Drums Grade 7

The Grade 7 Drum exam is for candidates who have developed advanced technical control and have a thorough grasp of extended stylistic techniques. At Grade 7 this is shown through mature stylistic conviction, execution of rhythmic complexity, mature and creative stylistic solo and improvisation work as well as a commanding sense of communication and performance. There are two types of exam available at Grade 7, Grade Exam or Performance Certificate.

Exam time

Grade Exam: 30 minutes (approx.)
Performance Certificate: 23 minutes (approx.)

Key Features at: Grade 7

  • Broken 16th-­note rolls, 32nd­-note rolls, ‘Amen Break'
  • Single strokes developed, paradiddle­-diddles, Pataflafla, single and double ratamacues, 7­ and 9­-stroke rolls, Stylistic Studies
  • Playback and performance skills

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 Grade 7 the pieces last up to a maximum of 3 minutes 10 seconds. The pieces are over four pages. Emphasis is on notation accuracy, commanding execution of stylistic techniques and technical control, mature and creative solo and improvisation elements and a clear sense of ownership and communication of the music through performance.

Rockschool Repertoire:

  • Razorhead
  • Buena Havana
  • The Bean
  • Eastern Adventure
  • Full English Breckerfest
  • Kita's Five

Technical Exercises

At Grade 7 there are seven 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 - Single and Double Strokes

Tempo: 65 bpm

Single strokes in quarter notes, eighth notes, eighth-note triplets, 16th notes, quintuplet 16th notes, sextuplet 16th notes, septuplet 16th notes and 32nd notes

GROUP B - Paradiddles

Tempo: 80 bpm

Flam paradiddle in 16th notes and paradiddle-diddle in sextuplets with accents on toms

GROUP C - Flams

Tempo: 80 bpm

Pataflafla

GROUP D - Ratamacues

Tempo: 80 bpm

Single and double ratamacues

GROUP E - Rolls

Tempo: 85 bpm

Seven stroke roll phrase. Nine stoke roll phrase with accents on toms

GROUP F - Stylistic Studies

You will prepare a technical study from one group of styles from the list below. Your choice of style will determine the style of the Quick Study Piece.

  • Rock/Metal: bell of ride 7/8 pattern, five stroke roll
  • Funk: linear funk, nine stroke roll
  • Jazz/Latin/Blues: bell of ride 6/8 pattern, splashed hi-hats

Supporting Tests

Quick Study Piece

At grade 7 you will be asked to prepare and play a Quick Study Piece. The style of your QSP is determined by the stylistic study you selected in the technical exercise section. You will be shown the test and played the track with the notated parts played. Any bars that require improvisation will not be demonstrated. You will then have three minutes to study the test. The backing track will be played twice more. You are allowed to practice during the first run through of the backing track, with the notated parts now absent, before playing it to the examiner on the second playing of the backing track. The QSP is in the form of a lead sheet and it is up to you to create your own interpretation of the music in the parts marked for improvisation.

Ear Tests

Fill Playback and Recognition

Tempo: 70 bpm

The examiner will play you a one bar fill played on the snare drum with a metronome backing. You will hear the test twice. The test will be made up of all values and combinations from quarter note to sixteenth note sextuplet and quarter, eighth and sixteenth note rests. Each time the test is played it is preceded by a one bar count-in. There will be a short gap for you to practice. Next, you will hear a vocal count-in and you will then play the fill back with the metronome backing. The candidate will then be required to identify the test from three printed examples.

Groove Recall

Tempo: 80-140 bpm

The examiner will play you a two bar groove that is repeated played on the whole kit with a metronome backing. You will hear the test twice. Each time the test is played it is preceded by a one bar count-in. There will be a short gap for you to practice. Next you will hear a vocal count-in and you will then play the groove back with the metronome backing. You will then be required to identify the style of the groove from a set of four listed by the examiner.

General Musicianship Questions 

Music Knowledge

The examiner will ask you four music knowledge questions based on a piece of music that you have played in the exam. You will nominate the piece of music about which the questions will be asked.

In Grade 7 you will be asked to explain:

  • Any notation used in the chosen piece
  • Any dynamic marking found in the piece
  • What makes the drum groove stylistically appropriate
  • Use of drum voices, rhythms and techniques in drum solo sections

Instrument Knowledge

The examiner will also ask you one question regarding your instrument.

In Grade 7 you will be asked to explain and demonstrate:

  • Care and maintenance of drums
  • How to tune the drum kit according to the style of one of the pieces played
  • How to convincingly produce: cross stick, choke cymbal, bell of ride, rim-shots, ghost notes, half open hi-hat, accents

Assessment Criteria

Performance Pieces

Attainment BandAssessment Criteria Not MetPassMerit Distinction
Mark Range0-1112-1415-1718-20
Grade Descriptor• Incomplete performance
• No attempt
• Advanced techniques hesitant and/or incorrect
• Rhythm/pulse mostly inaccurate
• Notation/harmonic work hesitant and/or incorrect
• Stylistic direction hesitant and/or incorrect
• Solo/improv limited in stylistic understanding
• Sync largely not achieved
• Hesitant in understanding of musical structure
• Communicating of stylistic performance not achieved
• Some advanced techniques shown
• Generally secure rhythm/pulse
• Notation/harmonic accuracy observed
• Some stylistic direction observed
• Solo/improv with some stylistic conviction
• Sync evident
• General understanding of musical structure
• Some sense of communication through stylistic performance
• Secure advanced techniques overall
• Secure rhythm/pulse overall
• Detailed notation/harmonic accuracy observed overall
• Stylistic direction observed overall
• Convincing and stylistic solo/improv overall
• Mainly synchronised
• Secure understanding of complete musical structure
• Good sense of communication through stylistic performance
• Consistent and secure advanced techniques
• Consistent rhythm/pulse
• Notation / harmonic accuracy detailed throughout
• Stylistic direction detailed throughout
• Advanced solo/improv with stylistic conviction
• Consistent sync
• Comprehensive understanding of complete musical structure
• Convincing communication through stylistic performance

Technical Exercises

Attainment BandAssessment Criteria Not MetPassMerit Distinction
Mark Range0-89-1011-1213-15
Grade Descriptor• Incomplete performance
• No attempt
• Advanced techniques hesitant and/or incorrect
• Rhythm/pulse mostly inaccurate
• Notation/harmonic work hesitant and/or incorrect
• Stylistic direction hesitant and/or incorrect
• Solo/improv limited in stylistic understanding
• Sync largely not achieved
• Hesitant in understanding of musical structure
• Communicating of stylistic performance not achieved
• Some advanced techniques shown
• Generally secure rhythm/pulse
• Notation/harmonic accuracy observed
• Some stylistic direction observed
• Solo/improv with some stylistic conviction
• Sync evident
• General understanding of musical structure
• Some sense of communication through stylistic performance
• Secure advanced techniques overall
• Secure rhythm/pulse overall
• Detailed notation/harmonic accuracy observed overall
• Stylistic direction observed overall
• Convincing and stylistic solo/improv overall
• Mainly synchronised
• Secure understanding of complete musical structure
• Good sense of communication through stylistic performance
• Consistent and secure advanced techniques
• Consistent rhythm/pulse
• Notation / harmonic accuracy detailed throughout
• Stylistic direction detailed throughout
• Advanced solo/improv with stylistic conviction
• Consistent sync
• Comprehensive understanding of complete musical structure
• Convincing communication through stylistic performance

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.

Guitar Syllabus

Get a copy of the Debut - Grade 8 syllabus:

Drums Syllabus (1.5MB, .pdf)

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Dates & Fees

Next exam period:

01 February 18 - 31 March 18

Next Closing Date

01 April 18

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Exam Fee

£80.00

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