Piano & Keyboard Grade 4

The Grade 4 Piano exam is for candidates who have been typically learning for two to three years and who are ready for intermediate level playing. They have mastered the key skills up to Grade 3 and since acquired greater use of technique, more complex rhythms, co-ordination and musical understanding.

Candidates will be developing a sense of expression and continuing to broaden their stylistic awareness, and there is also the opportunity to improvise which will be growing in assurance and articulation.

The Grade 4 exams will introduce you to a range of repertoire from Ray Charles, Ellie Goulding, Elton John and Ed Sheeran.

Exam Times

Grade Exam: 25 minutes (approx.)
Performance Certificate: 22 minutes (approx.)

 

Key Features at: Grade 4

  • Performance Pieces
  • Technical Exercises
  • Supporting Tests

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The essential syllabus for the aspiring, contemporary pianist. Piano Grade 4 will provide you with everything you need for your Grade 4 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 4 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 4 they are typically in the region of two to two and a half minutes in duration. The expectation and length of pieces are designed so candidates can acquire a solid understanding and execution of notation accuracy, values, evenness of sound, tone quality/consistency, technical control, articulation, expression, style awareness and sync at an early intermediate level.

Featured Repertoire:

  • Elton John  - Your Song
  • Ed Sheeran - I See Fire
  • Ray Charles - Hallelujah, I Love Her So

Technical Exercises

At Grade 4 there are three groups of technical work: Scales, Arpeggios and Chord Voicings.

All exercises need to be played ascending and descending, hands together (except for the extended arpeggio which needs to be played hands separately), in either straight or swung feel, as directed by the examiner.

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.

In this grade, all Technical Exercises need to be played from memory. Candidates will be required to close their grade books or ensure the information on the App is out of view.

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: 104 bpm
Range: Two octaves
Rhythms: Eighth notes, finishing on a quarter note.

  • E major
  • E major (contrary motion)
  • Ab major
  • Ab major (contrary motion)
  • C# natural minor
  • F natural minor
  • C# harmonic minor
  • F harmonic minor
  • C phrygian
  • E chromatic
  • Ab chromatic

GROUP B - Arpeggios

Tempo: 76 bpm
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.

  • E major arpeggio
  • Ab major arpeggio
  • C# minor arpeggio
  • F minor arpeggio
  • C minor seventh arpeggio
  • C minor eleventh arpeggio (right hand)
  • C minor eleventh arpeggio (left hand

GROUP C - Chord Voicings

Candidates will be asked to play two voicings of both the following chords (4 total):

  • C dominant 9
  • C minor 7

Candidates need to choose and perform the two voicings 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 ones beforehand.

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

Supporting Tests

At Grade 4 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: Ab major or E major
Tempo: 60-130 bpm
Time Signature: 3/4, 4/4
Rhythms: Whole, dotted half, half, dotted quarter, quarter, eighth notes, associated rests.

The Sight Reading test is in the form of a 8-16 bar melody, with possible geographical instruction.

At Grade 4, there is an element of improvisation within the sight reading test. Candidates are required to play all notation and create appropriate parts to chord symbols. This is a graduation towards the Quick Study pieces at Grades 6-8 which combine sight reading and improvisation as a compulsory test.

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.

Improvisation & Interpretation

Key: Ab major or E 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 diatonic single note melodies with right hand and chords in left hand.

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

At Grade 4 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 a sixth.

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.

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 practicing.

Harmonic Recall

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

The examiner will play a chord progression containing chords I, IV, V in any order or combination in the key of C major. Candidates will hear the test twice, then play the chords back to a metronome click. Both playing's 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 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.

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 practicing.

General Musicianship Questions (GMQ'S)

At Grade 4 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
Identification of note intervals relative to a chord symbol. (Root/3rd/5th/7th)

Group 2: Melody
Identification of pitches within the stave. (Treble or bass clef)

Group 3: Rhythm
Whole, half, quarter, eighth, sixteenth and associated dotted notes/rests and quarter/eighth note triplets and associated rests, up to one crotchet length.

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

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

Assessment Criteria

Performance Pieces 

Attainment BandAssessment Criteria Not MetPassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-1112-1415-1718-20
Grade DescriptorInsecure physical techniques
Insecure expressive techniques
Insecure use of rhythm, duration and phrasing Insecure use of timing/ pulse
Inconsistent stylistic awareness
Insecure sync/continuity Insecure use of articulation, expression and dynamics
Secure physical techniques some of the time
Secure expressive techniques some of the time Secure use of rhythm, duration and phrasing some of the time Secure use of timing/ pulse some of the time Strong stylistic awareness some of the time
Secure use of sync/ continuity some of the time
Secure use of articulation, expression and dynamics some of the time
Mostly secure physical techniques
Mostly secure expressive techniques Secure use of rhythm, duration and phrasing most of the time Secure use of timing/ pulse most of the time Strong stylistic awareness most of the time
Secure use of sync/ continuity most of the time
Secure use of articulation, expression and dynamics most of the time
Consistently secure physical techniques Consistently secure expressive techniques Secure use of rhythm, duration and phrasing throughout
Secure use of timing/ pulse throughout Strong stylistic awareness throughout Secure use of sync/ continuity throughout Secure use of articulation, expression and dynamics throughout

Technical Exercises

Attainment BandAssessment Criteria Not MetPassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-89-1011-1213-15
Grade DescriptorInability to maintain pulse or tempo accurately
Inability to recall musical and rhythmic phrases accurately
Ability to maintain pulse and tempo some of the time
Ability to recall musical and rhythmic phrases some of the time
Ability to maintain pulse and tempo most of the time
Ability to recall musical and rhythmic phrases most of the time
Ability to maintain pulse and tempo consistently
Ability to recall musical and rhythmic phrases consistently

Sight Reading/Improvisation & Interpretation Assessment

Attainment BandAssessment Criteria Not MetPassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-45-67-89-10
Grade DescriptorInsecure ability to read notation
Inability to improvise rhythm, harmony and melody
Secure ability to read rhythmic, harmonic and melodic notation some of the time
Secure ability to improvise rhythm, harmony and melody some of the time
Mostly secure ability to read rhythmic, harmonic and melodic notation
Mostly secure ability to improvise rhythm, harmony and melody
Consistently secure ability to read rhythmic, harmonic and melodic notation
Consistently secure ability to improvise rhythm, harmony and melody

Ear Tests

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

General Musicianship Questions (GMQ's)

Attainment Band Assessment Criteria Not MetPassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-2 correct responses3 correct responses 4 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

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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

£63.00

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