Classical Guitar Debut

The Debut Classical Guitar exam is for candidates who have been learning a short time and have developed elementary skills, techniques, coordination and musical understanding.

There are two main types of exam available at Debut, either a Grade Exam or Performance Certificate, which can be booked as a face-to-face or live-streamed exam or submitted as a recorded digital exam.

Exam Times

Grade Exam: 15 minutes (approx.)
Performance Certificate: 12 minutes (approx.)

Key Features at: Debut

  • Performance Pieces
  • Technical Exercises
  • Supporting Tests

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Classical grades for the modern musician. RSL Classical Guitar Debut will provide you with everything you need for your Debut exam, including a diverse range of repertoire, a truly innovative range of supporting tests and a vast array of professionally arranged and recorded backing tracks.

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Classical Guitar Debut Book Cover

Exam Structure

There are two main types of exam available, a Grade Exam or Performance Certificate, which can be booked as a face-to-face exam or digital exam. Learn more about our face-to-face exams, recorded digital or live stream digital exams here...

Grade Exam

3 Performance Pieces
(two of which may be Free Choice Pieces)
Candidates choose to play either Performance Pieces or Technical Exercises firstThese account
for 60% of the
exam mark
Technical Exercises
Candidates choose to play either Performance Pieces or Technical Exercises firstThese account
for 15% of the
exam mark
Sight Reading or Improvisation & Interpretation.Candidates are given an unseen test to prepare and performThis accounts
for 10% of the exam marks
Ear TestsCandidates respond to one melodic recall test.These account
for 10% of the
exam marks
General Musicianship QuestionsCandidates answer 5 questions based on one of the pieces performedThese account
for 5% of the
exam marks

Performance Certificate

5 Performance Pieces only
(three of these can be Free Choice Pieces)
These account for 20% of the exam mark each.

Performance Pieces

The performance pieces in the grade book can be used for both the Grade Exam and Performance Certificate, and are designed so candidates can demonstrate the required assessment criteria.

RSL Classical Guitar Debut: Featured Repertoire

  • Andean Folk Song, arr. Yvon Rivoal – Ojos Azules
  • Laura Snowden – The Secret City
  • Mauro Giuliani (arr. Debbie Cracknell) - Andante in C
  • Beyoncé - If I Were a Boy
  • The Lumineers – Ho Hey
  • Bill Withers – Lean on Me
  • Fernando Sor – Study in C, No. 1
  • Ludwig van Beethoven – Ode To Joy
  • From Disney’s ‘Frozen 2’ - All Is Found
  • Gustav Holst - ‘Jupiter’ from The Planets

Technical Guidance

There are two groups of technical exercises at this grade: Scales and Technical Studies. All are to be played unaccompanied. The tempo given for the scales is the recommended minimum tempo for this grade.

Group A: Scales

Scale: C major
Range: Perfect 5th
Tempo: Crotchet = 70
Requirements: Tirando or apoyando (candidate choice), fingers only

Scale: A minor
Range: Perfect 5th
Tempo: Crotchet = 70
Requirements: Tirando or apoyando (candidate choice), fingers only

Scale: G Major Pentatonic
Range: 1 Octave
Tempo: Crotchet = 70
Requirements: Tirando or apoyando (candidate choice), fingers only

Group B: Technical Studies

Candidates are to perform one of the three technical studies given in the grade book. The examiner will ask which study the candidate has prepared.

Supporting Tests

Sight Reading / Improvisation & Interpretation

In the exam, candidates have a choice between either a Sight Reading test or a Contemporary Improvisation & Interpretation test. The examiner will ask the candidate which they wish to choose before commencing. Once candidates have decided they cannot change their mind.

Sight Reading

Requirements
Candidates will be given one of the following:

  • Either:
    A four-bar melody on the 1st string (high E), on the notes E, F and G, played in minims;
  • Or:
    A four-bar single-note rhythm on the 6th string (low E), containing semibreves (whole notes), minims (half notes) and crotchets (quarter notes).

Process
All Sight Reading tests at Debut should be played at a recommended minimum tempo of crotchet = 60 bpm.

While the test is not played to a metronome click, candidates may ask to hear the minimum tempo on a metronome at the start of, or throughout their practice time. Additionally, candidates may ask to hear a few seconds of the tempo on a metronome before the assessed part of the test begins.

Contemporary Improvisation & Interpretation

Requirements
Candidates will be given a five-bar chord progression in the key of C major. The tempo is crotchet=65. At Debut, candidates only need to improvise single-note melodies in the key of C major. The chord symbols show the chord progression of the backing track only. The test will start and end on the tonic chord, and will only contain chords I, IV and V.

Process
Candidates will first be given 90 seconds to practise, and will be given the choice of a metronome click throughout or a one-bar count-in at the beginning of the practise time. Following the initial practice time, the examiner will play the backing track twice. The first time is for candidates to practise and the second time is to perform the final version for the exam. For each playthrough, the backing track will begin with a one-bar count-in.

The backing track is continuous, so once the first playthrough has finished, the count-in of the second playing will start immediately.

Ear Tests

There are two Ear Tests in this grade. The examiner will play each test twice.

Test 1: Melodic Recall
The examiner will play two minims (half notes) one after the other. Candidates are required to tell the examiner whether the second note is higher or lower in pitch than the first note. The test will be played twice.

Each time the test is played it is preceded by a one-bar vocal count-in. The tempo is crotchet = 85.

Test 2: Rhythmic Recall
̇The examiner will play a two-bar rhythm played to a drum backing on the lowest-sounding E string. The test will be played twice. Candidates will be asked to play the rhythm back, and will then be asked to identify the rhythm from two examples shown to them.

Each time the test is played it is preceded by a one-bar count-in. There will be a short gap to practise. Next, there will be a vocal count-in after which candidates must play the rhythm to the drum backing. The tempo is crotchet = 85.

General Musicianship Questions

In this part of the exam candidates will be asked five questions, divided between two topics as detailed below.

Music Knowledge
The examiner will ask the candidate four questions based on a piece of music that they have played in the exam. The candidate will nominate the piece of music about which the questions will be asked.

At Debut the candidate may be asked to identify:

  • the music stave
  • the treble clef
  • semibreve (whole notes), minims (half notes) and crotchets (quarter notes).

Instrument Knowledge
The examiner will also ask the candidate one question regarding the candidate’s instrument.

In Debut the candidate will be asked to identify:

  • one of the following parts of their guitar: neck, body, tuning-pegs or bridge

Assessment Criteria

Performance Pieces

Attainment BandDistinctionMeritPassBelow PassBelow Pass 2
Mark Range18–2015–1712–146–110–5
Command of InstrumentConsistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughoutMostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overallSome clear production of sound and generally even tone qualitySound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone producedNo attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or PulsePerformance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintainedNo attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understandingall of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills demonstrated throughout.

Understanding of musical structure shown all of the time.
Most of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills demonstrated overall.

Understanding of musical structure shown most of the time.
Some of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills generally demonstrated.

Understanding of musical structure shown some of the time.
Written music not accurately performed or equivalent skills not demonstrated.

Understanding of musical structure not evidenced.
No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Style & ExpressionConsistently convincing projection of the music.Mostly convincing projection of the music.Some convincing projection of the music.Music not convincingly projected.No attempt and/or incomplete performance

Technical Exercises

Attainment BandDistinction MeritPassBelow PassBelow Pass 2
Mark Range13–1511–129–104–80–3
Command of InstrumentConsistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughoutMostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overallSome clear production of sound and generally even tone qualitySound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone producedNo attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or PulsePerformance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintainedNo attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understandingall of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills demonstrated throughout.

Understanding of musical structure shown all of the time.
Most of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills demonstrated overall.

Understanding of musical structure shown most of the time.
Some of the written music accurately performed or equivalent
skills generally demonstrated.

Understanding of musical structure shown some of the time.
Written music not accurately performed or equivalent skills not demonstrated.

Understanding of musical structure not evidenced.
No attempt and/or incomplete performance

Ear Tests

Attainment BandDistinction MeritPassBelow PassBelow Pass 2
Mark Range9–107–863–50–2
Accuracy & UnderstandingAll of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills demonstrated throughout.

Understanding of musical structure shown all of the time.
Most of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills demonstrated overall.

Understanding of musical structure shown most of the time.
Some of the written music accurately performed or equivalent
skills generally demonstrated.

Understanding of musical structure shown some of the time.
Written music not accurately performed or equivalent skills not demonstrated.

Understanding of musical structure not evidenced.
No attempt and/or incomplete performance

Supporting Tests

Attainment BandDistinction MeritPassBelow PassBelow Pass 2
Mark Range9–107–863–50–2
Command of InstrumentConsistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughoutMostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overallSome clear production of sound and generally even tone qualitySound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone producedNo attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or PulsePerformance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintainedNo attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & UnderstandingAll of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills demonstrated throughout.

Understanding of musical structure shown all of the time.
Most of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills demonstrated overall.

Understanding of musical structure shown most of the time.
Some of the written music accurately performed or equivalent
skills generally demonstrated.

Understanding of musical structure shown some of the time.
Written music not accurately performed or equivalent skills not demonstrated.

Understanding of musical structure not evidenced.
No attempt and/or incomplete performance

General Musicianship Questions

Attainment BandDistinction MeritPassBelow PassBelow Pass 2
Mark Range5 correct responses4 correct responses3 correct responses2 correct responses0–1 correct responses

Performance Certificate

Attainment BandDistinctionMeritPassBelow PassBelow Pass 2
Mark Range18–2015–1712–146–110–5
Command of InstrumentConsistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughoutMostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overallSome clear production of sound and generally even tone qualitySound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone producedNo attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or PulsePerformance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintainedNo attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & UnderstandingAll of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills demonstrated throughout.

Understanding of musical structure shown all of the time.
Most of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills demonstrated overall.

Understanding of musical structure shown most of the time.
Some of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills generally demonstrated.

Understanding of musical structure shown some of the time.
Written music not accurately performed or equivalent skills not demonstrated.

Understanding of musical structure not evidenced.
No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Style & ExpressionConsistently convincing projection of the music.Mostly convincing projection of the music.Some convincing projection of the music.Music not convincingly projected.No attempt and/or incomplete performance

Additional Information

Fingering

Any fingering annotation is given as a guide only, and will not be assessed.

Interpretation

Notation should be performed as written, except where there are performance indications to ad lib., improvise, develop, etc., or where candidates choose to embellish or rework any sections of the piece (for example, personalised solos). In these instances, the candidate will be marked on their ability to present the personalised material in a stylistically appropriate way, commensurate with the grade level. All performances will be expected to have a clear basis in the notated material.

Adaptation and Personalisation

Candidates should perform pieces as notated, except where they choose to embellish or rework any sections. In these instances, as well as where there are performance indications to improvise and/or develop, candidates will be marked on their ability to present the personalised material in a stylistically appropriate way, commensurate with the grade level. All performances will be expected to have a clear basis in the notated material.

Fingering and bowing indications are given as guidance only — only the resulting musical outcome is assessed. Unless stated, ornamentation is given as a guide and is open to stylistic interpretation. A small degree of adaptation is allowed where, for example, hand stretches do not facilitate the required notated parts.

Marks may be deducted if adaptation results in oversimplification of the notation. If in doubt you can submit any adaptation enquiries to info@rslawards.com. Note that Technical Exercises and unseen tests must be performed exactly as written.

Accompaniment

All grade book pieces must be performed to a backing track or with live accompaniment unless written for solo performance. Candidates should inform RSL in advance if they are using a piano accompanist, and check with the examination centre for the availability of a piano ahead of their scheduled exam.

RSL Classical Guitar Syllabus

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RSL Classical Guitar Syllabus Specification

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