Piano Grade 5

The Grade 5 Piano exam is for candidates who have been typically learning for three years or more and who have fully consolidated their intermediate level playing. They have mastered the key skills up to Grade 4 and since acquired a greater use of appropriate technique, more complex rhythms, co-ordination and musical understanding. Candidates will have developed a good sense of expression, have a strong grasp of stylistic awareness, and there is also the opportunity to improvise which is now individual, assured, accurate and expressive.

This grade features repertoire from David Bowie, Vanessa Carlton, and David Guetta.

Exam Times

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

Key Features at: Grade 5

  • Performance Pieces
  • Technical Exercises
  • Supporting Tests

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The essential syllabus for the aspiring, contemporary pianist. Piano Grade 5 will provide you with everything you need for your Grade 5 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 5 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 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. The expectation and length of pieces are designed so candidates can acquire a growing security and execution of notation accuracy, values, evenness of sound, tone quality/consistency, technical control, articulation, expression, style awareness and sync at intermediate level.

Featured Repertoire:

  • Every Little Thing She Does is Magic – The Police
  • Dangerous – David Guetta feat. Sam Martin
  • You’ve Got a Friend in Me – Lyle Lovett & Randy Newman
  • Life on Mars – David Bowie
  • A Thousand Miles – Vanessa Carlton
  • Teardrop – Massive Attack

Technical Exercises

At Grade 5 there are four groups of technical work: Scales, Arpeggios, Chord Voicings and Technical Studies.

  • Candidates can choose to play either natural minor or 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 three octaves (except contrary motion scales, pentatonics, lydian and phrygian modes, which must be played over two octaves and extended arpeggios which are one octave only)
  • Pentatonic scales are right hand only
  • Lydian and Phrygian modes need to be played hands separately
  • Groups A, B and C (scales, arpeggios and chords) need to be played from memory and candidate will be required to close their grade books. Candidates may use the 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: 126 bpm
Octave range: 3 octaves (except contrary motion scales, pentatonics, lydian and phrygian modes – 2 octaves)
Rhythms: Eighth notes, finishing on a quarter note.

  • B major
  • B major (contrary motion)
  • D-flat major
  • D-flat major (contrary motion)
  • G-sharp natural minor
  • B-flat natural minor
  • G-sharp harmonic minor
  • B-flat harmonic minor
  • B major pentatonic (right hand)
  • D-flat major pentatonic (right hand)
  • G-sharp minor pentatonic (right hand)
  • B-flat minor pentatonic (right hand)
  • C lydian (right hand)
  • C lydian (left hand)
  • C phrygian (right hand)
  • C phrygian (left hand)
  • Chromatic scale (starting on any black key stated by examiner)

GROUP B - Arpeggios

Tempo: 86 bpm
Time Signature: 3/4, 4/4
Octave range: 3 octaves
Rhythms: 3/4: Eighth notes, finishing on a dotted half note. 4/4: Eighth notes, finishing on a whole note.

  • B major arpeggio
  • D-flat major arpeggio
  • G-sharp minor arpeggio
  • B-flat minor arpeggio
  • C minor maj7
  • C7 add4
  • Cmaj9 #11 (right hand)
  • Cmaj9 #11 (left hand)
  • Cm11 (right hand)
  • Cm11 (left hand)

GROUP C - Chord Voicings
Candidates will be asked to play one of the following chord exercises:

  • C min 11
  • C maj9# 11

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 5 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: Db major or B major
Tempo: 60-130 bpm
Time Signature: 3/4, 4/4
Rhythms: Whole, dotted half, half, dotted quarter, quarter, eighth, sixteenth notes, associated rests. Eighth, quarter, sixteenth note ties.
Dynamic Markings: p– f, < (crescendo) and > (decrescendo).

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

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.

Improvisation & Interpretation

Key: Db major or B 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 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 5 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. (Notes may be tied)

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: Half notes.

TThe examiner will play a chord progression containing chords I, II, IV, V, VI in any order or combination in the key of C major. At this grade, seventh chords are introduced. 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 5 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 intervals relative to a chord symbol. (Root/3rd/5th/7th/9th/11th/13th).

Group 2: Melody
Identification of pitches in the 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/9th 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

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.

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: Minimum of four octaves/49 keys, touch sensitive, sprung or weighted keys and a sustain pedal.
  • Grade 1: Minimum of five octaves/61 keys, touch sensitive, sprung or weighted keys and a sustain pedal.
  • Grade 2-8: 88 keys, touch sensitive, sprung or weighted 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 2015 SYLLABUS GUIDE (For candidates taking the 2015-2019 Piano syllabus within the crossover period (up to Period B 2020))

Piano Syllabus (2016 Edition)

PIANO 2019 SYLLABUS GUIDE (For candidates taking the newest Piano syllabus (Released 2019))

Piano Syllabus (2019 Edition)

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