Electric Guitar Debut

The Debut Guitar 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

  • Chords, power chords, string crossing and rests
  • Major and Minor Pentatonic scales, chords and riff playing
  • Playback and performance skills

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The Guitar Debut book contains everything you need to sit your Debut exam - in one essential book. It's packed with essential techniques and theory for beginners picking up the fundamentals of guitar.

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Rockschool Electic Guitar Debut

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 performance 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, values, sound, control and sync. The pieces contain simple position work and work across strings is simple and paced.

Rockschool Guitar '18

  • Jimi Hendrix - Hey Joe
  • Bill Withers - Ain't No Sunshine
  • Ben E. King - Stand By Me
  • Adele - Hello
  • Muddy Waters - Hoochie Coochie Man
  • Sam Smith - Stay With Me

Rockschool Originals

  • Another Dime
  • 101
  • Beat the Mersey
  • Helicopter
  • Cashville
  • Spike

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

Sight Reading

At Debut you will be offered a previously unseen Sight Reading test that is in the form of a four bar rhythm played on the lowest-sounding E string. An example is shown in the Debut grade book.

The test is made up of half and quarter notes, will be in 4/4. The examiner will allow 90 seconds preparation and practice time and will offer the option of practicing with or without a metronome. The candidate will then perform the test for the examination.

Ear Tests

There are two tests which are: Melodic Recall and Rhythmic Recall.

Melodic Recall

The examiner will play you two half notes one after the other. You will tell the examiner whether the second note is higher or lower in pitch than the first note.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

The examiner will play you a two bar rhythm played to a drum backing on the lowest-sounding 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 practice. Next you will hear a vocal count-in and you will then play the rhythm to the drum backing.

General Musicianship Questions

 In this par t of the exam you will be asked five questions. Four of these questions will be about general music knowledge and the fifth question will be asked about your instrument.

Music Knowledge: For this section of the exam the candidate chooses the
piece to answer 5 questions on. The examiner will ask you four music knowledge questions and one instrument knowledge question.
In Debut you will be asked to identify:

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

Instrument Knowledge

In Debut you will be asked to identify:

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

Guitar QMQ Sample (137KB, .pdf)

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.

Electric Guitar Syllabus

Get a copy of the Debut - Grade 8 syllabus

Guitar Syllabus (1.3MB, .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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