The Free Choice Piece Guidance is relevant for all graded music examinations, other than for Classical Piano (please continue reading for more info on Classical Piano free choice piece guidance):
- for all graded examinations and video graded certificates, candidates may choose to perform a maximum of two free choice pieces.
- for all performance certificates (except Premiere), in addition to a minimum of two performance piece from the RSL grade book, candidates may choose to perform a maximum of three free choice pieces.
What is a Free Choice Piece?
The following will be accepted as suitable free choice pieces without prior checks:
- Pieces from previous RSL syllabuses at the same (or higher) grade
(Please note that candidates must provide sheet music for ALL previous RSL syllabuses: examiners will only have access to current syllabus material)
- Pieces from the current RSL syllabus for the instrument set at a higher grade
- The following permissible interchangeable RSL instruments:
- Current or (any) previous RSL syllabus Electric Guitar repertoire performed in Acoustic Guitar exams
- Current or (any) previous RSL syllabus Acoustic Guitar repertoire performed in Electric Guitar exams
- Vocal wider repertoire pieces
- Pieces from other regulated music exam boards where accredited at the same (or higher) grade.
The following will be accepted as suitable free choice pieces if prior approval from RSL has been obtained (see below). Otherwise the examiner will make a judgement about the suitability of the piece in the exam:
- RSL Grade book pieces in a different version
(Note: excluding transposition of pieces in the RSL vocal grade books which are permitted without prior approval to suit a particular vocal range)
- RSL Grade book piece performed with a different backing track
- RSL Grade book piece performed with no backing track where one is normally required, or with a backing track where one is not normally required (Piano, Keys, Acoustic Guitar, Ukulele only)
- RSL Grade book pieces for a different instrument (except acoustic/electric guitar; see above)
- Original compositions
- Any other piece or song
Please note that for Electric Guitar, Bass, Drums and Vocals, where an RSL Grade book piece is performed with no backing track where one is normally required (see ‘Backing Tracks’ below), this would not be pre-approved as a free choice piece, and therefore the technical outcomes / resulting marks will be affected in this case.
The following are Rockschool benchmarked repertoire and therefore permitted without prior approval and do not count as free choice pieces:
- All current grade book repertoire for the same instrument
- Rockschool Classics (previously known as Hot Rock)
- Tom Gates
- Rock & Pop Foundation
- Current Male / Female vocal grade book repertoire. These can be interchangeable
- Current Male / Female vocal grade book repertoire transposed to suit vocal range. (All other aspects need to remain unchanged. NB. Backing tracks in the transposed key are required and to be sourced by the candidate.)
Other than during the current Covid-19 restrictions, for Rockschool exams free choice pieces must be in a modern popular genre such as pop, rock, metal, jazz, country, blues, soul or reggae.
In response to the current Covid-19 restrictions, and to allow as many candidates as possible to achieve their qualifications, free choice pieces may be music in genres other than popular music.
Repertoire which is set for exams of other recognised boards will be automatically accepted as free choice pieces for the equivalent grade.
Candidates may check the suitability of any wider repertoire in other genres through the established Free Choice Piece checking process.
TEACHERS! Hit the button below to find out more about RSL Awards’ Free Choice Pieces extension and to download your free Rockschool sample packs!
Until the end of 2021 we will:
- accept repertoire from any UK accredited examination board (from any specification, current or previous)
- accept any repertoire of an appropriate equivalent standard aligned to our Free Choice Piece criteria (including repertoire from our own Rockschool Piano Syllabus)
Candidates may choose to play up to three such pieces for a Graded Exam/Certificate, or five pieces for a Performance Certificate.
Electric Guitar, Bass, Drums, Vocals: All free choice pieces must be performed to a backing track. If no backing track is provided, the candidate will be invited to perform unaccompanied. The absence of a backing track may be reflected in the marking and comments.
Piano, Keys, Acoustic Guitar, Ukulele: free choice pieces can be performed to a backing track, or as a solo piece (without backing track). Where a piece in the RSL Grade book is performed with no backing track where one is normally required, or with a backing track where one is not normally required, this also counts as a free choice piece.
Backing tracks for RSL syllabus pieces do not include the solo part on the track. Where a backing track for a free choice piece includes the solo part, this will usually be interpreted as reducing the level of demand, which may be reflected in the marking (see ‘Level of Demand’ below).
Candidates must provide a device containing the downloaded audio for free choice piece backing tracks. This can be any device with a 3.5mm minijack output eg. MP3 player, portable CD player, phone or tablet. We recommend that two different sources are brought, one as a back-up.
Candidates will be expected to operate their own devices. Examiners will provide a 3.5mm (minijack) lead to connect the device to the PA.
NB: Audio cannot be live streamed directly as mobile devices must be turned off or to airplane mode during the exam.
Level of demand
Free choice pieces must demonstrate a comparable level of technical and musical demand to the pieces in the grade books, which can be referred to as an indication of appropriate level.
Pieces should therefore be selected carefully to ensure that they provide suitable opportunity for candidates to demonstrate the necessary technical and musical competence for the grade.
If a free choice piece does not meet these requirements this will impact on the level of achievement possible within the examination and will be reflected in the marks and comments.
It is not a prerequisite to have free choice pieces approved by RSL HQ, as the examiner will make a judgement about the suitability of the piece in the exam. If you are unsure about the eligibility of your piece(s) you can seek Free Choice Piece approval which incurs a fee of £10 per piece. In order to seek approval please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org with details of the proposed piece(s), instrument and Grade. A full reply will be given no later than 4 weeks after payment of the approval fee which will be facilitated via an online link that we will e-mail to you.
Please bring a copy of the approval confirmation with you to show the examiner, or for a recorded video exam submission please upload a copy of the approval confirmation with your video.
Where prior approval is not obtained, examiners will make a judgement about the suitability of a free choice piece at the time of the exam and if in their judgement it does not meet the requirements for the grade, this may be reflected in the marking.
Candidates are reminded that RSL examination regulations state that if a performance piece overruns beyond the allocated time, the examiner may halt the performance and only assess the material demonstrated until that point.
With the exception of current RSL syllabuses (see above), candidates must provide fully notated sheet music for all free choice pieces. A copy must be brought to the examination, or for a recorded video exam, a copy must be supplied when the video is uploaded.
Sheet music must fully reflect the version of the piece being performed by the candidate. A lead sheet or chord chart is not sufficient.
Candidates may refer to their own copy during the performance. Examiners will retain all photocopied materials from the exam session.
If sheet music is not provided for a free choice piece this will be deemed a ‘partial submission’ and may be reflected in the marking and comments.
Sheet music is not required when using any piece from a current RSL syllabus as a free choice piece, unless an alternative version is being used.
If more free choice pieces are presented than allowed (ie. a third free choice piece in a graded exam or video graded certificate, or a fourth / fifth free choice piece in a performance certificate), the additional pieces will be judged as inadmissible and will receive a mark of zero.
Download the Free Choice Piece benchmarking guidance for your instrument below...
|Acoustic Guitar||Rockschool Acoustic Guitar Free Choice Piece Guidance|
|Bass||Rockschool Bass Free Choice Piece Guidance|
|Drums||Rockschool Drums Free Choice Piece Guidance|
|Electric Guitar||Rockschool Electric Guitar Free Choice Piece Guidance|
|Piano & Keys||Rockschool Piano & Keys Free Choice Piece Guidance|
|RSL Classical Piano||RSL Classical Piano Free Choice Piece Guidance|
|Ukulele||Rockschool Ukulele Free Choice Piece Guidance|
|Vocals||Rockschool Vocals Free Choice Piece Guidance|