Acoustic Guitar Debut

At Acoustic Guitar Debut you will be examined on your choice of three performance pieces from artists such as Bob Marley, Snow Patrol and Foo Fighters.

Exam Times

Grade Exam: 15 minutes (approx.)
Performance Certificate: 12 minutes (approx.)

Key Features at: Debut

  • Performance Pieces
  • Technical Exercises
  • Supporting Tests

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The Rockschool Acoustic Guitar Debut book contains everything you need to pass your Debut exam in one essential book, featuring a truly diverse range of contemporary repertoire from some of the world’s most iconic artists, including Coldplay, Beyoncé and Bob Marley.

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Acoustic Guitar Debut Book

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–Grade 5
Candidates are given an unseen
test to prepare and perform
This accounts
for 10% of the exam marks
Quick Study Pieces
Grade 6–8
Candidates are given an unseen
test to prepare and perform
These account
for 10% of the exam marks
2 Ear TestsCandidates respond to 2 aural tests.These account
for 10% of the
exam marks
5 General Musicianship QuestionsCandidates 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.

Performance Pieces

The pieces from the grade book have been created to allow demonstration of suitable technical and performance elements appropriate for the level of qualification.

The pieces in the grade book can be used for both the Grade Exam and Performance Certificate. At Debut they are short, typically up to one minute in duration. The expectation and length of pieces are designed so candidates can demonstrate the required assessment criteria.

Featured Repertoire:

  • Snow Patrol - Chasing Cars
  • Foo Fighters - Learn To Fly
  • Van Morrison - Brown Eyed Girl
  • Bob Marley - No Woman No Cry
  • Beyonce - If I Were A Boy
  • Coldplay - Yellow

Technical Exercises

At Debut there are three groups of prepared technical exercises:

GROUP A – Scales

GROUP B – Arpeggios/Broken Chords

GROUP C – Chord Voicings

Groups A and B need to be played to a compulsory metronome click. The Examiner will ask for one demonstration from each group. The book can be used in the exam for Groups A and B up to and including Grade 3.

From Grades 4–8, candidates must play from memory. Group C does not require a metronome and can be played at a tempo of the candidate’s choice. For Group C, candidates will be required to close their grade books or ensure the information on any electronic devices is out of view and play from memory.

Note: The use of any notes or any reading from the grade book when performing Group C will impact on the marks awarded for this element.

Supporting Tests

At Debut candidates will be offered the choice between Sight Reading or Improvisation and Interpretation. Both are previously unseen and an example of each is shown in the grade book.

Sight Reading

The Examiner will provide a 4–6 bar melody in the key of C major. Candidates will be given 90 seconds to practise.

Improvisation & Interpretation

The Examiner will provide a 4–6 bar chord progression in the key of C major. Candidates will be given 90 seconds to practice.

Ear Tests

At Debut there are two ear tests. Both are previously unseen and an example of each is shown in the grade book.

Melodic Recall

The Examiner will play two consecutive notes. Candidates will need to identify whether the last note is higher or lower than the first.

Chord Recognition

The Examiner will play a sequence of chords, each with a C root note. Candidates will need to identify which chord played was major and which chord was minor.

General Musicianship Questions (GMQ's)

Candidates will be asked five questions, one from each of the following groups:

  • One question relating to harmony
  • One question relating to melody
  • One question relating to rhythms
  • One question relating to technical requirements
  • One question relating to genre

Candidates can choose the piece on which basis the questions will be asked. It must be one of the pieces performed in the exam. The exact bars or phrases will be chosen by the Examiner.

Assessment Criteria

Performance Pieces

Attainment BandAssessment
Criteria Not Met
PassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0–1112–1415–1718–20
Grade DescriptorInsecure basic
techniques

Inconsistent
awareness of rhythm

Inability to maintain
pitch and/or pulse
accurately
Generally secure basic
techniques

Awareness of rhythm
some of the time

Basic ability to play
with accuracy, pitch
and pulse some of
the time
Mostly secure basic
techniques

Awareness of rhythm
most of the time

Basic ability to play
with accuracy, pitch
and pulse most of
the time
Consistently secure
basic techniques

Awareness of rhythm
throughout

Basic ability to play
with accuracy, pitch
and pulse consistently

Technical Exercises

Attainment BandAssessment
Criteria Not Met
PassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0–8 9–1011–1213–15
Grade DescriptorInability to maintain
pitch, pulse or rhythm
accurately

Inability to recall
musical and rhythmic
phrases accurately
Basic ability to play
with accuracy, pitch,
rhythm and pulse
some of the time

Ability to recall musical
and rhythmic phrases
some of the time
Basic ability to play
with accuracy, pitch,
rhythm and pulse
most of the time

Ability to recall musical
and rhythmic phrases
most of the time
Basic ability to play
with accuracy, pitch,
rhythm and pulse
consistently

Ability to recall
musical and rhythmic
phrases consistently

Ear Tests

Attainment BandAssessment
Criteria Not Met
PassMeritDistinction
Mark Range05-67-89-10
Grade Descriptor Incorrect responses
Generally correct
responses
Mostly correct
responses
Consistently correct
responses

Supporting Tests (Sight Reading or Improvisation/Interpretation)

Attainment BandAssessment
Criteria Not Met
PassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-567-89-10
Grade DescriptorInsecure ability to read
basic notation

OR Inability to
improvise rhythm,
harmony and melody
Generally secure
ability to read basic
rhythmic, harmonic
and melodic notation

OR Generally secure
ability to improvise
basic rhythm, harmony
and melody
Mostly secure ability
to read basic rhythmic,
harmonic and melodic
notation

OR Mostly secure
ability to improvise
basic rhythm, harmony
and melody
Consistently secure
ability to read basic
rhythmic, harmonic
and melodic notation

OR Consistently
secure ability to
improvise basic
rhythm, harmony
and melody

Supporting Tests (General Musicianship Questions)

Attainment BandAssessment
Criteria Not Met
PassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0–2 correct responses 3 correct responses 4 correct responses 5 correct responses

Additional Information

The Value of RSL Qualifications

RSL advocates an open access approach to qualifications, providing a range of syllabi, designed to accommodate a wide variety of candidates of different ages, experience and levels of achievement. RSL awards qualifications that are listed on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) in England and Northern Ireland by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual). RSL is committed to maintaining and improving its reputation for excellence by providing high quality education and training through its syllabi, examinations, music and resources.

UCAS Points

For students applying for work or University, many potential employers see graded music exams in a very positive way. Recognised qualifications demonstrate an ability to dedicate commitment to extra–curricular activities, providing evidence of versatility which many students find beneficial within UCAS (Universities & Colleges Admissions Service) applications and for university entrance interviews. Our qualifications carry allocated points on the UCAS tariff.

Selecting Free Choice Pieces (FCP’s)

For all examinations, candidates are able to play a number of Free Choice Pieces.

Free Choice Pieces must demonstrate a comparable level of technical and musical demand to the pieces given in the set selections in the grade books which can be referred to as an indication of appropriate level.

Free choice pieces must be in a modern popular genre such as Pop, Rock, Jazz, Country, Blues, Soul, Reggae, Film and Musical Theatre. Own compositions are also acceptable.

Pieces should be selected carefully to ensure that the pieces provide suitable opportunity for candidates to demonstrate the relevant assessment criteria. Candidates are reminded that if a chosen Free Choice Piece does not meet these requirements this may impact on the level of achievement possible within the examination.

All pieces must be performed to a backing track (without the examined part on the track) except in case where pieces have been selected from previous Rockschool syllabi and do not have backing track or have been specifically arranged by Rockschool as solo pieces.

Instrument Specification

Candidates are reminded that it is their responsibility to select and provide an appropriate musical instrument for each syllabus to allow demonstration of the relevant stylistic and technical skills within their performance. At all levels of examination, if any outcomes or assessed criteria cannot be demonstrated or are demonstrated less securely as a result of the equipment, this may be reflected in the marks awarded.

General Information

Download the Acoustic Syllabus

Acoustic Syllabus (239KB, .pdf)

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Dates & Fees

Next exam period:

01 February 19 - 31 March 19

Next Closing Date

15 January 19

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Exam Fee

£40.00

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