Classical Guitar Grade 4

The Grade 4 Classical Guitar exam is for candidates who are ready for intermediate level playing. They have mastered the key skills up to Grade 3 and have since acquired greater use of technique, more complex rhythms, coordination and musical understanding. Candidates will be developing a sense of expression and continuing to broaden their stylistic awareness, and there is also the opportunity to improvise, which will be growing in assurance and articulation.

There are two main types of exam available at Grade 4, 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: 25 minutes (approx.)
Performance Certificate: 22 minutes (approx.)

Key Features at: Grade 4

  • Performance Pieces
  • Technical Exercises
  • Supporting Tests

Buy Your Book

Classical grades for the modern musician. RSL Classical Guitar Grade 4 will provide you with everything you need for your Grade 4 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.

Buy Your Book!

Classical Guitar Grade 4 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 Grade 4: Featured Repertoire

  • Helen Sanderson – West Coast
  • Andrew York – Garden Steps
  • Robert Johnson – Alman
  • Metallica – Nothing Else Matters
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers – Road Trippin’
  • Madame Sidney Pratten – A Lament
  • Fauré - Siciliene
  • John Williams – Theme From ‘Star Wars
  • David Cottam – Amontillado
  • Tatania Stachak – Tango

Technical Exercises

There are three groups of technical exercises at this grade: Scales, Arpeggios and Technical Studies. All are to be played unaccompanied. The tempos given for the scales and arpeggios are the recommended minimum tempos for this grade.

Group A: Scales

Candidates are to prepare all of the following. In the exam, the examiner will request a selection to be performed, stating how they are to be performed, from the requirements listed in the table. Candidates can choose to perform the scales in even notes (quavers) or with long tonic rhythms.

Major and Minor Scales

Scale: D Major, A Major, C melodic minor
Range: 2 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 80
Requirements: Tirando or apoyando (candidate choice), fingers only

Scale: F# Harmonic Minor
Range: 2 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 80
Requirements: Tirando, thumb and fingers

Chromatic Scales

Scale: Chromatic, starting on E
Range: 2 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 80
Requirements: Tirando, thumb and fingers

Harmonised Scales

F Major in 6ths
Range: 1 Octave
Tempo: Crotchet = 80
Requirements: Tirando

Group B: Arpeggios & Broken Chords

Arpeggios

Candidates are to prepare all of the following. In the exam, the examiner will request a selection to be performed without over-ringing.

Arpeggio: D major, F# Minor, B Minor
Range: 2 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 80
Requirements: Tirando, thumb and fingers

Arpeggio: D dominant 7
Range: 1 Octave
Tempo: Crotchet = 80
Requirements: Tirando, thumb and fingers

Broken Chords

Candidates are to prepare all of the following to be performed with over-ringing.

Broken Chords: C Major (I, V7, I)
Tempo: Quaver = 160
Requirements: Tirando, thumb and fingers.

Group C: Technical Study

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

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 one they wish to choose before commencing. Once the candidate has decided they cannot change their mind.

Sight Reading

Requirements

The sight reading test will be up to eight bars long, in one of the following keys:

  • D major or B minor
  • F major or D minor
  • G major or E minor

Process

The examiner will give the candidate a previously unseen test to be performed unaccompanied. Candidates will have 90 seconds to prepare, after which the examiner will ask the candidate to commence the test.

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

In the Contemporary Improvisation & Interpretation test, the examiner will give the candidate a chord progression of up to nine bars duration, in the key of G major or E minor, to be performed to backing track. The tempo is crotchet = 95.

At Grade 4, the candidate may improvise either single-note melodies or a chordal accompaniment (candidate choice). The backing track will meet the following criteria:

  • A 12-bar blues in the key of G or C, containing the chords I7, IV7 and V7.
  • A 12-bar piece based on a contemporary style (e.g., pop, rock, soul, R&B) in the key of A major or F# minor, containing diatonic chords (including 7ths). The test may begin and end in either A major or its relative minor (F# minor)

Process

Candidates will first be given 90 seconds to practise, before which candidates will be given the choice of a metronome click throughout or a one-bar count-in at the beginning. Following the initial practice time, the examiner will play the backing track twice. The first time is for the candidate to practise and the second time is for the candidate 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 a two-bar melody with a metronome click, using the A major scale. The first note of the melody will be the root note and the first interval will be descending. Candidates will need to play the melody back on their instrument. Candidates will hear the test twice. Each time the test is played the sequence is: four clicks, root note, four clicks, melody. There will be a short gap to practise after the test is heard for the second time. Candidates will then hear the four clicks and root note for the third time, followed by a vocal count-in and will then play the melody to the metronome click.

The tempo is crotchet = 90.

Test 2: Harmonic Recall

The examiner will play a tonic chord followed by a two-bar chord sequence in the key of C major played to a metronome click. The sequence will be drawn from the I, IV and V chords and may occur in any combination. Candidates will be asked to identify the chord sequence, stating the progression either with the chord names (C, F, G) or numerals (I, IV, V). Each time the test is played the sequence is: four clicks, tonic, four clicks, chords. There will be a short gap for to practise after the candidate has heard the test for the second time. Candidates will then be asked to state the chord progression.

The tempo is crotchet = 90.

General Musicianship Questions

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

Music Knowledge

At Grade 4 the candidate will be asked three questions based on their choice of a piece of music that they have played in the exam. The questions will be drawn from the following:

  • identify the names of pitches
  • explain the meaning of the time signature and key signature markings
  • explain the meaning of repeat marks, first and second time bars, D.C., D.S., al Coda and al Fine markings
  • identify rhythm values from the following: semibreve (whole note), minim (half note), crotchet (quarter note), quaver (eighth note), quaver triplet (eighth-notes triplet) and semiquaver (16th note) values, and their associated rests

Candidates will also be asked one question on chord construction:
– explain the construction of major7, minor7 or dominant7 chords

Technical Knowledge

The examiner will also ask one question regarding a technical consideration of the chosen piece, in relation to:

  • Picking hand: Strumming or picking technique for a short phrase (up to one bar) – demonstration is acceptable
  • Fretting hand: Fretting position and fingering used to play a short phrase (up to one bar) – demonstration is acceptable. The examiner will choose the section of music and will ask the candidate to give a brief explanation as to why the technique was appropriate for the chosen section.

(Note: Demonstrations are acceptable to support an explanation, but must have the spoken understanding).

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

Download the RSL Classical Guitar Syllabus specification for free!

RSL Classical Guitar Syllabus Specification

Find a centre

We have exam centres all across the UK and in +40 other countries around the globe. Find your nearest centre.

Find a centre

If you're based outside the UK, hit the button below!

INTERNATIONAL CONTACT SEARCH

Find a teacher

Looking for a guitar teacher? We can help!

Find a teacher

Dates & Fees

Next Exam Period & Closing Date

Hit the button below to see all our exam dates -

Next Closing Date

View All Exam Dates

Exam Fees

View All Exam Fees