun way that it made me want to learn. Once I picked it up, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I started playing and it came so naturally!


6 years later, and you’ve worked up to a Rockschool Grade 8, gaining a distinction. Did you do all grades 1-8? Or did you choose a few as you progressed?

Yes, I did [all grades]. I went from grade 1 to grade 8, but skipped the Debut at the start. As soon as I started doing the grades I just wanted to keep going because I just found it so motivating. As soon as you start, you see the next level and the new skills you’re about to learn, and as soon as I started I knew I just wanted to keep going and pushing myself to see what else there was.

Grab your copy of our latest Bass Guitar syllabus here…

Did you have that at every grade or was there a point where you thought “I can’t do this anymore?”

Yes, as soon as the teacher would show me the songs for the next grade, I would look at the music and know I really had to listen because it was so intense – I thought I could never do that. But, she was very motivating and as soon as I started, I thought “No, I can work at this. I’ll start really slow, I’ll get there and I’ll do it”, and I ended up getting through all of them.

Who was your teacher?

Rochelle Fuller.

Shout out to you Rochelle! Are there any tracks that stayed with you, even now?

Yes, ‘Mr Stanley, I Presume’. It was the first song I really got into slapping, so I still remember that song now. I moved to grade 7 but I would still play that grade 6 song because I love it! Also, ‘Lead Sheet’, which was super hard when I first started it. I found it so intense and so complicated at first, but I fell in love with it whilst I improved. I still play that now!

What is it about those two do you think?

I think the fact that they really challenged me and forced me to tackle so many different techniques. You go from playing a melody, then a bassline, to slapping, then soloing, and it just included so many different techniques that made me just feel like I wasn’t just playing basic basslines the whole time. It pushed me to explore different areas of the bass, which I really know were even there at the time.

After your grades you went onto school bands, and even a tv shows! Did it give you some confidence you could exist as a musician in other situations?

100 percent! They [the grades] really cover every part of playing; from scales, to improvising, to sight reading. So, whenever someone threw a challenge at me and was like “Can you try to solo this piece on stage?” or “could you improvise over this?”; having such a strong foundation behind from the Rockschool grades helped so much.

When you first met other musicians, did you feel prepared to fit in right away?

I felt very prepared, yes. Especially playing different genres because Rockschool isn’t just about playing jazz, or just playing rock, it covers so much! Therefore, when I went into a jazz band, I had already had enough education to know where I stood, what to expect and what I was in for. I never really found anything outside of Rockschool that really challenged me as it covers every part of music playing that you need to know.

From there you went onto Sydney Conservatorium, then the Australian Institute of Music and then you gained a scholarship to Berklee College of Music – that must’ve been a real honour?

Yes, that was absolutely amazing. I was asked to audition for a scholarship for Berklee and I thought “no way!”. Everyone wants to go to Berklee and I thought there’s no way that is going to happen for me. But, I managed to get accepted, which was really thrilling.

Emma Henderson rockschool berklee

Did you feel that your grades were a natural starter to get you to that place?

100 percent, definitely! Because doing Rockschool covers everything! I even meet musicians, now, that can’t sight read or they don’t know how to improvise. I feel so lucky that I was introduced to Rockschool at such a young age and learnt all this knowledge before getting into the industry and have to confront of all these different scenarios. Looking back, I realise now that it gets you used to being out of your comfort zone and trying different techniques and genres regularly. That really set me up for studying music at university, whilst motivating me to improve personally as a musician.

That’s amazing to hear. Now you’re a professional, you’ve been around the world and collaborated with many other musicians – do you have any favourite experiences you’d like to share?

When I was 17, I got asked to do a festival in Australia and I didn’t know much about it. It was around Christmas time and they said there might be a small crowd and they gave me all these songs, then I had solos and 3 other songs which was unusual for a bass player because you never get the chance to solo. I was really excited, so I practiced all these songs really well and I turned up to the performance and there were 15,000 people there.


Yes, I remember standing up on stage and knowing it was the real deal! That was amazing. Having the confidence to solo and be confident in those songs to such a big crowd was amazing.

We read that in 2018 you were taught by Victor Wooten in Boston and 2019 you met your idol Marcus Miller here in London. Why are those two people so special to you?

They both really influenced me when I was younger. My bass teacher loved Marcus Miller and when I was 12 at school, I had to do a project on an artist of any choice and I chose Marcus because he really inspired me. when I started playing and I researched his biography; what he had done; how he got to where he is now; and just his whole journey of his life, it was just so inspiring. Seeing him perform live this year with his band was just unreal and getting to meet him topped it all off.

Victor – he’s amazing. He’s insane with his techniques, the way he approaches music, the way he plays – and he’s just really down to earth. Something he told me which I found really unusual, is that he would persuade people to invite scenarios where they’d be out of their comfort zone musically. He would play a song, you have no idea what key or note that he’s playing and he would say “I just want you to play to the rhythm, don’t worry about notes or pitch just play rhythm.” He’s really into that style of learning. They have different teaching approaches and I love that; I love that they approach music so differently.

So, you went onto teaching music yourself, do you use the Rockschool material at all?

Yes, I started teaching when I was 16 and I only teach Rockschool to my students, for all the reasons I’ve gone through previously. The parents love to know that their kids are progressing and seeing what they’re learning, to show them what they’re working towards and when they’re going to move up on a level. I definitely found it beneficial for the kids and the parents to both appreciate the journey.

In 2017, you helped create a collective to help young musicians work together in Australia. What is that project and what does it entail?

Yes. I started up a company, and a booking agency that represent a collective group of musicians in Sydney and Brisbane. I help to form different bands and we all work at different events, such as weddings, corporate events and cruises. They are mainly all young musicians that are at university and that I’ve met along the way and I think it’s important for their development to get them out there playing as soon as they’re ready. Most of them are already willing to work, so it’s a great way for them to perform and work with different people and learn on the job, as it were. I love running that, learning about different people and how they someone in a band and it’s fascinating how differently they can act. It’s always changing, which I really enjoy.

I guess when you’re young and you don’t have any contacts, you need your first opportunities to get going?

No, so that’s a way for them to meet different people, see what kind of gigs they like or what they don’t like. There’s a lot of different genres and venues they get to play, so it’s important for a lot of them early on.

Last one! To anyone struggling with their grades right now: why stick with it?

Because every grade adds so much value. It adds so many different techniques and important pieces of knowledge. It’s really worth starting from the beginning and working all the way to the end if you can. I did that and I feel like it set me up with a strong foundation that I have relied on ever since. I’ve learnt so much from every genre, every scale; I’ve learnt every task, in every book, and it was all worth it.


We’d like to thank Emma for coming in to see us whilst in London for some session work! If you’d like to keep up to date with Emma, you can follow her on Instagram now @CurlyHendo!

If you’d like to nominate yourself or another musician to talk through your/their journey to the music industry, aided by the Rockschool material, then please send a message to

Emma is currently an Ambassador for AMEB Rockschool in Australia. She is one of four young Rockschool graduates that help to inspire the next generation of music students who dream of eventually becoming professional, working musicians some day in the future. Read about the other ambassadors here.

Acoustic Or Electric Guitar? What To Choose?

August 23rd, 2019 by

So, you want to learn the guitar. As far as life decisions go – it’s a good one (okay, we would say that). But what type will work best for you? Acoustic or electric? Let’s explore this and see what we find.

Differences & Similarities

Deciding which type of guitar will work best for you can be very exciting but also a bit confusing decision at first. Taking this into account, we’ve decided to delve into some of the pros and cons of each, which we hope can help all newcomers make a decision that works best for them.

If you’re a guitar newbie, you may not know much about the core features that can be unique to each type of guitar, as well those which are wholly universal to both. The body, neck, fretboard, tuning pegs and bridge can all vary to a degree. That is because small changes collectively can make a big change to the comfort of the player using the instrument, so get to know your guitars early on.

“SEPTEMBER 2️⃣0️⃣1️⃣9️⃣ 🎶 New. Update. Coming Soon. #TheRockschoolMethod”

Amplify & Resonate

The main difference, which we’re sure most of you will be aware of (it’s also kind’ve implied in the names), is that the electric guitar needs to be amplified electrically, allowing the guitar the sound louder and be distorted in a variety of way, whereby the acoustic relies on sound waves from the strings of to resonate through the instrument’s body, amplifying the sound that way. Typically, a guitar’s body is a sound box, of which the top side serves as a sound board that enhances the vibration sounds of the strings.

Body Size

The electric guitar body is typically thinner than an acoustic guitar, allowing you to hold it as close as possible to your body whilst playing. It also requires less pressure to play notes, which can be heightened by the use of an amp. The body of an acoustic guitar tends to be hollow, thicker in feel and wider in circumference, which is necessary when you consider how the sound is created (see above). As it is today, both types of guitars come in a copious amount of shapes and sizes – some of which can challenge the outlines above – but as a general rule, you’ll find these descriptions to be true.

“My first guitar was a little wooden toy thing, bought in a haberdashery shop in Manchester in 1967, when I was four years old. Humble beginnings, as they say…” Johnny Marr

Try Before You Buy

Now, I’m sure most of you have spent hours watching your favourite guitar players on YouTube (that’s not just us right?) and marvelled at their incredible special edition, signature, limited release, hyper-customed, mega-expensive guitars and wondered when you’d be able to afford one of your own. The reality is, they almost all started with an inexpensive, humble instrument that they played for thousands of hours, gained their first hand callouses on, and look back on an incredible significant part of their development.

What we’re trying to say is: don’t overspend for the sake of it. Go into a guitar shop and try as many as your attendant can bear to give you. You’ll then be able to gauge the size, shape and weight of guitar that suits you best. That way, you can use those preferences to find an ideal purchase at a good price.

“My very first guitar was pretty much unplayable. I was 14 or something. My mom went to a pawn shop and got me a Harmony acoustic. I didn’t know any better! It was one with an f-hole, and it wasn’t a good one. They do make some good ones, but this was not a good one. I thought that it was just the way that guitars were. I could hardly push the strings down, and I figured ‘man, these guys must be strong!” Mike Campbell, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Additionally, there’s the brass-tax argument for the acoustic that is kind’ve hard to ignore: they cost less money and you don’t need anything other gear to get going (picks don’t count). Are you someone who has a mind to start writing your own songs? If so, the acoustic guitar should really be your go-to songwriting partner. Ideas aren’t easy to come by – great ones, even harder – so having an acoustic around allows you to start exploring your ideas immediately. This may sound like a slightly trivial point, but once you start developing your own compositions, you’ll realise that exploring them as often as you can ensures that the best ones are more likely to appear. You’ll slowly realise that you have to burn hundreds of ideas before you arrive at a good one, and that each of those bad/average ideas all played their part.

Things to Know: A Checklist for Beginners

So, now you’re ready to purchase your first guitar there’s a few things you should know…

1. Type of Guitar: If you’re dead set of a style of play, make sure you do some research into the types of guitar that best support your intended outcome. Your favourite players should all have preferences that you could use as useful points of reference, so just look into what they started for some potentially influential insight.

2. Guitar Costs: Consider how much you want to spend and decide on a budget. Most professionals advise not to spend more than £300 on a beginner guitar. Once you’ve put the hours and have fully committed to your craft, buying a new guitar will be exciting and worthwhile for all the right reasons. See a new guitar as a prize for progression and you’ll concentrate on the work, rather than the tools.

3. Size: Both electric and acoustic guitars come in various shapes and sizes, so choosing the right size of guitar for you is an extremely important decision early on. As stated previously, go into guitar shops, pick them up and make sure you’re happy before you buy. An ill-fitting guitar as a beginner can unnecessarily affect a young players confidence before they even begin, so avoid this at all costs.

4. Measure Your Progress: Once you’ve started playing, it is important that you measure your progress as you develop. This helps you get into the really profitable routine of playing, evaluating and improving. Having goals that signify improvement are paramount to feed a players’ drive to improve. Do not underestimate setting regular benchmarks, no matter how small!

5. Ask Other Players: Do not be shy when asking other musicians, teachers and guitar shop staff what they think. Use their experience to provide another view you might not have thought of yourself. Whether you choose to use that information is up to you, but it’s always worth being as informed as possible.

We would love to hear your experience as a beginner. Did you learn the acoustic or the electric guitar first? What advice would you give to young players starting out now? What’s the best advice you ever received?

Have you read our list of the top acoustic guitar players of all time? Do you agree with it, or do you have any personal favourite that did not make the top spots?

Share your guitar journey with us today and you could have the chance to be featured in our #RockschoolStories series.

10 Top Acoustic Guitar Players

August 20th, 2019 by

Who are the top 10 acoustic guitar players of all time? Before we begin, this is not a definitive list of the greatest acoustic guitar players of all time (far too subjective), simply a collection of players we’re big fans of here at RSL HQ…

Now, whether they may, or may not, appear on the updated Rockschool Acoustic Guitar syllabus (coming soon) is something you’ll just have to wait to find out 😉!

Bob Dylan

He may have retired the ol’ six-string these days, but back in the day, Dylan started a folk revolution with nothing but a beat-up old acoustic (most likely a Martin or a Gibbo) and a suitcase full of songs.

Dylan wasn’t the most technical player (although he was a lot better than some people give him credit for), but it was the way he made constructing affecting, razor sharp songs look so effortless that led a legion of earnest young strummers to pick up the guitar – transforming the future of music history in the process. His playing consisted of: elaborate fingerpicking, open tunings, ear-catching runs and an impeccable sense of rhythm – a foundation that a legend was eventually built upon.

A music historian in his own right, Dylan sourced his skills from legends of folk and blues, combining them into something so bitingly original he transformed the art of songwriting forever. Outside of the record breaking sales and innumerable list of awards, Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition” in 2012. The only time a songwriter has been awarded the prestigious prize.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

The gospel-singing, guitar-goddess paved the way for rock’n’roll royalty such as Elvis and Chuck Berry, influencing everyone from Miranda Lambert to Bob Dylan along the way.

Whether she was wielding a Dobro acoustic guitar or her electric Gibson SG, Sister Rosetta Tharpe is criminally ignored when it comes to the retelling of rock’n’roll. Without her, modern music as it is today would not be the same. A spellbinding singer and guitarist, pioneers such as Chuck Berry, Elvis, Carl Perkins, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis are all in some way influenced by her mesmeric performances.

The 1963 Blues and Gospel Train TV show performance in particular, was a huge influence on British blues players of the time, including Clapton, Beck and Page (who all acknowledged the transformative impact of Tharpe’s playing).

Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson. Where to even begin. A man whose fabled mysticism, guitar skills and cultural influence, would be hard for anyone in the history of music to match.

Johnson’s poorly documented life and premature death gave rise to one of the biggest legends in American folklore. The one most closely associated with his life is that he sold his soul to the devil at a local crossroads in order to attain the musical ability to become a virtuoso bluesman almost overnight.

Recognised as one of the original masters of the Delta blues Johnsons fingers created magic that people are still trying figure out. Between 1936-39 he recorded 29 songs that are a vital strain in the DNA of all popular music we hear today. From a ghostly, scratchy void those few scant recordings beam in from another age and remain raw proof of a talent that defies explanation even today.

Bert Jansch

Bert Jansch is a player’s player, cited as a vital influence for an array of musicians who view his distinctive playing style as an essential ingredient in their own development. From Jimmy Page to Neil Young and beyond.

Founding member of the band Pentangle, Jansch is one of the true pathfinders of the British folk music scene. Bert began performing his unique synthesis of folk, blues and jazz in the early 1960s, having hitch-hiked to London from his hometown of Edinburgh.

His complex, intricate fingerpicking accompanied a prolific discography of dark, brooding songs that collectively established his reputation as groundbreaking artist. Bert’s playing style included a good deal of improvisation, bending the strings and varying the time signatures to fit the natural rhythm of the words of a song. An acoustic guitar icon, without doubt.

Nick Drake

Drake’s melodic masterpieces of melancholic verse and labyrinthine tunings took English folk traditions and moulded new, mesmerising creations.

The tragic singer-songwriter was in possession of a singular vision and dedication to his art that produced some of the most affecting acoustic music ever recorded. Though he failed to find a wide audience during his lifetime, his work has since achieved wider recognition to generations of music fans who regard his work as sacred pieces of art.

Although Drake only recorded three albums during his brief lifetime, his ethereal magic remains something mysterious and unrepeatable. Haunting and timeless. Never a note missed.

h3>Eric Clapton

Reinvented as one of the modern icons of acoustic blues music, Eric ‘Slowhand’ Clapton has the whole package as a player: tone, technique, reverence for the source material, the lot.

Here’s a fact for you: Clapton is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Once as a solo artist and separately as a member of the Yardbirds and of Cream. It is unlikely that in a list of the greatest guitar players of all time, that his name will not be mentioned.

After his early rock’n’roll years carving out iconic tracks, fiery leads and crystal-clear tones, Clapton embarked on a solo career that now spans more than 40 years – including a pair of No. 1 albums and a No. 1 single to boot. His journey from young guitar god to elder blues statesman is a rare thing, and it’s arguably his acoustic side – including possibly one of the best MTV Unplugged albums – that has secured his legacy forever.

James Taylor

As fine a fingerpicker as there has been in popular music, Taylor’s thoughtful, contemplative songs of immense depth and emotional courage solidified him as a legendary singer-songwriter of the highest order.

It took a huge amount of endeavour and bravery before he finally broke through in the early 1970s. Subsequently, becoming an American institution, selling 100 million albums in the process. Taylor continues to be esteemed as a songwriter and performer whose work speaks to people’s inner emotional lives around the world.

His gentle tenor was accompanied by a complex web of chord changes rooted in Appalachian folk, and the country music of legends such as Hank Williams. In 2000, Taylor was inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, followed by the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2015.

Antônio Carlos Jobim

Widely considered one of Brazil’s greatest and most innovative musicians of the twentieth century, Jobim internationalised bossa nova, merging it with jazz in the 1960s to create a new sound with remarkable success.

Jobim was an innovator in the use of sophisticated harmonic structures in popular song. Some of his melodic twists, like the melody insisting on the major seventh of the chord, became commonplace in jazz after he used them.

The ‘Father of Bossa Nova’ has had his songs performed by many singers and instrumentalists ever since, with a large number of them commonly included in jazz and pop standard repertoires. The song “Garota de Ipanema” (The Girl from Ipamena), for example, has been recorded over 240 times by other artists!

Django Reinhardt

You may be familiar with the Django story, but the actual recorded evidence is something else altogether. The gypsy swing genius was formidably fast across the frets, yes, but his playing was also full of a romanticism that belongs to another century altogether.

At 18, Django was involved in a life-threatening fire that almost caused him to lose one of his legs. During an 18 month recovery period, he was given an acoustic guitar to pass the time, whereby he created a whole new fingering system built around the two fingers on his left hand that still had full mobility – the fourth and fifth digits on the left hand were permanently curled towards the palm due to the tendons shrinking from the heat of the fire.

Django is revered as much for his feel, tone and expression as much his technical ability. A master of his art whose influence is felt far and wide, Django is proof that talent and hard-work will always find a way to create something truly special.

Tommy Emmanuel

Emmanuel could make barbed-wire stretched across a skateboard sound slick. Super-sound-finger-speed, complex chords and techniques supported by terrific tone and incredible percussive effects – Tommy Emmanuel has the whole package.

There are many followers, but there is only one acoustic guitar God. What he can do with a standard tuned acoustic guitar, with nothing but a pick and his musical imagination is absolutely spellbinding. Emmanuel is both a showman and a showstopper.

Although originally a session player in many bands, Emmanuel has carved out his own style as a solo artist over the years, releasing award-winning albums and singles over five decades. He was named “Best Acoustic Guitarist” in its Guitar Player Magazines readers’ poll, not once, but twice. If this isn’t enough to convert you, you’ll just have to check him out yourself. Don’t blame us if you spend the rest of your day on his YouTube channel though.

If you’ve got a favourite musician that hasn’t been included you’ve probably been screaming at your screen. It’s understandable. You want the world to know about them. Well, we’re not adverse to taking on some recommendations. If you’d like to leave us your own nomination, go follow us on Social Media @RSLAwards and comment on the post below!

Five Tips: Improving your piano playing skills

August 12th, 2019 by

If you’re reading this as a beginner or a seasoned music teacher; there’s one thing that applies to you both: you can always grow, improve, and find something new to explore when it comes to playing your favourite instrument.

With that in mind, we’ve come up with 5 key tips to help you improve your piano playing skills no matter your skill level or experience.

1. Develop Your Techniques

When it comes to any discipline, be it sport or science, and everything in between – you must develop your appreciation for the fundamental techniques that are the foundation of your craft. The piano is no different! These building blocks will allow you to familiarise yourself with notes, strengthen your technical ability and master the most demanding repertoire. Imbedded into each of the Rockschool Piano Graded exams, from Debut all the way up to Grade 8, students are able to develop techniques through technical exercises in these key areas:

  • Scales
  • Arpeggios
  • Chord Voicing
  • Technical Studies

Once you understand what it is you need to master, then all you have to do is…

2. Practise, Practise and Practise!

According to research from the Center for Music Learning at The University of Texas, if you get it right early you learn much faster!

It sounds obvious, but practicing regularly builds consistency in your learning experience, helping you progress as a pianist faster. Makes sense doesn’t it? Schedule a daily practice routine and stick to it! It’s such a great way to ensure that you’re putting in quality time to improve incrementally by systemically focusing more time of the areas you may need to improve in whilst still applying yourself elsewhere. With this structure in place, you’re in a great position to assess your outcomes and start ticking off your list of goals each time you reach them.



3. Make Your First Steps the Right Ones

There is a wide array of learning resources to assist with improving your piano skills – we know, we’ve looked – the amount of material out there is enough to make your fall off your stool. This is why we wanted to add something new to the mix! Today’s student responds best to today’s music, but we found a deficit of material with the modern touch in the piano method books we found. This is why we decided to create some of our own, with that contemporary Rockschool approach to get you going! Rockschool’s Piano Method books contains everything a beginner needs to learn all the way up to a Grade 1 level, preparing every beginner to feel confident in their ability before they start their Rockschool grades in earnest.

4. Record Yourself

My first recording: Take 1! The best players – regardless of how erratic their playing can seem at times – are absolute perfectionists. Recording yourself gives you the opportunity to listen back to everything you are playing and self-assess your work in a really effective way – plus, it’s just really fun! In order to improve consistently, young players should learn early on how to recognise areas which need improvement. Don’t be afraid to share your recordings with others too. A healthy part of learning an instrument is allowing others to provide constructive feedback. Another pair of ears can often pick up on little things you haven’t noticed, allowing you to grow as a musician in a really well-rounded manner.

5. Have Your Piano Assessed

Although research states that pianos last approximately for 75-100 years, it’s important to ensure that you check your piano for tuning, voicing, responsiveness and overall maintenance every couple of months. Having your instrument in its optimum state plays a huge part in your overall piano improvement (literally). You can get your piano assessed by a technician where they can get your keys back up to speed and even customise the playing style of your piano so that it does everything you need it to.

That’s it for today! If you’ve got any of your own tips you’d like to share, feel free to pass them on and maybe we’ll add them to the list! Good music is all about collaboration, isn’t it?!


Latest RSL News – July 2019!

July 31st, 2019 by

It’s officially the summer break! We hope you’re all enjoying the sun – for those abroad – and the rain, for those still in the UK. After all of your efforts mastering your craft this year, you all deserve a bit of a rest.

Whether you have already received your results, or are still waiting to hear; we hope you feel proud of any progress you/your candidates have made and feel confident about progressing into some new and exciting territory next term.

Advice from Tutor, Leigh Fuge – Recovering From Mistakes in Exams

If you feel you didn’t quite perform at your optimum level this time round, fear not. Everyone makes the mistakes – they’re the best way to learn! Here’s some key things to consider from Leigh Fuge, one of our blog-writers and an experienced tutor of the Rockschool syllabus.

Read More…

In-Tune… with Nadia Javed

As part of our In-Tune series celebrating women in music, we had a great opportunity to interview guitarist and lead-vocalist for all-female, punk-trio, the Tuts – Nadia Javed.

We would really appreciate you taking the time to watch the full interview via the link below. Nadia did a wonderful job discussing some of the challenges women still face in music industry today and is a great inspiration to all young female musicians looking to make waves in the music industry.

New Roles and New Recruits!

The RSL family continues to grow year on year and we are excited to introduce you to our newest additions to the team!

Marykate Martin, International Exams Co-Ordinator

A big congratulations to Marykate Martin who was recently promoted to International Exams Co-ordinator. Marykate has been with RSL for over 2 years and in that time has proved to be an invaluable part of the International Operations team and is a great influence on the whole of RSL HQ with her hard work and dedication.

“I am so thrilled about my promotion! RSL has given me the opportunity to grow professionally! I work with a great team and I am excited to be part of the fastest growing side of the business”

Sam Coade, Exams Officer

New Exams Officer, Sam Coade, recently graduated from University of Edinburgh with a degree in English Literature. He is a keen saxophonist and keys player and performed regularly with the University Jazz Orchestra, Nipples of Venus and a variety of other outfits in his four-year stint in the Scottish capital.

Favourite artists: Franz Ferdinand, Art Pepper, and D’Angelo.

“I am very excited to join the Graded Music Exams team as a fresh-faced advocate of Greggs’ Vegan Sausage Roll.”

Tom Moore, Exams Team Administrator

Tom Moore has been working with the exams team on a temporary basis looking after the non-stop administrative demands of Rockschool’s UK graded music exams. An avid drummer with close to 2 decades worth of experience, you can catch Tom playing with his band, Black Surf here.

“My top 3 favourite artists are constantly changing, as I’m a massive fan of discovering new music. Ask me next week and it’ll definitely have changed! Right now, though, I’d say The National, Dinosaur Pile-Up and Fit for an Autopsy (the latter being a particular favourite 🤘).”

Vasileios Liamis, Business Development Intern

Vasileios Liamis joined the Business Development team as an intern for his summer break. He is currently studying Naval Engineering at Southampton University. Vasileios plays acoustic guitar and has fond memories as a member of his school band throughout his studies.

Favourite Artists: Gramatik and Belle MT.

“Working for RSL is probably the most interesting internship I could have! I have gained strong work experience in Business Development, specifically, by helping with the transition to a new CRM system. I’ve learned a lot about data analysis and how a company manages potential customers using professional software.”

Rockschool Stories

What started as a simple questionnaire has quickly become a really fun and insightful exercise into the influence that the Rockschool brand has had in homes, schools and teaching hubs for more than two decades.

This week, we caught up with Sandra Howe to find out how Rockschool has benefitted her teaching practice, Howe Music Tuition, and given her son Kyron a focus for his development in the world of drums.

Read Sandra’s story…

If you would like to read more Rockschool Stories, you can catch up with all our posts on the RSL News page…

If you’re interested in sharing your story with RSL, simply contact and you could be the next star of Rockschool Stories!

International News


As always, RSL India is bursting with activity! We are pleased to announce that Music Centre Director, Lenny Kisku, has opened his second branch in Ahmedabad – the largest city in the state of Gujarat (West India) – delivering guitar, bass, drums, piano and vocals to a thriving community of musicians of all ages.

The 100,000th Candidate!

At the back end of last year, RSL India announced they had hosted the 100,000th candidate to take an international RSL exam. Aryan Gulati took his Male Vocals Grade 3 exam in 2018 and passed with a merit at the Aria Music and Theatre Conservatory

Below you can see Aryan and the RSL India Team celebrating the landmark exam during a recent visit to the region from International BD Manager, Henriette Madsen. Congrats Aryan!

Aryan (Middle) with his certificate with Hitesh Madan (Aria Founder), Ritesh Khokhar (RSL India), Henriette Madsen (RSL), Aparna Rawat (RSL India) and Payal Madan (Aria).


RSL CEO, John Simpson, was recently in Italy to catch up with the RSL Italy team.

John travelled to venues in Vicenza and Udine, both in the beautiful reaches of north-eastern Italy. Accompanied by RSL Italy’s Manager, Luca Pellizzaro, John had a great time engaging with teachers and directors who had joined from various destinations in the region.

As one of our fastest growing European hubs, RSL Italy is one of our favourite places to visit (not only because of the food) in 2019. If you have a teaching community or business and would like to contact us regarding RSL’s activities in Italy, feel free to drop us an e-mail at


We’re delighted to announce that RSL Nigeria held their first Graded Music Exams this month! As only our second hub in Africa (our first being South Africa), this is a really exciting development that we cannot wait to work with in the coming years. When we thought of who would make the best first impression, we simply had to send Senior Examiner, Stuart Slater. We know that everyone at Tenstrings Music, Lagos would’ve been treated like superstars by Stuart and we hope all the students, teachers and support staff have a fantastic first year with Rockschool.

You can also find Tenstring Music in Ikeja, Festac, Lekki and Surulere for support with Rockschool Vocals, Music Theory, Music Production and more.

If you would like to find out more about Rockschool exams in Nigeria or Tenstrings Music Institute please email:

Senior Examiner Stuart Slater (Middle) with students at the Tenstrings Music Institute, Lagos.

That’s it for this month. If you’d like to pass on any videos, images or stories from this term, just send us a message or tag us in a social post and we’ll be sure to pass it on!

Recovering from Mistakes During Exams

July 20th, 2019 by

So, you’re sitting in the exam room with your examiner ready to take on your graded exam. You’ve put in a lot of work up to this point, spent countless hours learning the material and practising…

You’re going to nail it, don’t worry!

If you make a mistake here and there, that’s ok. No one wants to make mistakes, especially when you’re being marked on it, here are a few things to consider to keep your performance rolling ahead even if you make a mistake.

As a musician, and a semi-perfectionist, I used to dwell on mistakes. If I made a mistake during a gig, I would get very annoyed at myself and it would put a dark cloud over the rest of my gig. I’ve played many gigs where I’ve noticed myself slipping up on something minor and regardless of how good the gig is, that would ruin it for me.

In recent years, I’ve learnt to let this go. I had a revelation in 2014 at Download Festival watching Aerosmith. Steven Tyler the bands frontman started the piano intro to the hit Dream On and low and behold in front of 85,000 screaming rock fans, he messed up. He played a chord that was a screamer of a wrong chord. What did he do next? He threw his head back, laughed out loud and carried on.

For me, this made me realise, maybe it’s not so bad to make a mistake occasionally. Here are some tips to help you recover when you make mistakes in times of pressure.

Don’t Panic, It Happens!

Mistakes happen. If you panic, you are more likely to follow that mistake with more mistakes. Let the mistake go, it’s a small moment. Don’t let that moment define the rest of your performance. Once you make a mistake, a good thing to practise is the art of simply forgetting that you made it. This will allow you to focus on the parts ahead.

Relax and Have Fun

If you go into the exam relaxed, you are less likely to make mistake. Even if mistakes do happen, maintain your relaxed mindset and see them for what they are. I always find that if I’m feeling stressed or worked up before playing, I don’t play to my full potential. Before you go into the exam, spend some time warming up and generally trying to keep yourself relaxed and keep your mindset positive. Try to get excited about the prospect of the exam rather than afraid of it.

Focus on What Comes Next

One of the most important things to think about when a mistake occurs is to consider where you can re-join the piece with minimal disruption. Try not to pause for too long, if you hit a wrong note or skip a beat then try to catch up with yourself by the next beat. You can blend mistakes into a performance very well just by considering what is going on around the mistake and how you can carry on unscathed.

Plan for Mistakes

You can almost expect it to happen. You’re going into an exam which will add a little pressure, but also, you’re human. There isn’t a musician in the world who doesn’t make mistakes, but we will all make them at some point. Consider the piece you’re performing as a whole, if you make one or two small mistakes, does it really detract from the overall performance.

About the Author:

This article has been written for Rockschool on behalf of MGR Music by Leigh Fuge, a professional guitarist, tutor and journalist from Wales in the UK. He has been working in the music industry for over 10 years as a touring and studio musician with various artists, guitar tutor and writer for many high profile guitar publications. Read more of Leigh’s pieces relating to Rockschool here…

Rockschool Stories | David and James Pashley

July 16th, 2019 by

A pair of distinctions during any exam day is good going, but when it came from a father/son duo, we had to catch up with the Pashley’s to find out how their Rockschool journey began!

After achieving distinctions on their recent Rockschool Drums Debut graded exams, we caught up with David Pashley (94%) to see how learning to play the drums has brought him and his son, James (96%), closer than ever before.

rockschool stories the pashleys

What inspired you both to start learning music together?

We went to the latitude festival in 2017 and James said he would love to play drums. I had a set when I was a child but never learnt to play properly so we bought an electronic kit and looked for a local teacher.

How have you found it learning together at the same time?

It has been great fun. I knew James would stick at it better if I learnt as well and the set up at ALF Drum Studios makes it easy because Andy has 2 kits set up side by side. We make sure we pick the same pieces to learn as well so we can practice together at home.

Has this process brought you closer as a family?

Yes, for sure. I get to spend time with James doing something we both enjoy rather than just being a taxi service to a club or activity. When either of us is struggling with a piece we can help each other.

You’ve both achieved remarkable grades, is this just the start of your musical journeys?

I hope so. Each level brings challenges and always looks too hard but we are almost through grade 1 and ready to start looking at Grade 2 pieces. Andy is very patient with us and fine tunes our technique all the time. I would like us both to get to a level where we could play in a band.

What’s been your favourite Rockschool performance pieces to learn?

I like learning the classics in the newer books. James has loved learning Z from Grade Debut and is working on Yeah in Grade 1.

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

I was always a fan of drumming as a child and loved watching various artists. Tristan Fry playing Toccata was amazing and I always thought Clem Burke and Stewart Copeland were brilliant. James was impressed with the drummer from Two Door Cinema Club.

If you’re interested in taking part in our Rockschool Stories series, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Simply drop us an email introducing yourself to with “Rockschool Stories” as the subject header!

Key Signatures – A Beginners Guide

July 12th, 2019 by

Key Signatures can be very daunting to learn, and often challenging to remember them all.

But, even if you are complete new to this, it doesn’t have to be that daunting to learn your key signatures if you break it down into smaller manageable steps. By learning your key signatures, you will also increase your knowledge and understanding of your major scales and their relative minor scales around your instrument.

The best key to learn is C Major. C Major is a key that has no sharps or flats. This is also true of its relative minor, A Minor. The relative minor of each key can easily be remembered as the 6th note in the Major scale. In the case of C Major, the relative minor is A. That means, if we shift the scale to an A root note and play the same notes, but with A now being the first note, this makes the series of notes fit into A Minor.

The key signature for C Major/A Minor will look like this:

To help us work out other key signatures we can use the circle of fifths. Each position you go clockwise from C adds one sharp to the key, each position anti-clockwise adds one flat:

Circle of Fifths

The note of G is a fifth above a C (it’s also the V note in the C Major scale). In the key of G Major, there is only one sharp note.

The key signature for G Major/E Minor will look like this:

I think one of the easiest ways to start learning the key signatures is to work with the circle of fifths and move clockwise/anticlockwise learning each key going up or down in fifths.

Let’s look at it going clockwise:


All Notes Sharp Keys

The same is true if we imagine this as anticlockwise, except instead of adding a sharp to each key, we are adding a flat:


All Notes Flat Keys

One thing you will notice about each of these patterns, clockwise or anticlockwise, is that for every fifth you go up or down, you add one sharp or flat. You’ll also notice that the pattern consistently changes one note at a time from having no sharps/flats to having 7 sharps/flats. For example, the notes of C Major and G Major are the same (Albeit in the new order for G Major – starting on the G root) with the addition of the F#. If you then look at the next fifth up, D Major, this has all the same notes as G major (Starting from the D root) with a C# added. This is also true for the flats going anticlockwise.

You may have noticed that we’ve referenced B#/Cb and E#/Fb a few. We are using them as hypotheticals to show which notes become sharp/flat. If you were sharpening a B you’d take it to a C, and likewise a Cb would be a B.

About the Author:

This article has been written for Rockschool on behalf of MGR Music by Leigh Fuge, a professional guitarist, tutor and journalist from Wales in the UK. He has been working in the music industry for over 10 years as a touring and studio musician with various artists, guitar tutor and writer for many high profile guitar publications. Read more of Leigh’s pieces relating to Rockschool here…