Bass Debut

The Debut Bass exam is for candidates who have been learning a short time and have learnt the basic skills. There are two types of exam available at Debut, Grade Exam or Performance Certificate. Please see the Examinations section for an explanation of the differences.

Exam time

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

Key Features at: Debut

  • Values, string crossing and rests
  • Major scale and Minor Pentatonic major and minor arpeggios, riff playing
  • Playback and performance skills

Buy Your Book

The Bass Debut Grade book is your passport to success for Rockschool's Debut Grade exam. It covers all the core techniques required for playing beginner rock, pop, metal, country, indie and hip hop basslines.

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Rockschool Bass Book Grade Debut

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

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

At Debut the pieces last up to a maximum of 1 minute. This is so the candidate can remain focused and concentrate on the basic requirements of notation, control and sync. The pieces contain simple position work and work across strings is simple and paced. 

Rockschool Bass '18

  • Ray Charles - Hit The Road
  • Booker T & the M.G.'s - Green Onions
  • B.B. King - The Thrill is Gone
  • Dua Lipa - New Rules 
  • Ed Sheeran - Shape of You

Rockschool Originals

  • The New Black
  • Eat Your Greens
  • Z
  • The Drifter
  • Coraline
  • Talking In My Sleep

Technical Exercises

At Grade 1 there are three groups of technical work. The examiner will ask a selection from each group and before you start the section you will be asked whether you would like to play the exercises along with the click or hear a single bar of click before you commence the test.

GROUP A - Scales

  • Major: E, A, G
  • Natural minor: E, A, G
  • Minor pentatonic: E, A, G
  • Major pentatonic: E, A, G

GROUP B - Arpeggios

  • Major: E, A, G
  • Minor: E, A, G

GROUP C - Riff

Tempo: 70 bpm

In the exam, you will be asked to play the riff from the Grade 1 book to a backing track. 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 

Key: A minor
Tempo: 70 bpm

At Grade 1 the sight reading test is in the form of a melody consisting of half and quarter notes in 4/4. The test is 4 bars long. The examiner will allow 90 seconds preparation and practice time and will offer the option of practising with or without a metronome. The candidate will then perform the test for the examination.

Improvisation & Interpretation

Key: C major or A minor
Tempo: 70-80 bpm

At Grade 1 the test is 4 bars long and the candidate will have 30 seconds preparation time. The examiner will offer the metronome as a guide or throughout this time. The candidate will then have a complete practice run through with the backing track and then on the repeat, the test will be examined.

Ear Tests

Melodic Recall

Tempo: 85 bpm

The examiner will play you three notes in sequence. You will tell the examiner whether the second note is higher or lower in pitch than the first note and whether the third note is higher or lower than the second. You will hear the test twice. Each time the test is played it is preceded by a one bar vocal count-in. Answers can be ‘higher/lower’ or ‘up/down’.

Rhythmic Recall

Key: Low E string
Tempo: 90 bpm

The examiner will play you a two bar rhythm played to a drum backing on the E string. You will hear the test twice. You will be asked to play the rhythm back. You will then be asked to identify the rhythm from two printed examples shown to you.

Each time the test is played it is preceded by a one bar count-in. There will be a short gap for you to practise. Next, you will hear a vocal count-in and you will then play the rhythm to the drum backing.

General Musicianship Questions 

General Musician Questions are included to test your musical understanding and further instrumental knowledge. The five questions are broken down as follows:

  • Four questions on the piece, including clef, stave and TAB, ½ and ¼-note values
  • One question on your instrument and parts of the bass

These files are extracts from Rockschool's Companion Guides for Bass Book.

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.

Bass Syllabus

Get a copy of the Debut - Grade 8 syllabus:

Bass Syllabus (1.4MB, .pdf)

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Dates & Fees

Next exam period:

23 October 18 - 15 December 18

Next Closing Date

15 January 19

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Exam Fee

£38.00

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