Keyboard Grade 6

The Grade 6 Keys exam is for candidates who have been typically learning in the region of four or more years and who have reached the first stage of advanced level playing. They have mastered the key skills up to Grade 5 and have since developed appropriate technique, expressive devices, rhythmic complexity, co-ordination and musical understanding.

Candidates will have an increased extent of individuality and enhanced stylistic awareness. There will be good understanding of form and structure with clear musical communication. Grade 6 introduces multiple patch switching, solos, layers and multiple splits, advanced specialist styles and techniques.

Exam Times

Grade Exam: 30 minutes (approx.)
Performance Certificate: 25 minutes (approx.)

Key Features at: Grade 6

  • Performance Pieces
  • Technical Exercises
  • Supporting Tests

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The essential syllabus for the aspiring, contemporary keyboard player. Keys Grade 6 will provide you with everything you need for your Grade 6 exam, including a diverse range of repertoire, a truly innovative range of supporting tests and a vast array of professionally recorded backing tracks and audio examples.

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Rockschool Keys Grade 6

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 in the grade book can be used for both the Grade Exam and Performance Certificate. At Grade 6 they are longer, typically in the region of two and a half to three minutes in duration. The expectation and length of pieces are designed so candidates can confidently understand and execute notation accuracy, values, evenness of sound, tone quality/consistency, technical control, articulation, style awareness and sync at an early advanced level. There will be assured presentation of musical structure with clear, convincing expressive communication.

Featured Repertoire:

  • In the End – Linkin Park
  • The Way it is – Bruce Hornsby & The Range
  • He’s a Pirate – Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Living for the City - Stevie Wonder
  • Sledgehammer - Peter Gabriel
  • Ain't Nobody - Rufus & Chaka Khan

Technical Exercises

At Grade 6 there are four groups of technical work: Scales, Arpeggios, Chord Voicings and technical studies.

  • Candidates must prepare both natural minor and harmonic minor scales
  • Major scales, minor scales, chromatic scales and arpeggios need to be played hands together, in straight or swung feel, ascending and descending, across four octaves (except contrary motion scales, pentatonics, lydian dominant and locrian modes, which must be played over two octaves, and extended arpeggios which are one octave only)
  • Groups A, B and C (scales, arpeggios and chords) need to be played from memory. You may use your book for Group D (technical studies)

The examiner will ask for a selection from groups A, B and C. Candidates can prepare the technical study of their choice from group D.

Groups A and B need to be performed to a metronome click. Group C can be performed at a tempo of the candidate’s choice, but the examiner will be looking for the speed of response. The chosen technical study from Group D needs to be performed to a backing track.

Note: the use of any notes or any reading from the grade book during the technical exercises will result in a deduction of overall marks for this section. (See Assessment Criteria).

Any fingerings shown in the grade book are for suggestions only.

GROUP A - Scales

Tempo: 152 bpm
Octave range: 4 octaves (except contrary motion scales, pentatonics, lydian dominant and locrian modes – 2 octaves)
Rhythms: Eighth notes, finishing on a quarter note.

  • F # major
  • F# major (contrary motion)
  • Gb major
  • Gb major (contrary motion)
  • D# natural minor
  • Eb natural minor
  • D# harmonic minor
  • Eb harmonic minor
  • F# major pentatonic
  • Gb major pentatonic
  • D#minor pentatonic
  • Eb minor pentatonic
  • C lydian dominant
  • C locrian
  • Chromatic scale (starting on any black key stated by examiner)

GROUP B - Arpeggios

Tempo: 100 bpm
Time Signature: 3/4, 4/4
Octave range: 4 octaves (except extended arpeggios - 2 octaves).
Rhythms: 3/4: Eighth notes, finishing on a dotted half. 4/4: Eighth notes, finishing on a half note.

  • F# major arpeggio
  • Gb major arpeggio
  • D# minor arpeggio
  • Eb minor arpeggio
  • G7 arpeggio
  • F7 arpeggio
  • C#dim7 arpeggio
  • C 13#11 arpeggio
  • C7#5#9 arpeggio

GROUP C - Chord Voicings

Candidates will be asked to play one of the following chordal exercises, chosen by the examiner:

  • Cmaj13
  • C13
  • Cminor13

Candidates will be asked to play one of the chord exercises from memory. The examiner will state the chord type/exercise. This test is performed in free time (without backing track or click), but the examiner will be looking for the speed of your response.

Group D: Technical Studies
Candidates will be required to perform one technical study of their choice to the backing track.

Supporting Tests

At Grade 6 candidates will be offered the choice between Sight Reading or Improvisation and Interpretation. Both are previously unseen and examples of each are given in the grade book.

Sight Reading

Key: Gb major or F# major
Tempo: 60–130 bpm
Time Signature: Simple or compound
Rhythms: Whole, dotted half, half, dotted quarter, quarter, eighth, sixteenth notes, associated rests. Eighth, quarter, sixteenth note ties

The sight reading test is in the form of a 12–16 bar example in the key of either Gb major or F# major.

You will first be given 90 seconds to practise, after which the examiner will play the backing track twice. The first time is for you to practise and the second time is for you to perform the final version for the exam. For each playthrough, the backing track will begin with a one bar count-in. The tempo is 60–130 bpm.

During the practice time, you will be given the choice 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 and Interpretation

Key: Gb major or F# major
Tempo: 60–130 bpm
Time Signature: 3/4, 4/4

The Improvisation test is in the form of a 8–16 bar chord progression with all chord symbols indicated.

Candidates are required to improvise melodies and chordal comping between left hand and right hand, in any way they wish, interpreting the chord progression and backing track given in the exam.

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. For each playthrough, the backing track will begin with a one bar count-in.

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

At Grade 6 there are two ear tests: Melodic Recall and Harmonic Recall. Both are previously unseen and an example of each is shown in the grade book.

Melodic Recall

Key: C major
Tempo: 95bpm
Time Signature: 4/4
Rhythms: Half, quarter, eighth notes.

The examiner will play a 2 bar diatonic melody in the key of C major, with a range up to an octave.

There will be a C root note at the beginning of the test, then the melody will be played twice. After this, candidates need to play the melody back to a metronome click. Both playings of the melody and the metronome backing for the exam version will be preceded by a one bar count-in.

The first note of the melody will be either the root or fifth.

It is acceptable for candidates to play over the track as the test is being played and there will be 10 seconds to practise after the second playing. The piano can be used to assist at any time prior to being counted in to perform the exam version.

Note: the 10 seconds is pre-recorded on the audio track so the count-in for the exam version may begin while candidates are still practising.

Harmonic Recall

Key: C major
Tempo: 95bpm
Time Signature: 4/4
Rhythms: Whole, half notes

The examiner will play a chord progression containing chords I, II, III, IV, V, VI in any order or combination in the key of C major, including seventh chords. Candidates will hear the test twice, then play the chords back to a metronome click. Both playings of the initial test and the metronome backing for the exam version will be preceded by a one bar count-in.

Note: there is no requirement for the chords to be voicing specific but the diatonic progression needs to be correct.

It is acceptable for candidates to play over the track as the test is being played and there will be 10 seconds to practise after the second playing. The piano can be used to assist at any time prior to being counted in to perform the exam version.

Note: the 10 seconds is pre-recorded on the audio track so the count-in for the exam version may begin while candidates are still practising.

General Musicianship Questions (GMQ'S)

At Grade 6 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.

The questions will cover the following topics:

Group 1: Harmony
Appropriate modes which can be played over maj7 / min7 / dom7 / sus4 / 9sus4 / maj9# chords.

Group 2: Melody
Interval of any note relative to the chord symbol.

Group 3: Rhythm
Whole, half, quarter, eighth, sixteenth, thirty-second notes, any dotted notes, triplets, any associated rests up to one crotchet length.

Group 4: Technical
Fingering used to play the 3rd//5th/7th/9th/11th note of a chord.

Group 5: Genre
Melodic / harmonic / rhythmic devices indicative of the genre chosen.

Assessment Criteria

Performance Pieces

Attainment BandDistinctionMeritPassBelow PassBelow Pass 2
Mark Range18–2015–1712–146–110–5
Command of InstrumentConsistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughoutMostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overallSome clear production of sound and generally even tone qualitySound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone producedNo attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or PulsePerformance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintainedNo attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understandingall of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills demonstrated throughout.

Understanding of musical structure shown all of the time.
Most of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills demonstrated overall.

Understanding of musical structure shown most of the time.
Some of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills generally demonstrated.

Understanding of musical structure shown some of the time.
Written music not accurately performed or equivalent skills not demonstrated.

Understanding of musical structure not evidenced.
No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Style & ExpressionConsistently convincing projection of the music.Mostly convincing projection of the music.Some convincing projection of the music.Music not convincingly projected.No attempt and/or incomplete performance

Technical Exercises

Attainment BandDistinction MeritPassBelow PassBelow Pass 2
Mark Range13–1511–129–104–80–3
Command of InstrumentConsistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughoutMostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overallSome clear production of sound and generally even tone qualitySound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone producedNo attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or PulsePerformance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintainedNo attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understandingall of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills demonstrated throughout.

Understanding of musical structure shown all of the time.
Most of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills demonstrated overall.

Understanding of musical structure shown most of the time.
Some of the written music accurately performed or equivalent
skills generally demonstrated.

Understanding of musical structure shown some of the time.
Written music not accurately performed or equivalent skills not demonstrated.

Understanding of musical structure not evidenced.
No attempt and/or incomplete performance

Ear Tests

Attainment BandDistinction MeritPassBelow PassBelow Pass 2
Mark Range9–107–863–50–2
Accuracy & UnderstandingAll of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills demonstrated throughout.

Understanding of musical structure shown all of the time.
Most of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills demonstrated overall.

Understanding of musical structure shown most of the time.
Some of the written music accurately performed or equivalent
skills generally demonstrated.

Understanding of musical structure shown some of the time.
Written music not accurately performed or equivalent skills not demonstrated.

Understanding of musical structure not evidenced.
No attempt and/or incomplete performance

Supporting Tests

Attainment BandDistinction MeritPassBelow PassBelow Pass 2
Mark Range9–107–863–50–2
Command of InstrumentConsistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughoutMostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overallSome clear production of sound and generally even tone qualitySound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone producedNo attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or PulsePerformance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintainedNo attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & UnderstandingAll of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills demonstrated throughout.

Understanding of musical structure shown all of the time.
Most of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills demonstrated overall.

Understanding of musical structure shown most of the time.
Some of the written music accurately performed or equivalent
skills generally demonstrated.

Understanding of musical structure shown some of the time.
Written music not accurately performed or equivalent skills not demonstrated.

Understanding of musical structure not evidenced.
No attempt and/or incomplete performance

General Musicianship Questions

Attainment BandDistinction MeritPassBelow PassBelow Pass 2
Mark Range5 correct responses4 correct responses3 correct responses2 correct responses0–1 correct responses

Performance Certificate

Attainment BandDistinctionMeritPassBelow PassBelow Pass 2
Mark Range18–2015–1712–146–110–5
Command of InstrumentConsistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughoutMostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overallSome clear production of sound and generally even tone qualitySound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone producedNo attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or PulsePerformance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintainedPerformance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintainedNo attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & UnderstandingAll of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills demonstrated throughout.

Understanding of musical structure shown all of the time.
Most of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills demonstrated overall.

Understanding of musical structure shown most of the time.
Some of the written music accurately performed or equivalent skills generally demonstrated.

Understanding of musical structure shown some of the time.
Written music not accurately performed or equivalent skills not demonstrated.

Understanding of musical structure not evidenced.
No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Style & ExpressionConsistently convincing projection of the music.Mostly convincing projection of the music.Some convincing projection of the music.Music not convincingly projected.No attempt and/or incomplete performance

Additional Information

Free Choice Pieces 

For all Keys grades, candidates are able to play a number of free choice pieces in the examination:

  • Grade Examinations: Two Free Choice Pieces (at least one piece must  be from the grade book)
  • Performance Certificates: Three Free Choice Pieces (at least two pieces must be from the grade book)

Click here for grade specific Free Choice Criteria and wider requirements which need to be observed in full to be eligible for use in the exam. Prior approval is not required but any deviation/simplification/omissions from any aspect of the criteria or requirements may be reflected in the marks awarded.

All pieces must be performed to a backing track (without the examined part on the track) except in cases where pieces have been selected from previous Rockschool syllabi and do not have a backing track.

If there is any doubt or questions about the appropriateness of the chosen piece, please contact us directly and we will advise.-->

Notation

All notated work is to be played as written. There should be no changes or arrangement (unless previously agreed with Rockschool). Each piece is specifically written/presented carefully to achieve a number of outcomes appropriate for the grade.

Exclusions:

  • At Debut and Grade 1, if any three or four voiced chords notated in the pieces are unachievable, candidates may either reduce the amount of notes in the voicing or play as a spread chord if stylistically appropriate.
  • At all grades, if any two handed/open voiced chords notated in the pieces are not achievable, candidates may either reduce
    the amount of notes in the voicing or play as a spread chord if stylistically appropriate.
  • At all grades, candidates are free to execute voiced chords notated in the pieces with either hand or combination of hands.
  • In any Level 3 piece containing chord symbols, voicings may be presented as deemed appropriate.

Musical Interpretation

For all piano grades, Rockschool encourages individual musicality, articulation, expression and use of dynamics when performing. This would include for example own legato/staccato, pedalling, dynamic levels, accentuation, cresc.../dim, phrasing etc. This also applies anywhere in the exam, whether within a performance piece or any other prepared/unprepared element.

Note: Where there is notated articulation, expression, dynamic or pedal markings, these have been specifically written and must be observed.

Using Own Equipment

Candidates must bring their own keyboard and appropriate stand for use in the exam, plus any additional required equipment
(i.e. power supply, sustain pedal).
The keyboards must fit the following criteria:

  • Debut: Minimum of four octaves/49 keys, touch sensitive, sprung or weighted keys and a sustain pedal.
  • Grade 1 – 5: Minimum of five octaves/61 keys (unless chosen repertoire/technical facility of keyboard demands a wider range), touch sensitive, sprung or weighted keys and a sustain pedal. Please note that octave transposition facilities may be required from grade 4 upwards.
  • Grades 6 – 8: 88 keys, touch sensitive, sprung or weighted keys and a sustain pedal.

Any keyboard instrument with multiple voice/timbre options and the facility to store and manipulate settings according to the level will be appropriate for the Rockschool Keys exams. Alternatively, MIDI keyboard and laptop set ups may also be used. Please note, a realistic piano sound will need to be used for any piano arrangement pieces.

In addition, it is recommended that keyboard instruments or laptop/MIDI keyboard setups have the following functions:

Debut (entry Level 3) & Grades 1–3 (Level 1)

  • single patch settings and registrations
  • Basic layering (e.g. piano/pad)
  • pitch bend/modulation (grade 2 upwards)

Note: octave transposition facilities for smaller keyboards may be required, depending on repertoire selection.

Level 2 (Grades 4–5)

  • Multiple patch settings and registrations
  • Layers
  • Splits
  • Octave transposition facilities
  • Pitch bend/modulation

Level 3 (Grades 6-8)

  • Multiple patch settings and registrations
  • Multiple layering
  • Multiple splits
  • Octave transposition facilities
  • Pitch bend/modulation

Please note, digital pianos may not have the full range of functions available to take a keyboard exam.

For further information, please email info@rslawards.com

Rockschool recommends that candidates contact their exam centre to make any practical arrangements beforehand and also bring their own assistance to carry the equipment in/out of the exam room.

Own equipment needs to be practicable and reasonably portable so as not to impact on exam timings.

Note also that if any outcomes required at a particular grade either cannot be demonstrated or are demonstrated less securely as a result of the equipment, this may be reflected in the marks awarded.

Candidates cannot use either pre-programmed backing tracks or internally generated, pre-programmed rhythms.

Making Notes in the Exam

It is not permitted to make any notes at any time during the exam.

With the exception of Technical Exercises where memory requirements apply, it is permitted to use grade books which contain notes made during the course of a candidate’s study.

For General Musicianship Questions, the examiner may use his or her version of the selected piece as the basis to ask the questions if such notes contained on the candidate’s version are deemed sufficiently extensive or might assist the candidate when answering the questions.

Keyboard Syllabus

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Keyboard Syllabus

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