Acoustic Guitar Debut

The Debut Acoustic exam is for candidates who have been learning a short time and have developed elementary skills, techniques, co-ordination and musical understanding. There are two types of exam available at Debut, either a Grade Exam or Performance Certificate.

At Acoustic Guitar Debut you will be examined on your choice of three performance pieces from artists such as The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Lumineers.

Exam Times

Grade Exam: 15 minutes (approx.)
Performance Certificate: 14 minutes (approx.)

Key Features at: Debut

  • Performance Pieces
  • Technical Exercises
  • Supporting Tests

Buy Your Book

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 The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Lumineers.

VISIT THE STORE

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 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 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:

  • Bob Dylan – Knockin' On Heaven's Door
  • Bill Withers – Ain't No Sunshine
  • Jason Mraz – I'm Yours
  • The Lumineers – Ho Hey
  • The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby
  • Ben E. King – Stand By Me

Technical Exercises

At Debut there are three groups of technical work: Scales, Chords and Acoustic Riff.

All exercises need to be played in straight feel, in the keys, octaves and tempos shown. Candidates may use their book during the exam for all groups.

Group A needs to be played to a click. The examiner will play the click at the given tempo and candidates should begin to play after four clicks.

Group B is played as a continuous sequence, with each chord announced by the examiner.

Group C is played to a backing track.

GROUP A – Scales
Tempo: 65bpm
Rhythms: Quarter Notes
Range: One octave

  • C major
  • E minor pentatonic
  • A minor pentatonic

GROUP B – Chords
Open position chords. Individual chords will be strummed once as directed by the examiner.

  • Major: A, D, C G
  • Minor: Am, Em

GROUP C – Acoustic Riff
The riff shown in bar 1 should be played in the same shape in bars 2–4. The root note of the pattern to be played is shown in the music in each of the subsequent three bars

Supporting Tests

SIGHT READING

At Debut candidates will be offered the choice between Sight Reading or Improvisation & Interpretation. Both are previously unseen and examples of each are given in the grade book.

  • Duration: 4 bars
  • Rhythms: Whole (semibreves), half (minims) and quarter (crotchets)
  • Key: C major
  • Pitches and Instrumental Compass: C&D on the second string
  • Tempo: q=65

Candidates will have 90 seconds to practise after which the examiner will play the backing track twice. The first time is to practise and the second time is to perform the final version for the exam. During the practice time, candidates will be given the option of a metronome click throughout or a one bar count-in at the beginning.

The backing track is continuous so once the first playthrough has finished the count-in of the second playing will start immediately.

IMPROVISATION & INTERPRETATION

  • Duration: 4 bars
  • Key: C major
  • Tempo: q=65
  • Improvisation Requirement: Diatonic single-note melodies only

Candidates will have 90 seconds to practise after which the examiner will play the backing track twice. The first time is to practise and the second time is to perform the final version for the exam. During the practice time, candidates will be given the option of a metronome click throughout or a one bar count-in at the beginning.

The backing track is continuous so once the first playthrough has finished the count-in of the second playing will start immediately.

EAR TESTS

There are two Ear Tests in this grade. The examiner will play each test twice.

Test 1: Melodic Recall

Candidates will hear two half notes one after the other and will be asked whether the second note is higher or lower in pitch than the first note.

The test will be played twice. Each time the test is played it is preceded by a one bar vocal count-in.

The tempo is q=85.

Test 2: Rhythmic Recall

Candidates will hear a two-bar rhythm played to a drum backing on the lowest-sounding E string.

The test will be played twice. Candidates will be asked to play the rhythm back, before identifying the rhythm from two printed examples shown to them by the examiner.

Each time the test is played it is preceded by a one bar count-in. There will be a short gap for candidates to practise. Next candidates will hear a vocal count-in and will then need to play the rhythm to the drum backing. The tempo is q=85.

GENERAL MUSICIANSHIP QUESTIONS

Candidates will be asked five questions. Four of these questions will be about general music knowledge and the fifth question asked will be about the candidate’s instrument.

Music Knowledge

The examiner will ask the candidate four music knowledge questions based on a piece of performed in the exam. Candidates will nominate the piece of music about which the questions will be asked.

In Debut candidates will be asked to identify:

  • The music stave and the TAB
  • The treble clef
  • Half and quarter note values

Instrument Knowledge

The examiner will also ask candidates one question regarding their instrument.

In Debut candidates will be asked to identify:

  • One of the following parts of the guitar: neck, body, tuning-pegs or bridge

 

Assessment Criteria

Performance Pieces

Attainment BandAssessment Criteria Not MetPassMerit Distinction
Mark Range0-1112-1415-1718-20
Grade Descriptor • Incomplete performance
• No attempt
• Basic techniques not shown
• Rhythm/pulse largely
inaccurate
• Notation accuracy largely inaccurate
• Sync not achieved
• Unsure in presentation
• Basic techniques evident
• Rhythm/pulse evident
• Notation accuracy evident
• Sync evident
• Some confidence in presentation
• Secure basic techniques overall
• Secure rhythm/pulse overall
• Notation accuracy observed overall
• Mainly synchronised
• Confident presentation overall
• Consistent and secure basic techniques
• Consistent rhythm/pulse
• Notation accuracy detailed throughout
• Consistent sync
• Highly confident and assured presentation

Technical Exercises

Attainment BandAssessment Criteria Not MetPassMerit Distinction
Mark Range0-89-1011-1213-15
Grade Descriptor • Incomplete performance
• No attempt
• Basic techniques not shown
• Rhythm/pulse largely
inaccurate
• Notation accuracy largely inaccurate
• Sync not achieved
• Unsure in presentation
• Basic techniques evident
• Rhythm/pulse evident
• Notation accuracy evident
• Sync evident
• Some confidence in presentation
• Secure basic techniques overall
• Secure rhythm/pulse overall
• Notation accuracy observed overall
• Mainly synchronised
• Confident presentation overall
• Consistent and secure basic techniques
• Consistent rhythm/pulse
• Notation accuracy detailed throughout
• Consistent sync
• Highly confident and assured presentation

Ear Tests

Attainment Band Assessment Criteria Not MetPassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-567-89-10
Grade Descriptor• No attempt
• Responses not offered
• Notation/pitch largely inaccurate
• Rhythm/pulse largely inaccurate
• Improv/solo largely absent or inappropriate
• Sync largely absent
• Responses vague or incorrect

• Notation/pitch accuracy evident
• Rhythm/pulse evident
• Improv/solo evident and generally appropriate
• Sync evident
• Adequate Responses
• Notation/pitch correct overall
• Secure rhythm/pulse overall
• Improv/Solo convincing overall
• Mainly synchronized
• Accurate responses overall
• Notation/pitch accuracy correct throughout
•Consistent rhythm/pulse
• Convincing improv/solo throughout
• Consistent sync
• Accurate responses

Supporting Tests (Sight Reading OR Improvisation/Interpretation)

Attainment Band Assessment Criteria Not MetPassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-567-89-10
Grade Descriptor• No attempt
• Responses not offered
• Notation/pitch largely inaccurate
• Rhythm/pulse largely inaccurate
• Improv/solo largely absent or inappropriate
• Sync largely absent
• Responses vague or incorrect

• Notation/pitch accuracy evident
• Rhythm/pulse evident
• Improv/solo evident and generally appropriate
• Sync evident
• Adequate Responses
• Notation/pitch correct overall
• Secure rhythm/pulse overall
• Improv/Solo convincing overall
• Mainly synchronized
• Accurate responses overall
• Notation/pitch accuracy correct throughout
•Consistent rhythm/pulse
• Convincing improv/solo throughout
• Consistent sync
• Accurate responses

Supporting Tests (General Musicianship Questions) 

Attainment Band Assessment Criteria Not MetPassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-2345
Grade Descriptor• No attempt
• Responses not offered
• Notation/pitch largely inaccurate
• Rhythm/pulse largely inaccurate
• Improv/solo largely absent or inappropriate
• Sync largely absent
• Responses vague or incorrect

• Notation/pitch accuracy evident
• Rhythm/pulse evident
• Improv/solo evident and generally appropriate
• Sync evident
• Adequate Responses
• Notation/pitch correct overall
• Secure rhythm/pulse overall
• Improv/Solo convincing overall
• Mainly synchronized
• Accurate responses overall
• Notation/pitch accuracy correct throughout
•Consistent rhythm/pulse
• Convincing improv/solo throughout
• Consistent sync
• Accurate 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

For full details on each grade, please download the complete syllabus document below.

ACOUSTIC 2015 SYLLABUS GUIDE (For candidates taking the 2015-2019 Acoustic syllabus within the crossover period (up to Period C 2020))

Acoustic Syllabus (2016 Edition)

ACOUSTIC 2019 SYLLABUS GUIDE (For candidates taking the newest Acoustuc syllabus (Released 2019))

2019 Acoustic Syllabus (760KB, .pdf)

Find a centre

We have exam centres all over the UK. Use the search feature below to find  your closest venue.

Find a centre

Find a teacher

Looking for a teacher in your region? We can help! Find a teacher near you via our extensive online database.

Find a teacher

Dates & Fees

Next exam period:

07 November 19 - 15 December 19

Next Closing Date

23 October 19

View All Exam Dates

Exam Fee

£42.00

View All Exam Fees