We've launched our upgraded and extended ukulele syllabus, releasing our first ever full suite of ukulele grade books (Debut – Grade 8) for 2020.
Each grade features 6 new arrangements from some of music’s most iconic figures to perform in the last 8 decades; with each instalment navigating an array of era-defining styles and techniques – from the 1930s all the way up to present-day.
The ukulele is in a unique group of instruments with re-entrant tuning. The Rockschool Ukulele syllabus develops instrument-specific techniques through digestible benchmarked topics guaranteed to equip students with the practical skill and theoretical knowledge to perform at the highest possible level, across a range of contemporary styles.
Much like its cousin, the Rockschool Acoustic syllabus (released in 2019), each Rockschool Ukulele grade will contain 4 songs with vocal parts to recreate the energy of playing in a band setting, alongside two solo tracks which will focus more on the development of performing independently.
The ‘session-style’ tracks have been a fun and engaging addition to the current format of Rockschool’s performance pieces, as they give each player the opportunity to replicate a recording session, or live performance, each time they sit down to practice. This not only allows students to develop a better sense of time and rhythm; it also presents the perfect habitat for each session to encourage the evolution of each players’ interpretation of tone and the stylistic choices their playing can navigate.
As an added extra, we have also included the vocal melody lines in the grade books for those students who also enjoy singing and playing at the same time to support their learning journey as a performer.
Download the Ukulele Syllabus
Ukulele Syllabus (2020 Edition)
Director of Academic, Tim Bennett-Hart: “With the Ukulele syllabus we wanted to firstly offer a full suite of grades (Debut to Grade 8) to candidates, secondly create grades that have the same ‘feel’ as our Electric and Acoustic syllabuses where possible, and lastly celebrate the ukulele as an instrument in its own right, exploring the possibilities of its unique ‘re-entrant’ tuning by gradually building up technical knowledge and dexterity, grade by grade..”
The remaining 2 tracks per grade take the spotlight and position the instrument front and centre, with a pair of instrument-specific, solo-ukulele arrangements that more intensely navigate the ukulele’s range of melodic expression. This is your opportunity to learn from inspirational artists such as Jake Shimabukuro and Taimane Gardner, expanding your instrumental techniques in the process – including utilising the instrument’s re-entrant tuning and how to use the ukulele as a percussive instrument!
Musician and arranger, Giorgio Serci: “Rockschool has a very clearly defined syllabus here that helps guide the arrangers make important decisions on whether to simplify or elaborate for the benefit of the students. This is about providing a step-by-step pathway so they [the students] can progress gradually, feeling satisfied and in-control at each grade. It’s a task I have taken very seriously and enjoyed immensely.”
But why the ukulele, you may ask? The so-called ‘ukulele boom’, which saw sales surge in the last 10 years, also saw more children pick up a ukulele at school than the long-standing stalwart of the music department: the recorder. What the diminutive four-stringed instrument has over its predecessor is quite simple: it sounds better, it’s even easier to learn, and is more conducive to group learning.
In a Guardian article from 2015, Will Grove-White, from the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain agrees, saying “you can play all the songs in rock’n’roll with just three chords, so you’re quickly busting out tunes”. By taking a cursory look at the huge amount of ukulele clubs and societies in the UK, you’ll realise it has the fantastic ability to positively unify people socially too. Grove-White agrees: “It’s a great way to meet people, get together, play and sing songs’.”
As well as being an ideal instrument for providing rewarding experiences early on, you can also take the ukulele to almost any level. You only need to search for the technical virtuosity of ukulele stars featured at the higher grades – from early YouTube sensation, Jake Shimabukuro, to the more recent online video-star, Taimane Gardner.