Piano & Keyboard Grade 2

The Grade 2 Piano exam is for candidates who have been typically learning for one year to eighteen months. They have mastered the key basic skills up to Grade 1 and since acquired greater use of technique, rhythms, co-ordination and musical understanding. There is also the continuing opportunity to develop improvisation skills.

You will be examined on your choice of Performance Pieces from artists such as Beyonce, Bruno Mars and Coldplay in addition to Rockschool's own compositions.

Exam Times

Grade Exam: 20 minutes (approx.)
Performance Certificate: 15 minutes (approx.)

Key Features at: Grade 2

  • Performance Pieces
  • Technical Exercises
  • Supporting Tests

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The essential syllabus for the aspiring, contemporary pianist. Piano Grade 2 will provide you with everything you need for your Grade 2 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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Piano Grade 2 Cover

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

The pieces in the grade book can be used for both the Grade Exam and Performance Certificate. At Grade 2 they are becoming longer, typically one to two minutes in duration. The expectation and length of pieces are designed so candidates can increase their understanding and execution of notation accuracy, values, evenness of sound, tone quality/consistency, technical control, articulation, expression and sync at a beginner level.

Rockschool Repertoire:

  • Beyonce - Halo
  • Bruno Mars - Just The Way You Are
  • Coldplay - The Scientist

 

Technical Exercises

At Grade 2 there are three groups of technical work: Scales, Arpeggios and Chord Voicings.

All exercises need to be played in straight feel, ascending and descending, hands together (except for the chromatic scales and arpeggios which need to be played hands separately).

The examiner will ask for a selection from each group and Groups A and B need to be played to a compulsory metronome click. Group C does not require a metronome and can be played at a tempo of the candidate’s choice.
The book can be used in the exam for Groups A and B. Group C needs to be played from memory. For Group C, candidates will be required to close their grade books or ensure the information on the App player is out of view.

Note: The use of any notes or any reading from the grade book when performing Group C will result in a deduction of marks for this element. (See Assessment Criteria).

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

GROUP A - Scales

Tempo: 66bpm
Range: Two octaves (chromatic one octave)
Rhythms: Eighth notes, finishing on a quarter note

  • D major
  • Bb major
  • B natural minor
  • G natural minor
  • B harmonic minor
  • G harmonic minor
  • C Mixolydian
  • C melodic minor
  • D chromatic (right hand)
  • D chromatic (left hand)
  • Bb chromatic (right hand)
  • Bb chromatic (left hand)

GROUP B - Arpeggios

Tempo: 63bpm
Time signature: 3/4, 4/4
Rhythms: 3/4: Eighth notes, finishing on a dotted half note. 4/4: Eighth notes, finishing on a whole note.

  • D major arpeggio (right hand)
  • D major arpeggio (left hand)
  • Bb major arpeggio (right hand)
  • Bb major arpeggio (left hand)
  • B minor arpeggio (right hand)
  • B minor arpeggio (left hand)
  • G minor arpeggio (right hand)
  • G minor arpeggio (left hand)
  • C dominant 7th arpeggio (right hand)
  • C dominant 7th arpeggio (left hand)

GROUP C - Chord Voicings

Candidates will be asked to play one voicing of both the following chords (2 total):

  • C dominant 7
  • C minor 6

Candidates need to choose and perform the voicing, one for each chord, from memory, from three options given for each chord in the grade book. The three options comprise right hand, left hand and both hands. In the exam, there will be no need to state which one beforehand.

There will be no requirement to present the chosen voicing to a particular tempo or a backing / metronome click but the examiner will be looking for speed of response.

Supporting Tests

Sight Reading

Key: Bb major or D major
Tempo: 60-95 bpm
Time Signature: 4/4
Rhythms: Whole, dotted half, half, quarter, eighth notes, associated rests.

The Sight Reading test is in the form of a 4-6 bar melody.

Candidates will have 90 seconds to practice after which the examiner will play the backing track twice. The first time is to practice and the second time is to perform the final version for the exam. For each play-through, 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.

Note: It is acceptable for candidates to also ask for additional playing(s) of the backing track to practice during the 90 seconds.

Improvisation & Interpretation

Key: Bb major or D major
Tempo: 60-95 bpm
Time Signature: 4/4

The Improvisation test is in the form of a 4-6 bar chord progression, with all chord symbols indicated.

Candidates are required to improvise single note melodies with either left or right hand. It is permissible to play chord voicings, or use both hands, but marks will only be awarded for melodic content.

Candidates will have 90 seconds to practice after which the examiner will play the backing track twice. The first time is to practice and the second time is to perform the final version for the exam. For each play-through, 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 play-through has finished the count-in of the second playing will start immediately.

Note: It is acceptable for candidates to also ask for additional playing(s) of the backing track to practice during the 90 seconds.

Ear Tests

Melodic Recall

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

The examiner will play a 2 bar diatonic melody in the key of C major, with a range up to a fourth. 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 playing's 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 the root.

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

Chord Recognition

Tempo: 95bpm
Rhythms: Whole notes

The examiner will play a sequence of chords each with a C root note, then ask the candidate to state the chord quality of each chord from a choice of major, minor, diminished, augmented or dominant 7. The test will be played twice, each time preceded by a one-bar count-in.

The same chord quality may appear more than once within the sequence.

Credit will be given for speed of response.

General Musicianship Questions (GMQ'S)

At Grade 2 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
Interval construction of major / minor triad, augmented / diminished triad, dom7 / sus4 chords.

Group 2: Melody
Pitches in the treble clef within the stave.

Group 3: Rhythm
Whole, half, quarter, eighth notes, dotted quarters and eighth notes, associated rests. Eighth note triplets and associated rests

Group 4: Technical
Fingering used in a bar length phrase. (Either hand)

Group 5: Genre
Different song titles from the same genre as the piece chosen.

Assessment Criteria

Performance Pieces

Attainment BandAssessment Criteria Not Met PassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-1112-1415-1718-20
Grade DescriptorInsecure basic techniques

Inconsistent awareness of timing/pulse

Inconsistent use of
rhythm, duration and phrasing

Insecure sync/continuity

Insecure use of
articulation, expression and dynamics
Secure basic techniques some of the time

Awareness of timing/pulse some of the time

Basic ability to use
rhythm, duration and phrasing accurately some of the time

Use of basic sync/
continuity some of the time

Basic ability to use
articulation, expression
and dynamics some of the time
Mostly secure basic techniques

Awareness of timing/pulse most of the time

Basic ability to use
rhythm, duration and phrasing accurately most of the time

Use of basic sync/
continuity most of the time

Basic ability to use
articulation, expression and dynamics most of
the time
Consistently secure
basic techniques

Awareness of timing/pulse throughout

Basic ability to use
rhythm, duration and phrasing accurately throughout

Use of basic sync/
continuity throughout

Basic ability to use
articulation, expression and dynamics throughout

Technical Exercises (Scales, Arpeggios, Chord Voicings)

Attainment BandAssessment Criteria Not MetPassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-89-1011-1213-15
Grade Descriptor Inability to maintain
pulse or tempo accurately

Inability to recall musical and rhythmic phrases accurately
Basic ability to maintain pulse and tempo some of the time

Ability to recall musical and rhythmic phrases some of the time
Basic ability to maintain pulse and tempo most of
the time

Ability to recall musical and rhythmic phrases most of the time
Basic ability to maintain pulse and tempo consistently

Ability to recall musical and rhythmic phrases consistently

Sight Reading / Improvisation & Interpretation

Attainment BandAssessment Criteria not metPassMerit Distinction
Mark Range0-45-67-89-10
Grade DescriptorInsecure ability to read basic notation

OR Inability to improvise rhythm, harmony and melody
Secure ability to
read basic rhythmic, harmonic and melodic notation some of the time

OR Secure ability to improvise basic rhythm, harmony and melody some of the time
Mostly secure ability to read basic rhythmic,
harmonic and melodic notation

OR Mostly
secure ability to
improvise basic rhythm, harmony and melody
Consistently secure
ability to read basic rhythmic, harmonic and melodic notation

OR Consistently secure ability to improvise basic
rhythm, harmony and melody

Ear Tests

Attainment BandAssessment Criteria Not MetPassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-45-67-89-10
Grade DescriptorIncorrect responses Some correct responsesMostly correct
responses
Consistently correct
responses

General Musicianship Questions (GMQ's)

Attainment BandAssessment Criteria Not MetPassMerit Distinction
Mark Range0-2 correct responses 3 correct responses4 correct responses 5 correct responses

Additional Information

Free Choice Pieces 

For all piano 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.

Musical Interpretation is assessed as a requirement at all grades in both the Full Grade Exam and Performance Certificate.

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

Piano Specification

The following instruments are accepted for use in Piano exams, at all grades.

  • Acoustic Piano
  • Digital Piano

A number of our exam centres in the UK have acoustic pianos. The remainder have digital pianos. Candidates are advised to contact Rockschool to check their nearest centre if they specifically wish to perform the exam on an acoustic piano.

Using Own Equipment

Candidates may bring their own digital piano or keyboard for use in the exam, which must fit the following criteria:

  • Debut-Grade 4: Minimum of five octaves/61 keys, touch sensitive, weighted or unweighted keys and a sustain pedal.
  • Grades 5-8: 88 note keyboard, touch sensitive, weighted or unweighted keys and a sustain pedal.
  • Candidates must use a 'realistic' piano sound for their exam.

Candidates will need to note on the application form that they wish to use their own equipment when applying to take the exam. Owing to scheduling constraints and the potential impact on subsequent exam times, the absence of prior notification to Rockschool will result in the examiner refusing candidates own equipment on the day.

Rockschool also recommends that candidates who wish to bring in their own equipment 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.

Please note that whilst it is acceptable for candidates to use their own equipment for use in the exam, 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. Rockschool cannot advise whether or not candidates use their own equipment. A decision to do so is entirely at a candidate’s discretion/risk on this basis.

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.

Piano Syllabus

Get a copy of the syllabus:

Piano Syllabus (5.3MB, .pdf)

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Dates & Fees

Next exam period:

01 February 19 - 31 March 19

Next Closing Date

15 January 19

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Exam Fee

£50.00

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