Music Production Grade 4

The Grade 4 Music Production exam is for candidates who have a detailed understanding of modern music production.

Exam Time

120 minutes

Key Features at: Grade 4

  • Music Production Theory
  • Listening Skills
  • Practical Skills

Buy Your Book

The Rockschool Music Production Grade 4 book contains everything you need to pass your Grade 4 exam in one essential book, featuring a diverse range of production techniques, highly relevant technical DAW skills, and the fundamental music theory needed to succeed in today's industry.


Music Production Grade 4 Book

Exam Structure

The graded examinations in Music Production are assessed via an examination. The examination is divided into the following sections:

A written examination covering knowledge of:

  • Music production terminology
  • Sound and audio fundamentals

A listening test divided into three sections:

  • Sonic fidelity
  • Music theory and harmony
  • Stylistic awareness

A practical assessment divided into two sections:

  • Technical skills
  • Professional scenario

Form of AssessmentAll assessments are carried out by external examiners. Candidates are required to carry out a combination of practical tasks and underpinning theoretical assessment
Unit FormatUnit specifications contain the title, unit code, credit level, credit value, learning outcomes, assessment criteria, grade descriptor, and types of evidence required for the unit.
Bands of AssessmentThere are four bands of assessment (distinction, merit, pass and unclassified) for the qualification as a whole.
Quality AssuranceQuality Assurance ensures that all assessments are carried out to the same standard by objective sampling and re-assessment of candidates’ work. A team of external examiners is appointed, trained and standardised by RSL.

Theoretical Written Exam

This will assess the candidate's knowledge and understanding of the following two sections.

  1. Music Production Terminology

  2. Sound & Audio Fundamentals

At Grade 4 the theory content covered will include subject areas such as describing equipment controls, surround formats, wireless connectivity, backing up files, plugin concepts, stereo microphone techniques, non-linear editing, software instruments, side-chaining and sound propagation.

At Grade 4 candidates will be expected to:

  • Describe the controls on studio equipment, to include threshold, ratio, attack, release, hold, on compressors, gates and expanders
  • Describe sound formats including mono, stereo, 2.1, 5.1, 7.1, quadraphonic
  • Describe the importance of file management and backing up
  • Describe plugins, what they are for, their advantages and formats
  • Describe stereo microphone techniques, to include XY, AB, MS
  • Describe linear and non-linear editing, destructive and non-destructive editing
  • Describe software instruments, their purpose, formats and common uses including synths, samplers and real instrument emulation
  • Describe production techniques to include side-chaining, de-essing, including both dedicated plugins/devices, and using standard equipment to achieve the same result
  • Describe basic acoustic concepts, including how sound travels through air/solids, sound waves, compression/rarefaction

Listening Test

The listening test will present candidates with questions relating to sonic fidelity, music theory and harmony and stylistic awareness. Audio files will be presented to the candidates and questions will relate specifically to the relevant audio file. This will assess the candidate’s ability to hear and interpret:

Sonic Fidelity

Identifying use of compression on instruments and mixes

Music Theory & Harmony

Identifying semi tones and tones and compound time signatures

Stylistic Awareness

Identifying specific genres

At Grade 4 candidates will be expected to:

  • Identify the difference between compressed and uncompressed audio recordings
  • Identify the difference between compressed and uncompressed mixes
  • Identify when a compressor is being controlled by a side-chain
  • Identify semi tones (chromaticism) and whole tones
  • Identify compound time signatures: 6/8 and 12/8
  • Identify common western music genres from a choice of two: country and funk

Candidates are advised to practice these techniques using the mock assessment files available from your secure area.

Practical Assessment

The Practical Assessment is divided into two sections as detailed below.

Technical Skills

The candidate will be asked to complete a series of specified tasks, which must be completed using a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). At Grade 4 the task will centre around use of equalisation (EQ) for corrective / creative purposes.

Professional Scenario

The candidate will be presented with a situation and must choose and implement appropriate technique to resolve the scenario. At Grade 4 the scenario will require candidates to remove unwanted noise from a recording using appropriate techniques, such as manual editing, gating, crossfades.

The completed session files must be appropriately named, saved and shared with your examiner as instructed, including all associated audio files. It is vital that candidates are able to accurately save their work as failure to do so will result in an unclassified mark.

On your exam day, you must bring:

  • 1 x closed headphones with a ¼ inch jack
    (Candidates without their own headphones will be unable to sit the exam)
  • A hard copy of your Music Production syllabus book or your proof of digital purchase

Your exam centre will provide:

  • 1 x computer; running either of the latest two versions of Cubase, Pro Tools, Logic, Ableton Live or GarageBand
    (Please note: GarageBand, Cubase Elements and Cubase LE are only suitable for grades 1 to 5)
  • 1 x midi controller keyboard – minimum 4 octaves, including a sustain pedal and pitch wheel

Assessment Criteria

Learning Outcome
You will:
Assessment Criteria
You can:
1. Understand the key terminology used in modern music production1.1 Demonstrate a knowledge of Grade 4 terminology related to: a. Music production equipment
b. Industry standard formats & protocols
c. Industry standard connectivity d. Digital technology
e. Digital Audio Workstations
2. Understand the fundamentals of sound and audio in relation to modern music production2.1 Demonstrate an understanding of Grade 4 fundamentals related to:
a. Microphone technology and technique
b. Audio recording, editing and processing
c. MIDI & audio programming
d. Audio Technology
e. Acoustics
3. Demonstrate effective listening skills relevant to modern music production3.1 Demonstrate Grade 4 level aural skills in the areas of:
a. Sonic fidelity
b. Music theory
c. Stylistic awareness
4. Demonstrate effective music production technique4.1 Demonstrate skills appropriate to Grade 4 in the areas of:
a. File management
b. Digital Audio Workstation programming
c. Audio mixing

4.2 Demonstrate skills and understanding appropriate to Grade 4 in the areas of:
a. Interpretation of an intermediate level brief b. Music creation or editing
c. File sharin

Please note: candidates are required to achieve a minimum overall mark of 60% in order to achieve a pass. Regardless of the overall mark, candidates must also achieve a minimum of 40% in every part (part A, B & C), therefore demonstrating a knowledge and understanding of every learning outcome.

Grading Criteria

Part A: Terminology and Fundamentals

Attainment BandUnclassifiedPassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-1415-1819-2021-25
Grade DescriptorDemonstrated an understanding of the key terminology used in modern music production and the fundamentals of sound and audio less than 60% of the time.Demonstrated an understanding of the key terminology used in modern music production and the fundamentals of sound and audio between 60% and 74% of the time.Demonstrated an understanding of the key terminology used in modern music production and the fundamentals of sound and audio between 75% and 84% of the timeDemonstrated an understanding of the key terminology used in modern music production and the fundamentals of sound and audio more than 84% of the time.

Part B: Listening Skills

Assessment BandUnclassified PassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-89-1011-1213-15
Grade DescriptorDemonstrated effective listening skills relevant to modern music production less than 60% of the time.Demonstrated effective listening skills relevant to modern music production between 60% and 74% of the time.Demonstrated effective listening skills relevant to modern music production between 75% and 84% of the time.Demonstrated effective listening skills relevant to modern music production more than 84% of the time.

Part C: Technical Skills & Professional Scenario

Attainment BandUnclassifiedPassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-3536-4445-5051-60
Grade DescriptorDemonstrated effective music production technique in less than 60% of the practical tasksDemonstrated effective music production technique in between 60% and 74% of the practical tasks.Demonstrated effective music production technique in between 75% and 84% of the practical tasks.Demonstrated effective music production technique in more than 84% of the practical tasks.


Additional Information

Aims and Broad Objectives

The aim of the musical production qualifications is to provide a flexible, progressive mastery approach to the knowledge, skills and understanding required for music production.

RSL’s graded qualifications motivate and encourage candidates of all ages and levels through a system of progressive mastery, enabling candidates to develop and enhance skills, knowledge and understanding in a safe and consistent way. The qualifications are beneficial for candidates wishing to progress at their own pace through smaller steps of achievement.

These qualifications are suitable for candidates in the Under 16, 16+, 16–18, 19+ age groups.


Graded qualifications provide a flexible progression route for candidates. They are a positive means of determining progress and enable candidates to learn the necessary techniques to gain entry to FE and HE courses. Graded qualifications operate according to a well established methodology of ‘progressive mastery’. They allow candidates to be tested in discrete stages in the development of a wide range of skills. They tend to be more rigorous than other types of exams and for that reason industry is confident that achievement at the highest level gained by candidates of graded qualifications will have the skills necessary to work in other areas of the business.

Qualification Structure

A graded qualification consists of a range of both practical and knowledge based tasks which are based on detailed requirements outlined in the relevant syllabus. Therefore, requirements for each grade will be set out in detail in the Unit Specifications, and the learning outcomes and assessment criteria for each unit will require knowledge, skills and understanding of these syllabus requirements to be demonstrated at the grade entered.

Entry Requirements

There are no entry requirements for these qualifications. However, candidates should be aware that the content at the higher grades will require a level of knowledge and understanding covered in previous qualifications.

Expectations of Knowledge, Skills and Understanding

The graded examination system is one based on the principle of ‘progressive mastery’: each step in the exam chain demonstrates learning, progression and skills in incremental steps. Successful learning is characterised by a mastery of the fundamentals of the skills demanded in each grade.

Learners will be able to complete a set of practical tasks and be tested on their underpinning knowledge (the complexity and variety of tasks are determined by which qualification is being attempted), which allows them to demonstrate Music Production knowledge, skills and understanding relevant to the grade. These technical skills set a firm platform for further technical and creative development by the learner.

Access and Registration

The qualifications will:

  • be available to everyone who is capable of reaching the required standards
  • be free from any barriers that restrict access and progression
  • offer equal opportunities for all wishing to access
    the qualifications

At the point of application, RSL will ensure that all candidates are fully informed about the requirements and demands of the qualification.

Candidates may enter online for any of the qualifications at various points in the calendar year in territories throughout the world.


Get a copy of the Syllabus Specification:

Music Production Syllabus (1.6MB, .pdf)

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Dates & Fees

Next exam date:

17 March 18 -

Next Closing Date

14 February 18

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