Sight Reading or Improvisation & Interpretation
In the exam, candidates have a choice between either a Sight Reading test or a Contemporary Improvisation & Interpretation test. The examiner will ask the candidate which one they wish to choose before commencing. Once the candidate has decided they cannot change their mind.
The sight reading test will be up to eight bars long, in one of the following keys:
- D major or B minor
- F major or D minor
- G major or E minor
The examiner will give the candidate a previously unseen test to be performed unaccompanied. Candidates will have 90 seconds to prepare, after which the examiner will ask the candidate to commence the test.
While the test is not played to a metronome click, candidates may ask to hear the minimum tempo on a metronome at the start of, or throughout their practice time. Additionally, candidates may ask to hear a few seconds of the tempo on a metronome before the assessed part of the test begins.
Contemporary Improvisation & Interpretation
In the Contemporary Improvisation & Interpretation test, the examiner will give the candidate a chord progression of up to nine bars duration, in the key of G major or E minor, to be performed to backing track. The tempo is crotchet = 95.
At Grade 4, the candidate may improvise either single-note melodies or a chordal accompaniment (candidate choice). The backing track will meet the following criteria:
- A 12-bar blues in the key of G or C, containing the chords I7, IV7 and V7.
- A 12-bar piece based on a contemporary style (e.g., pop, rock, soul, R&B) in the key of A major or F# minor, containing diatonic chords (including 7ths). The test may begin and end in either A major or its relative minor (F# minor)
Candidates will first be given 90 seconds to practise, before which candidates will be given the choice of a metronome click throughout or a one-bar count-in at the beginning. Following the initial practice time, the examiner will play the backing track twice. The first time is for the candidate to practise and the second time is for the candidate to perform the final version for the exam. For each playthrough, the backing track will begin with a one-bar count-in. The backing track is continuous, so once the first playthrough has finished, the count-in of the second playing will start immediately.
There are two Ear Tests in this grade. The examiner will play each test twice.
The examiner will play a two-bar melody with a metronome click, using the A major scale. The first note of the melody will be the root note and the first interval will be descending. Candidates will need to play the melody back on their instrument. Candidates will hear the test twice. Each time the test is played the sequence is: four clicks, root note, four clicks, melody. There will be a short gap to practise after the test is heard for the second time. Candidates will then hear the four clicks and root note for the third time, followed by a vocal count-in and will then play the melody to the metronome click.
The tempo is crotchet = 90.
The examiner will play a tonic chord followed by a two-bar chord sequence in the key of C major played to a metronome click. The sequence will be drawn from the I, IV and V chords and may occur in any combination. Candidates will be asked to identify the chord sequence, stating the progression either with the chord names (C, F, G) or numerals (I, IV, V). Each time the test is played the sequence is: four clicks, tonic, four clicks, chords. There will be a short gap for to practise after the candidate has heard the test for the second time. Candidates will then be asked to state the chord progression.
The tempo is crotchet = 90.
General Musicianship Questions
In this part of the exam, the candidate will be asked five questions, divided between two topics as detailed below.
At Grade 4 the candidate will be asked three questions based on their choice of a piece of music that they have played in the exam. The questions will be drawn from the following:
- identify the names of pitches
- explain the meaning of the time signature and key signature markings
- explain the meaning of repeat marks, first and second time bars, D.C., D.S., al Coda and al Fine markings
- identify rhythm values from the following: semibreve (whole note), minim (half note), crotchet (quarter note), quaver (eighth note), quaver triplet (eighth-notes triplet) and semiquaver (16th note) values, and their associated rests
Candidates will also be asked one question on chord construction:
- explain the construction of major7, minor7 or dominant7 chords
The examiner will also ask one question regarding a technical consideration of the chosen piece, in relation to:
- Picking hand: Strumming or picking technique for a short phrase (up to one bar) – demonstration is acceptable
- Fretting hand: Fretting position and fingering used to play a short phrase (up to one bar) – demonstration is acceptable. The examiner will choose the section of music and will ask the candidate to give a brief explanation as to why the technique was appropriate for the chosen section.
(Note: Demonstrations are acceptable to support an explanation, but must have the spoken understanding).