Rockschool

Learn the Alto Saxophone

Grab your sax and take us on an emotive journey with Rockschool Alto Saxophone.

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Celebrating horn sections

With 6 pieces per Saxophone grade – at least three pieces being shared repertoire across all Horn Section syllabuses – Rockschool Alto Sax will support your journey of instrument mastery and ensemble performance.

Learning Platform Grade Books

Complete publications

The Rockschool Alto Sax publications provide you with everything you need to take a graded exam: a diverse range of repertoire (including professionally arranged and recorded backing tacks), a truly innovative range of technical exercises and supporting tests.

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Iconic music

Throughout the grades, we’ve hand-picked tunes from some of the world’s biggest artists across a diverse range of genres. This expansive choice of songs can be used in your graded music exam, as material for auditions and performances as a section, or for your own enjoyment.

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Groundbreaking technology

These digital releases, powered by MatchMySound, come complete with an interactive score player allowing you to slow down and loop specific sections of pieces. Gamify your learning experience by receiving automated feedback on your practise sessions!

Learning Platform Teacher Access

Recognised around the world

All our qualifications have been designed with industry relevance, student engagement, and academic rigour in mind. Upon completion of an RSL graded music exam, you will have earned a globally recognised qualification, designed to support progression routes towards higher education and the creative industries.

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Benchmarked progression

RSL Awards’ graded music exams motivate and encourage musicians of all ages and abilities through a system of progressive mastery. From our introductory grades all the way through to Grade 8, these graded qualifications enable candidates to develop and enhance their musical skills, knowledge and understanding in an exciting, engaging and consistent manner.

Learn the Alto Saxophone with Rockschool

Ready to discover the world of Rockschool Horn Section? Check out the video below to find out how this syllabus has come to life and what makes Rockschool the best option for you.

How it works

Whether you’re learning the alto saxophone independently or with a music teacher, it’s easy to get started learning with Rockschool.

01

Download the syllabus and buy your grade book

Our publications provide you with everything you need: professionally arranged and produced repertoire alongside innovative technical exercises and supporting tests.

02

Start practicing with our innovative resources

From our interactive e-books to Learning Platform app, our teaching and learning resources are here to support you become a better musician.

03

Sit the exam and reap your rewards

If you’re ready and want to take a Graded Music Exam, achieve your very own Rockschool qualification after putting in the hours of dedication towards mastering your instrument.

Alto Saxophone
Grade 1

The Grade 1 Alto Sax exam is for candidates who have been typically learning for six months to one year. They have mastered the key basic debut level skills and have since acquired greater use of technique, rhythms, co-ordination and musical understanding. There is also an opportunity to build on basic improvisation.
There are two types of exam available at Grade 1, either a Grade Exam or Performance Certificate.

Estimated Examination Time:

  • Grade Exam: 20 minutes (approx.)
  • Performance Certificate: 20 minutes (approx.)
RS-Instruments-Saxophone

Purchase Your Book & Exam Entry

The Alto Sax Grade 1 book contains everything you need to sit your Grade 1 exam – in one essential book. It’s packed with essential techniques and theory for beginners picking up the fundamentals of alto saxophone.

Alto Sax Grade 1

The essential syllabus for the aspiring, contemporary Saxophonist. Rockschool Alto Saxophone Grad...
Graded Music Exam Grade 1

Graded Music Exam: Grade 1

All Instruments - General guidance: Graded Music Exams Overview - How to book an exam UK / Republ...

Performance Pieces

The pieces in the grade book can be used for both the Grade Exam and Performance Certificate. The expectation and length of pieces are designed so candidates can acquire a solid understanding and execution of notation accuracy, values, evenness of sound, tone quality/consistency, technical control, articulation, expression, style awareness and sync at an early intermediate level.

Featured Repertoire:

  • The Champs – Tequila
  • Bobby Hebb – Sunny
  • Madness – One Step Beyond
  • Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris – We Found Love
  • Pharrell Williams – Happy
  • Sam Smith – I’m Not the Only One

Technical Exercises

At Grade 1 there are three groups of technical work: scales, arpeggios and a technical study.

The examiner will ask for a selection of scales (Group A) and arpeggios (Group B). All scales and arpeggios should be prepared with tongued and slurred articulation. The examiner will announce the key, scale or arpeggio type and articulation for each example.

 

GROUP A – Scales

Tempo: Crotchet=50 bpm

  • G major scale, 1 octave
  • G dorian mode, 1 octave
  • G minor pentatonic scale, 1 octave

 

GROUP B – Arpeggios

Tempo: Crotchet=50 bpm

  • G major arpeggio, 1 octave
  • G minor arpeggio, 1 octave

 

GROUP C – Technical Study

Candidates are to perform their choice of 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 or Improvisation & Interpretation

At Grade 1, candidates will be offered the choice between Sight Reading or Improvisation & Interpretation. Before seeing the test, the examiner will ask the candidate which they would like to perform. Before seeing the test, the examiner will ask you which you would like to perform. Once you have decided you cannot change your mind. An example is shown in the Grade 1 book.

Sight Reading

In the Sight Reading test, the examiner will give you a melody to be played to a metronome click.

The test will be:

  • 4 bars duration
  • In the key of G major
  • At a tempo of crotchet=100
  • In 4/4 time
  • Based on half notes (minims), quarter notes (crotchets) and associated rests.

The examiner will show you the notation, and you will have 90 seconds to prepare. You may ask for a metronome click at the start of, or throughout your practise time. After the 90 seconds practise time, the examiner will play you the click track again, and you will be required to perform the test.

Improvisation & Interpretation

Key: G major or G minor

Tempo: Crotchet=95 bpm

At Grade 1, the examiner will give the candidate a 5-bar chord progression in the key of G major or G minor. The candidate will have 90 seconds preparation time, after which the examiner will play the backing track twice. The examiner will offer the metronome as a guide throughout this time. Candidates will then have a complete practice run through with the backing track, and then on the repeat the test will be examined.

Ear Tests

There are two tests: Melodic Recall and Rhythmic Recall.

Melodic Recall

Tempo: Crotchet=95 bpm

The examiner will play you two consecutive notes. You will need to identify whether the last note is higher or lower than the first. You will hear the test twice, each time with a one bar count-in.

Rhythmic Recall

Tempo: Crotchet=95 bpm

The examiner will play you a two-bar rhythm on the note ‘G’. You will hear the test twice. You will then hear a one bar count-in, after which you will be required to play back the rhythm on your instrument on the same note, to a drum backing.

General Musicianship Questions

In this part of the exam candidates will be asked five questions drawn from the topics listed below. For the notation section, the examiner will ask you to choose a piece you’ve played in the exam.

Music Knowledge

In Grade 1, candidates will be asked to identify:

  • The treble clef or time signature
  • Note pitch names
  • Half note (minim), quarter note (crotchet) or eighth note (quaver) values
  • The tempo marking

Instrument Knowledge

In Grade 1, candidates will be asked to identify:

  • One of the following parts of their instrument: bell, mouth piece or keys

Music Theory

In Grade 1, candidates will be asked to describe:

  • The construction of a major or minor triad.

Exam Structure

There are two types of exam available, a Grade Exam or Performance Certificate.

Grade Exam

3 Performance Pieces (two of which may be Free Choice Pieces) Candidates choose to play either Performance Pieces or Technical Exercises first These account for 60% of the exam mark
Technical Exercises (Section A, B, C and D for Level 3 qualifications) Candidates choose to play either Performance Pieces or Technical Exercises first These account for 15% of the exam mark
Sight Reading or Improvisation & Interpretation (Debut to Grade 5); Quick Study Pieces (Grade 6 to Grade 8) Candidates are given an unseen test to prepare and perform This accounts for 10% of the exam marks
2 Ear Tests Candidates respond to 2 aural tests. These account for 10% of the exam marks
5 General Musicianship Questions Candidates answer 5 questions based on one of the pieces performed These 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.

Assessment Criteria

Performance Pieces

Attainment Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 18-20 15-17 12-14 6-11 0-5
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding all 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 & Expression Consistently 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 13–15 11–12 9–10 4–8 0–3
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding all 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 9-10 7-8 6 3-5 0-2
Accuracy & Understanding All 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 9-10 7-8 6 3-5 0-2
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding All 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 5 correct responses 4 correct responses 3 correct responses 2 correct responses 0-1 correct responses

Performance Certificate

Attainment Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 18-20 15-17 12-14 6-11 0-5
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding All 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 & Expression Consistently 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

Alto Saxophone
Grade 2

The Grade 2 Alto Sax exam is for candidates who have been typically learning for one year to eighteen months. They have mastered the key basic skills up to Grade 1 and since acquired greater use of technique, rhythms, co-ordination and musical understanding. There is also the continuing opportunity to develop improvisation skills.
There are two types of exam available at Grade 2, either a Grade Exam or Performance Certificate.

Estimated Examination Time:

  • Grade Exam: 20 minutes (approx.)
  • Performance Certificate: 20 minutes (approx.)
RS-Instruments-Saxophone

Purchase Your Book & Exam Entry

The Alto Sax Grade 2 book contains everything you need to sit your Grade 2 exam – in one essential book.

Alto Sax Grade 2

The essential syllabus for the aspiring, contemporary Saxophonist. Rockschool Alto Saxophone Grad...
Graded Music Exam Grade 2

Graded Music Exam: Grade 2

All Instruments - General guidance: Graded Music Exams Overview - How to book an exam UK / Repub...

Performance Pieces

The pieces in the grade book can be used for both the Grade Exam and Performance Certificate. The expectation and length of pieces are designed so candidates can acquire a solid understanding and execution of notation accuracy, values, evenness of sound, tone quality/consistency, technical control, articulation, expression, style awareness and sync at an early intermediate level.

Featured Repertoire:

  • Taylor Swift – Shake It Off
  • The Tokens – The Lion Sleeps Tonight
  • Wilson Pickett – In the Midnight Hour
  • Ramin Djawadi – Game of Thrones
  • The Specials – A Message to You Rudy
  • Tito Puente – Oye Como Va

Technical Exercises

At Grade 2 there are three groups of technical work: scales, arpeggios and a technical study.

The examiner will ask for a selection of scales (Group A) and arpeggios (Group B). All scales and arpeggios should be prepared with tongued and slurred articulation. The examiner will announce the key, scale or arpeggio type and articulation for each example.

 

GROUP A – Scales

Tempo: Crotchet=55 bpm

  • D major scale, 2 octaves
  • D dorian mode, 2 octaves
  • D minor pentatonic scale, 2 octaves

 

GROUP B – Arpeggios

Tempo: Crotchet=55 bpm

  • D major arpeggio, 2 octaves
  • D minor arpeggio, 2 octaves

 

GROUP C – Technical Study

Candidates are to perform their choice of 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 or Improvisation & Interpretation

At Grade 2, candidates will be offered the choice between Sight Reading or Improvisation & Interpretation. Before seeing the test, the examiner will ask the candidate which they would like to perform. Before seeing the test, the examiner will ask you which you would like to perform. Once you have decided you cannot change your mind. An example is shown in the Grade 2 book.

Sight Reading

In the Sight Reading test, the examiner will give you a melody to be played to a metronome click.

The test will be:

  • 6 bars duration
  • In the key of D major or B minor
  • At a tempo of crotchet=100
  • In 4/4 time
  • Based on half notes (minims), quarter notes (crotchets) and associated rests.

The examiner will show you the notation, and you will have 90 seconds to prepare. You may ask for a metronome click at the start of, or throughout your practise time. After the 90 seconds practise time, the examiner will play you the click track again, and you will be required to perform the test.

Improvisation & Interpretation

Key: D major or D minor

Tempo: Crotchet=95 bpm

At Grade 2, the examiner will give the candidate a 5-bar chord progression in the key of D major or D minor. The candidate will have 90 seconds preparation time, after which the examiner will play the backing track twice. The examiner will offer the metronome as a guide throughout this time. Candidates will then have a complete practice run through with the backing track, and then on the repeat the test will be examined.

Ear Tests

There are two tests: Melodic Recall and Rhythmic Recall.

Melodic Recall

Tempo: Crotchet=95 bpm

The examiner will play you two consecutive notes. You will need to identify whether the last note is higher or lower than the first. You will hear the test twice, each time with a one bar count-in.

Rhythmic Recall

Tempo: Crotchet=95 bpm

The examiner will play you a two-bar rhythm on the note ‘D’. You will hear the test twice. You will then hear a one bar count-in, after which you will be required to play back the rhythm on your instrument on the same note, to a drum backing.

General Musicianship Questions

In this part of the exam candidates will be asked five questions drawn from the topics listed below. For the notation section, the examiner will ask you to choose a piece you’ve played in the exam.

Music Knowledge

In Grade 2, candidates will be asked to:

  • Explain the meaning of the time signature
  • Identify note pitch names including accidentals, or identify the key signature
  • Identify rhythm values found in the piece drawn from the following: half note (minim), dotted half-note (dotted minim), quarter note (crotchet) or eighth note (quaver) and associated rests
  • Identify the tempo marking or genre of the piece

Instrument Knowledge

In Grade 2, candidates will be asked to identify:

  • One of the following parts of their instrument: keys, ligature, reed

Music Theory

In Grade 2, candidates will be asked to describe:

  • You may be asked to describe the construction of a dominant seventh chord.

Exam Structure

There are two types of exam available, a Grade Exam or Performance Certificate.

Grade Exam

3 Performance Pieces (two of which may be Free Choice Pieces) Candidates choose to play either Performance Pieces or Technical Exercises first These account for 60% of the exam mark
Technical Exercises (Section A, B, C and D for Level 3 qualifications) Candidates choose to play either Performance Pieces or Technical Exercises first These account for 15% of the exam mark
Sight Reading or Improvisation & Interpretation (Debut to Grade 5); Quick Study Pieces (Grade 6 to Grade 8) Candidates are given an unseen test to prepare and perform This accounts for 10% of the exam marks
2 Ear Tests Candidates respond to 2 aural tests. These account for 10% of the exam marks
5 General Musicianship Questions Candidates answer 5 questions based on one of the pieces performed These 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.

Assessment Criteria

Performance Pieces

Attainment Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 18-20 15-17 12-14 6-11 0-5
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding all 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 & Expression Consistently 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 13–15 11–12 9–10 4–8 0–3
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding all 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 9-10 7-8 6 3-5 0-2
Accuracy & Understanding All 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 9-10 7-8 6 3-5 0-2
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding All 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 5 correct responses 4 correct responses 3 correct responses 2 correct responses 0-1 correct responses

Performance Certificate

Attainment Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 18-20 15-17 12-14 6-11 0-5
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding All 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 & Expression Consistently 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

Alto Saxophone
Grade 3

The Grade 3 Alto Sax exam is for candidates who have been typically learning for eighteen months to two years and who are ready to consolidate their final stage as a beginner player. They have mastered the key skills up to Grade 2 and since acquired greater use of technique, rhythms, co-ordination and musical understanding. Improvisation phrasing is now confident and articulate and candidates have started to develop the beginnings of stylistic awareness.
There are two types of exam available at Grade 3, either a Grade Exam or Performance Certificate.

Estimated Examination Time:

  • Grade Exam: 25 minutes (approx.)
  • Performance Certificate: 25 minutes (approx.)
RS-Instruments-Saxophone

Purchase Your Book & Exam Entry

The Alto Sax Grade 3 book contains everything you need to sit your Grade 3 exam – in one essential book.

Alto Sax Grade 3

The essential syllabus for the aspiring, contemporary Saxophonist. Rockschool Alto Saxophone Grad...
Graded Music Exam Grade 3

Graded Music Exam: Grade 3

All Instruments - General guidance: Graded Music Exams Overview - How to book an exam UK / Republ...

Performance Pieces

The pieces in the grade book can be used for both the Grade Exam and Performance Certificate. The expectation and length of pieces are designed so candidates can acquire a solid understanding and execution of notation accuracy, values, evenness of sound, tone quality/consistency, technical control, articulation, expression, style awareness and sync at an early intermediate level.

Featured Repertoire:

  • From ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl’ – He’s a Pirate
  • Camila Cabello – Havana
  • Henry Mancini – The Pink Panther
  • The Meters – Cissy Strut
  • The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army
  • Sérgio Mendes – Mas Que Nada

Technical Exercises

At Grade 3 there are three groups of technical work: scales, arpeggios and a technical study.

The examiner will ask for a selection of scales (Group A) and arpeggios (Group B). All scales and arpeggios should be prepared with tongued and slurred articulation. The examiner will announce the key, scale or arpeggio type and articulation for each example.

 

GROUP A – Scales

Tempo: Crotchet=60 bpm

  • Bb major scale, 1 octave
  • A major scale, to the 12th
  • A dorian mode, to the 12th
  • A minor pentatonic scale, to the 12th
  • A blues scale, to the 12th
  • G chromatic scale, 1 octave

 

GROUP B – Arpeggios

Tempo: Crotchet=60 bpm

  • Bb major arpeggio, 1 octave
  • A major arpeggio, 1 octave
  • Bb minor arpeggio, 1 octave
  • A minor arpeggio, 1 octave

 

GROUP C – Technical Study

Candidates are to perform their choice of 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 or Improvisation & Interpretation

At Grade 3, candidates will be offered the choice between Sight Reading or Improvisation & Interpretation. Before seeing the test, the examiner will ask the candidate which they would like to perform. Before seeing the test, the examiner will ask you which you would like to perform. Once you have decided you cannot change your mind. An example is shown in the Grade 3 book.

Sight Reading

In the Sight Reading test, the examiner will give you a melody to be played to a metronome click.

The test will be:

  • 8 bars duration
  • In the key of A major or A minor
  • At a tempo of crotchet=100
  • In 4/4 or 6/8 time
  • Based on half notes (minims), dotted half-notes (dotted minims), quarter notes (crotchets), dotted quarter-notes (dotted crotchets), eighth notes and associated rests.

The examiner will show you the notation, and you will have 90 seconds to prepare. You may ask for a metronome click at the start of, or throughout your practise time. After the 90 seconds practise time, the examiner will play you the click track again, and you will be required to perform the test.

Improvisation & Interpretation

Key: A major or A minor

Tempo: Crotchet=95 bpm

At Grade 3, the examiner will give the candidate a 5-bar chord progression in the key of D major or D minor. The candidate will have 90 seconds preparation time, after which the examiner will play the backing track twice. The examiner will offer the metronome as a guide throughout this time. Candidates will then have a complete practice run through with the backing track, and then on the repeat the test will be examined.

Ear Tests

There are two tests: Melodic Recall and Rhythmic Recall.

Melodic Recall

Tempo: Crotchet=95 bpm

The examiner will play you two consecutive notes. You will need to identify whether the last note is higher or lower than the first. You will hear the test twice, each time with a one bar count-in.

Rhythmic Recall

Tempo: Crotchet=95 bpm

The examiner will play you a two-bar rhythm on the note ‘A’. You will hear the test twice. You will then hear a one bar count-in, after which you will be required to play back the rhythm on your instrument on the same note, to a drum backing.

General Musicianship Questions

In this part of the exam candidates will be asked five questions drawn from the topics listed below. For the notation section, the examiner will ask you to choose a piece you’ve played in the exam.

Music Knowledge

In Grade 3, candidates will be asked to:

  • Explain the meaning of the key signature
  • Explain the meaning of the tempo marking
  • Identify note pitch names including accidentals, or identify rhythm values found in the piece drawn from the following: half note (minim), dotted half-note (dotted minim), quarter note (crotchet), dotted quarter-note (dotted crotchet), eighth note (quaver), sixteenth note (semiquaver) and associated rests
  • Identify the tempo marking or genre of the piece

Instrument Knowledge

In Grade 3, candidates will be asked to explain how manipulation of the mouthpiece affects the overall tuning of the alto saxophone.

Music Theory

In Grade 3, candidates will be asked to describe the construction of a minor seventh chord or a major seventh chord.

Exam Structure

There are two types of exam available, a Grade Exam or Performance Certificate.

Grade Exam

3 Performance Pieces (two of which may be Free Choice Pieces) Candidates choose to play either Performance Pieces or Technical Exercises first These account for 60% of the exam mark
Technical Exercises (Section A, B, C and D for Level 3 qualifications) Candidates choose to play either Performance Pieces or Technical Exercises first These account for 15% of the exam mark
Sight Reading or Improvisation & Interpretation (Debut to Grade 5); Quick Study Pieces (Grade 6 to Grade 8) Candidates are given an unseen test to prepare and perform This accounts for 10% of the exam marks
2 Ear Tests Candidates respond to 2 aural tests. These account for 10% of the exam marks
5 General Musicianship Questions Candidates answer 5 questions based on one of the pieces performed These 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.

Assessment Criteria

Performance Pieces

Attainment Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 18-20 15-17 12-14 6-11 0-5
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding all 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 & Expression Consistently 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 13–15 11–12 9–10 4–8 0–3
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding all 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 9-10 7-8 6 3-5 0-2
Accuracy & Understanding All 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 9-10 7-8 6 3-5 0-2
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding All 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 5 correct responses 4 correct responses 3 correct responses 2 correct responses 0-1 correct responses

Performance Certificate

Attainment Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 18-20 15-17 12-14 6-11 0-5
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding All 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 & Expression Consistently 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

Alto Saxophone
Grade 4

The Grade 4 Alto Sax exam is for candidates who have been typically learning for two to three years and who are ready for intermediate level playing. They have mastered the key skills up to Grade 3 and since acquired greater use of technique, more complex rhythms, co-ordination 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 types of exam available at Grade 4, either a Grade Exam or Performance Certificate.

Estimated Examination Time:

  • Grade Exam: 27 minutes (approx.)
  • Performance Certificate: 25 minutes (approx.)
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Performance Pieces

The pieces in the grade book can be used for both the Grade Exam and Performance Certificate. The expectation and length of pieces are designed so candidates can acquire a solid understanding and execution of notation accuracy, values, evenness of sound, tone quality/consistency, technical control, articulation, expression, style awareness and sync at an early intermediate level.

Featured Repertoire:

  • Aretha Franklin – (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
  • Bon Jovi – Livin’ on a Prayer
  • George Benson – On Broadway
  • Average White Band – Put It Where You Want It
  • Amy Winehouse – Rehab
  • John Legend – All of Me

Technical Exercises

At Grade 4 there are three groups of technical work: scales, arpeggios and a technical study.

The examiner will ask for a selection of scales (Group A) and arpeggios (Group B). All scales and arpeggios should be prepared with tongued and slurred articulation. The examiner will announce the key, scale or arpeggio type and articulation for each example.

 

GROUP A – Scales

Tempo: Crotchet=70 bpm

  • C major scale, 2 octaves
  • G major scale, to the 12th
  • C dorian mode, 2 octaves
  • G dorian mode, to the 12th
  • C minor pentatonic scale, 2 octaves
  • G minor pentatonic scale, to the 12th
  • C mixolydian mode, 2 octaves
  • G mixolydian mode, to the 12th
  • C blues scale, 2 octaves
  • G blues scale, to the 12th
  • C chromatic scale, 2 octaves

 

GROUP B – Arpeggios

Tempo: Crotchet=60 bpm

  • D major 7th arpeggio, 1 octave
  • D minor 7th arpeggio, 1 octave
  • D dominant 7th arpeggio, 1 octave
  • G major 7th arpeggio, 1 octave
  • G minor 7th arpeggio, 1 octave
  • G dominant 7th arpeggio, 1 octave

 

GROUP C – Technical Study

Candidates are to perform their choice of 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 or Improvisation & Interpretation

At Grade 4, candidates will be offered the choice between Sight Reading or Improvisation & Interpretation. Before seeing the test, the examiner will ask the candidate which they would like to perform. Before seeing the test, the examiner will ask you which you would like to perform. Once you have decided you cannot change your mind. An example is shown in the Grade 4 book.

Sight Reading

In the Sight Reading test, the examiner will give you a melody to be played to a metronome click.

The test will be:

  • 8 bars duration
  • In the key of G major or G minor
  • Melodies are predominantly diatonic with occasional accidentals
  • In 4/4 or 6/8 time

The examiner will show you the notation, and you will have 90 seconds to prepare. You may ask for a metronome click at the start of, or throughout your practise time. After the 90 seconds practise time, the examiner will play you the click track again, and you will be required to perform the test.

Improvisation & Interpretation

Key: A major or A minor

Tempo: Crotchet=95 bpm

At Grade 4, the examiner will give the candidate a 12-lead sheet, two bars within the test will contain notated melody which their must perform as
written during your performance. The candidate will have 90 seconds preparation time, after which the examiner will play the backing track twice. The examiner will offer the metronome as a guide throughout this time. Candidates will then have a complete practice run through with the backing track, and then on the repeat the test will be examined.

Ear Tests

There are two tests: Melodic Recall and Harmonic Recall.

Melodic Recall

Tempo: Crotchet=95 bpm

The examiner will play a two-bar melody with a drum backing using the G major or G minor scale. The first note of the melody will be the root note. The candidate will play the melody back on their instrument. They will hear the test twice, each time the melody is played it is preceded by a vocal count-in.

Harmonic Recall

Tempo: Crotchet=95 bpm

The examiner will play a four-bar chord sequence in the key of C major, drawn from chords I, IV and V. The test contains one chord per bar, and the first chord will be the root chord. The candidate will be asked to identify the chord sequence.

General Musicianship Questions

In this part of the exam candidates will be asked five questions drawn from the topics listed below. For the notation section, the examiner will ask you to choose a piece you’ve played in the exam.

Notation

In Grade 4, candidates will be asked to:

  • Explain the meaning of the time signature or key signature
  • Explain the meaning of the tempo marking or any dynamic marking found on the score
  • Identify note pitch names (including accidentals) or identify rhythm values found in piece – half note (minim), dotted half-note (dotted minim), quarter note (crotchet), dotted quarter-note (dotted crotchet), eighth note (quaver), sixteenth note (semiquaver), eighth-note triplets (quaver triplets), and their associated rests.
  • Explain the meaning of any articulation or expression mark found on the score

Your Chosen Piece

In Grade 4, candidates will be asked to give one example of a musical feature of the piece which is representative of the genre, e.g. rhythmic
features, harmonic features, tempo, feel etc.

Music Theory

In Grade 4, candidates will be asked to describe the construction of a diminished or augmented triad.

Exam Structure

There are two types of exam available, a Grade Exam or Performance Certificate.

Grade Exam

3 Performance Pieces (two of which may be Free Choice Pieces) Candidates choose to play either Performance Pieces or Technical Exercises first These account for 60% of the exam mark
Technical Exercises (Section A, B, C and D for Level 3 qualifications) Candidates choose to play either Performance Pieces or Technical Exercises first These account for 15% of the exam mark
Sight Reading or Improvisation & Interpretation (Debut to Grade 5); Quick Study Pieces (Grade 6 to Grade 8) Candidates are given an unseen test to prepare and perform This accounts for 10% of the exam marks
2 Ear Tests Candidates respond to 2 aural tests. These account for 10% of the exam marks
5 General Musicianship Questions Candidates answer 5 questions based on one of the pieces performed These 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.

Assessment Criteria

Performance Pieces

Attainment Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 18-20 15-17 12-14 6-11 0-5
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding all 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 & Expression Consistently 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 13–15 11–12 9–10 4–8 0–3
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding all 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 9-10 7-8 6 3-5 0-2
Accuracy & Understanding All 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 9-10 7-8 6 3-5 0-2
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding All 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 5 correct responses 4 correct responses 3 correct responses 2 correct responses 0-1 correct responses

Performance Certificate

Attainment Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 18-20 15-17 12-14 6-11 0-5
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding All 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 & Expression Consistently 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

Alto Saxophone
Grade 5

The Grade 5 Alto Sax exam is for candidates who have been typically learning for three years or more and who have fully consolidated their intermediate level playing. They have mastered the key skills up to Grade 4 and since acquired a greater use of appropriate technique, more complex rhythms, coordination and musical understanding. Candidates will have developed a good sense of expression, have a strong grasp of stylistic awareness, and there is also the opportunity to improvise which is now individual, assured, accurate and expressive.
There are two types of exam available at Grade 5, either a Grade Exam or Performance Certificate.

Estimated Examination Time:

  • Grade Exam: 27 minutes (approx.)
  • Performance Certificate: 25 minutes (approx.)
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Alto Sax Grade 5

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Graded Music Exam Grade 5

Graded Music Exam: Grade 5

All Instruments - General guidance: Graded Music Exams Overview - How to book an exam UK / Republ...

Performance Pieces

The pieces in the grade book can be used for both the Grade Exam and Performance Certificate. The expectation and length of pieces are designed so candidates can acquire a solid understanding and execution of notation accuracy, values, evenness of sound, tone quality/consistency, technical control, articulation, expression, style awareness and sync at an early intermediate level.

Featured Repertoire:

  • Marvin Gaye – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
  • Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk
  • Alicia Keys – Fallin’
  • Dusty Springfield – Son-of-a-Preacher Man
  • The Specials – Ghost Town
  • Camila Cabello – Bam Bam

Technical Exercises

At Grade 5 there are three groups of technical work: scales, arpeggios and a technical study.

The examiner will ask for a selection of scales (Group A) and arpeggios (Group B). All scales and arpeggios should be prepared with tongued and slurred articulation. The examiner will announce the key, scale or arpeggio type and articulation for each example.

 

GROUP A – Scales

Tempo: Crotchet=80 bpm

  • E major scale, two octaves
  • F major scale, two octaves
  • E dorian mode, two octaves
  • F dorian mode, two octaves
  • E mixolydian mode, two octaves
  • F mixolydian mode, two octaves
  • E minor pentatonic scale, two octaves
  • F minor pentatonic scale, two octaves
  • E blues scale, two octaves
  • F blues scale, two octaves
  • E chromatic scale, two octaves

 

GROUP B – Arpeggios

Tempo: Crotchet=70 bpm

  • E major 7th arpeggio, one octave
  • F major 7th arpeggio, one octave
  • E minor 7th arpeggio, one octave
  • F minor 7th arpeggio, one octave
  • E dominant 7th arpeggio, one octave
  • F dominant 7th arpeggio, one octave
  • E diminished 7th arpeggio, one octave
  • F diminished 7th arpeggio, one octave

 

GROUP C – Technical Study

Candidates are to perform their choice of 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 or Improvisation & Interpretation

At Grade 5, candidates will be offered the choice between Sight Reading or Improvisation & Interpretation. Before seeing the test, the examiner will ask the candidate which they would like to perform. Before seeing the test, the examiner will ask you which you would like to perform. Once you have decided you cannot change your mind. An example is shown in the Grade 5 book.

Sight Reading

In the Sight Reading test, the examiner will give you a short piece to be played to a metronome click. At this grade, there will be four bars where you will need to improvise melodies to complement the surrounding notated melody during your performance. Chord symbols are shown as guidance for the four bars of improvisation.

The test will be:

  • 12 bars duration
  • In the key of E major, E minor, F major or F minor
  • Melodies are predominantly diatonic – there may be occasional accidentals
  • In 4/4, 6/8 or 12/8 time

The examiner will show you the notation, and you will have 90 seconds to prepare. You may ask for a metronome click at the start of, or throughout your practise time. After the 90 seconds practise time, the examiner will play you the click track again, and you will be required to perform the test.

Improvisation & Interpretation

Key: A major or A minor

Tempo: Crotchet=95 bpm

At Grade 5, the examiner will give the candidate a 12-bar lead sheet, over which they will be required to improvise a melody on your instrument. Four bars within the test will contain notated melody which they must perform as written during your performance. The candidate will have 90 seconds preparation time, after which the examiner will play the backing track twice. The examiner will offer the metronome as a guide throughout this time. Candidates will then have a complete practice run through with the backing track, and then on the repeat the test will be examined.

Ear Tests

There are two tests: Melodic Recall and Harmonic Recall.

Melodic Recall

Tempo: Crotchet=95 bpm

The examiner will play a two-bar melody with a drum backing using the E major or E minor scale. The first note of the melody will be the root note. The candidate will play the melody back on their instrument. They will hear the test twice, each time the melody is played it is preceded by a vocal count-in.

Harmonic Recall

Tempo: Crotchet=95 bpm

The examiner will play a two-bar chord sequence in the key of C major, drawn from chords I, IIm, IV, V and VIm. The test contains two chords per bar, and the first chord will be the root chord. The candidate will be asked to identify the chord sequence.

General Musicianship Questions

In this part of the exam candidates will be asked five questions drawn from the topics listed below. For the notation section, the examiner will ask you to choose a piece you’ve played in the exam.

Notation

In Grade 5, candidates will be asked to:

  • Explain the meaning of the time signature or key signature
  • Explain the meaning of the tempo marking or any dynamic marking found on the score
  • Identify any note pitch name(s) or rhythm value(s) found on the score
  • Explain the meaning of any articulation or expression mark found on the score

Your Chosen Piece

In Grade 5, candidates will be asked to give one example of a musical feature of the piece which is representative of the genre, e.g. rhythmic
features, harmonic features, tempo, feel etc.

Music Theory

In Grade 5, candidates will be asked to describe the construction of a diminished 7 chord or a minor 7b5 chord.

Exam Structure

There are two types of exam available, a Grade Exam or Performance Certificate.

Grade Exam

3 Performance Pieces (two of which may be Free Choice Pieces) Candidates choose to play either Performance Pieces or Technical Exercises first These account for 60% of the exam mark
Technical Exercises (Section A, B, C and D for Level 3 qualifications) Candidates choose to play either Performance Pieces or Technical Exercises first These account for 15% of the exam mark
Sight Reading or Improvisation & Interpretation (Debut to Grade 5); Quick Study Pieces (Grade 6 to Grade 8) Candidates are given an unseen test to prepare and perform This accounts for 10% of the exam marks
2 Ear Tests Candidates respond to 2 aural tests. These account for 10% of the exam marks
5 General Musicianship Questions Candidates answer 5 questions based on one of the pieces performed These 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.

Assessment Criteria

Performance Pieces

Attainment Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 18-20 15-17 12-14 6-11 0-5
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding all 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 & Expression Consistently 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 13–15 11–12 9–10 4–8 0–3
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding all 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 9-10 7-8 6 3-5 0-2
Accuracy & Understanding All 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 9-