Classical Guitar Grade 8

The Grade 8 Classical Guitar exam is for candidates who have now consolidated their playing to a high level. They have mastered the key skills up to Grade 7 and have since developed heightened technique, use of expressive devices, rhythmic complexity, fluency, coordination and musical understanding. Candidates will demonstrate seamless musical form and structure. There will be an innate stylistic conviction and distinctive musicality with strong individuality. Communication will be commanding. There is an option to improvise to an advanced level, demonstrating effortless assurance and personality.

There are two main types of exam available at Grade 8, 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: 30 minutes (approx.)
Performance Certificate: 28 minutes (approx.)

Key Features at: Grade 8

  • Performance Pieces
  • Technical Exercises
  • Supporting Tests

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Classical grades for the modern musician. RSL Classical Guitar Grade 8 will provide you with everything you need for your Grade 8 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 Grade 8 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 8: Featured Repertoire

  • Hiatus Kaiyote – Breathing Underwater
  • Ida Presti – Étude No. 5
  • Giorgio Serci – Samba Di Else
  • J.S. Bach – Gavotte I and II, BWV 995
  • Niccolò Paganini – 'Romanze’ from Grand Sonata
  • João Pernambuco – Reboliço
  • Chick Corea - Spain
  • Stanley Myers – Cavatina
  • Francisco Tárrega – Capricho (Arabe)
  • Frantz Casseus – On a Sunday (Dance)

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. All scales are to be performed in even quavers.

Two-octave major scales

Scale: Major scale, root 6th, in the keys of F#–B (chromatically)
Range: 2 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 144
Requirements: Tirando or apoyando (examiner choice), fingers only

Scale: Major scale, root 5th, in the keys of B–E (chromatically)
Range: 2 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 144
Requirements: Tirando or apoyando (examiner choice), fingers only

Three-octave major scale

Scale: E Major
Range: 3 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 144
Requirements: Tirando or apoyando (examiner choice), fingers only

Two-octave minor scales

Scale: Harmonic minor and melodic minor scales, root 6th, in the keys of F#–B (chromatically)
Range: 2 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 144
Requirements: Tirando or apoyando (examiner choice), fingers only

Scale: Harmonic minor and melodic minor scales, root 5th, in the keys
of B–E (chromatically)
Range: 2 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 144
Requirements: Tirando or apoyando (examiner choice), fingers only

Three-octave minor scales

Scale: E harmonic minor scale
Range: 3 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 144
Requirements: Tirando or apoyando (examiner choice), fingers only

Scale: E melodic minor scale
Range: 3 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 144
Requirements: Tirando or apoyando (examiner choice), fingers only

Chromatic Scales

Scale: Starting on G
Range: 3 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 144
Requirements: Tirando or apoyando (examiner choice), fingers only

Group B: Arpeggios & Broken Chords

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 are to perform the arpeggios in even quavers.

Two-octave major arpeggios

Arpeggio: Major arpeggio, root 6th, in the keys of F#–B (chromatically)
Range: 2 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 144
Requirements: Tirando, thumb and fingers

Arpeggio: Major arpeggio, root 5th, in the keys of B–E (chromatically)
Range: 2 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 144
Requirements: Tirando, thumb and fingers

Two-octave minor arpeggios

Arpeggio: Minor arpeggio, root 6th, in the keys of F#–B (chromatically)
Range: 2 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 144
Requirements: Tirando, thumb and fingers

Arpeggio: Minor arpeggio, root 5th, in the keys of B–E (chromatically)
Range: 2 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 144
Requirements: Tirando, thumb and fingers

Three-octave arpeggios

Arpeggio: Major arpeggio, root 6th, from the starting notes of E–G (chromatically)
Range: 3 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 144
Requirements: Tirando, thumb and fingers

Arpeggio: Minor arpeggio, root 6th, from the starting notes of E–G (chromatically)
Range: 3 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 144
Requirements: Tirando, thumb and fingers

Dominant 7 arpeggios

Arpeggio: Dominant 7 arpeggio, root 6th, starting notes of F#–B (chromatically)
Range: 2 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 144
Requirements: Tirando, thumb and fingers

Arpeggio: Dominant 7 arpeggio, root 5th, starting notes of B–E (chromatically)
Range: 2 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 144
Requirements: Tirando, thumb and fingers

Diminished 7 arpeggios

Arpeggio: Diminished 7 arpeggio, root 6th, starting notes of F#–B (chromatically)
Range: 2 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 144
Requirements: Tirando, thumb and fingers

Arpeggio: Diminished 7 arpeggio, root 5th, starting notes of B–E (chromatically)
Range: 2 Octaves
Tempo: Crotchet = 144
Requirements: Tirando, thumb and fingers

Broken Chords

Exercise 1: A minor
Range: As shown in grade book.
Tempo: Crotchet = 70
Requirements: Tirando, thumb and fingers

Exercise 2: A minor
Range: As shown in grade book.
Tempo: Crotchet = 70
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

Before seeing the tests, the examiner will ask whether the candidate wishes to perform a piece of sight reading or take a test of improvisation and interpretation. Once the candidate has decided, they cannot change their mind.

Sight Reading

Requirements

Candidates will be given a short piece of previously unseen music to play, unaccompanied. The sight reading test will be up to 26 bars long, in the keys of:

  • D major or B minor
  • Bb major or G minor
  • A major or F# minor

Process

Candidates will be given 90 seconds to practise, after which they will perform the test. Before the practice time begins, candidates can ask if they would like to hear the tempo on a metronome at the start of, or throughout their practice time. Additionally, candidates may ask to hear the tempo before the assessed part of the test begins.

Improvisation & Interpretation

Candidates will be given a previously unseen chord progression to improvise either single-note melodies or a chordal accompaniment (candidate choice) to complement the backing track. The chord progression will meet the following criteria:

  • Either:
    A repeated 12-bar jazz/blues test in the key of Bb or E
  • Or:
    A 24-bar jazz/swing test in the key of Eb or Ab

Process

Candidates will first be given 90 seconds to practise. Before the practice time begins, candidates will be given the choice of a metronome click throughout the practice time or a 1-bar count in at the beginning. After the practice time, the backing track will be played twice. Candidates can rehearse during the first playthrough, before performing their improvisation over the second playthrough. Only the improvisation over the second playthrough will be assessed. Each playthrough will begin with a 1-bar count in. The backing track is continuous throughout, so once the first playthrough has finished, the count in to the second playthrough will start immediately.

Ear Tests

Candidates will be given two tests: melodic recall and harmonic recall.

Test 1: Melodic Recall

The examiner will play a two-bar melody using the F# major scale or the F# harmonic minor scale. The examiner will state the key before the first playthrough of the test. The first note of the melody will be the root note, third or fifth and the first interval will be either ascending or descending. Candidates will play the melody back on their instrument.

The test will be played twice. Each time the test is played it is preceded by a one-bar count-in. There will be a short gap to practise. Next will be a vocal count-in and candidates 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 four-bar chord sequence in the key of E major played to a metronome click. The sequence will be drawn from the I, IIm, IIIm, IV, V and VIm chords, and may occur in any combination. The I and IV chords can be either major or major 7th chords. You will be asked to identify the chord sequence, stating the progression either with the chord names (e.g. E, Amaj7) or numerals (e.g. I, IVmaj7).

Each time the test is played the sequence is: four clicks, tonic, four clicks, chords. There will be a short gap to prepare after the second playthrough of the test. Candidates will then be asked to state the chord progression.

The tempo is crotchet = 90.

General Musicianship Questions

Candidates will be asked five questions. Four of these will be music knowledge questions, based on any one of the pieces performed in the exam, the fifth will be about general music and instrument knowledge. Candidates can use brief demonstrations to support their verbal explanations.

Part 1: Music Knowledge

There will be four music knowledge questions in relation to one of the pieces performed in the exam. Candidates will be asked which piece they would like to be asked about. If the candidate’s copy of the chosen piece contains extensive handwritten notes the examiner may either use their own version of the score as the basis for the questions or they may request that candidates select a different piece.

Candidates may be asked to:

  • explain the meaning of any tempo markings found on your score
  • identify the key signature and give the relative major or minor key
  • identify any pitches in a melodic sequence found on your score, as chosen by the examiner
  • identify rhythmic values (notes and/or rests) from any rhythmic values found on your score, as chosen by the examiner.
  • identify and explain any expressive markings in your piece
  • briefly explain and demonstrate one stylistic and one technical consideration in preparation and performance of the chosen piece

Part 2: General Music and Instrument Knowledge
  • state the chord progressions of any of the following cadences in the keys of C, D, F or G major, as chosen by the examiner: perfect, imperfect, plagal or deceptive
  • explain how to play artificial harmonics
  • 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

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