Piano Grade 7

The Grade 7 Piano exam is for candidates who have been typically learning for four to five years and have extended their advanced level playing. They have mastered the key skills up to Grade 6 and developed notable security of appropriate technique, use of expressive devices, rhythmic complexity, fluency and musical understanding. Candidates will be able to improvise with conviction and personality plus demonstrate strong musical form and structure. There will be mature and authentic stylistic awareness, with developing individuality and communication.

Exam Times

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

Key Features at: Grade 7

  • Performance Pieces
  • Technical Exercises
  • Stylistic Studies

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The essential syllabus for the aspiring, contemporary pianist. Piano Grade 7 will provide you with everything you need for your Grade 7 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 7 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 & InterpretationCandidates 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 convincingly understand and execute notation accuracy, values, evenness of sound, tone quality/ consistency, technical control, articulation, style awareness and sync at an advanced level. There will be highly assured presentation of musical structure with fluent, individually shaped and highly expressive communication.

Featured Repertoire:

  • Rosanna – Toto
  • I Got the News – Steely Dan
  • Cornflake Girl – Tori Amos
  • A song For You – Ray Charles
  • Theme From Schindler’s List – John Williams
  • Live and Let Die – Paul McCartney and Wings

Technical Exercises

At Grade 7 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
    • – ascending and descending
    • – either straight or swung feel (as directed by the examiner)
    • – either legato or staccato articulation (as directed by the examiner)
    • – across four octaves (except contrary motion scales, scale in 3rds, altered scale and phrygian dominant mode, 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, and candidates will be required to close the book. Candidates may use the book for Group D (technical studies)

    GROUP A - Scales

    Tempo: 160 bpm
    Octave range: 4 octaves (except contrary motion scales, scale in 3rds, altered scale and phrygian dominant mode – 2 octaves)
    Rhythms: Eighth notes, finishing on a quarter/dotted half note.

    • C# major
    • C# major (contrary motion) (2 octaves)
    • Cb major
    • Cb major (contrary motion) (2 octaves)
    • A# natural minor
    • Ab natural minor
    • A# harmonic minor
    • Ab harmonic minor
    • C whole-tone
    • C major in thirds (right hand)
    • C major in thirds (left hand)
    • C altered
    • C phygian dominant
    • C chromatic (a minor 3rd apart, starting on any black key stated by examiner)

    GROUP B - Arpeggios

    Tempo: 112 bpm
    Time Signature: 3/4, 4/4
    Octave range: 4 octaves (except extended arpeggio – 1 octave).
    Rhythms: 3/4: Eighth notes, finishing on a dotted half note. 4/4: Eighth notes, finishing on a whole/half note.

    • C# major arpeggio
    • Cb major arpeggio
    • A# minor arpeggio
    • Ab minor arpeggio
    • D Dim7 arpeggio
    • D7 arpeggio
    • Bb7 arpeggio
    • C9#5 arpeggio (1 octave)

    GROUP C - Chord Voicings

    Candidates will be asked to play one of the following chord exercises, chosen by the examiner.

    • C dominant 7b9
    • C dominant 7#9#5
    • C dominant 13#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 7 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: C# major or Cb major
Tempoo: 60–130 bpm
Time Signature: Any simple, compound or odd time signature
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 16–20 bar example in the key of either Cb major or C# 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 & Interpretation

Key: C# major or Cb major
Tempoo: 60–130 bpm
Time Signature: 4/4, swung 4/4

The Improvisation test is in the form of a 16–20 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 7 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 or C minor
Tempo: 95bpm
Time Signature: 4/4
Rhythms: Half, quarter, eighth notes.

The examiner will play a 2 bar diatonic melody in the key of either C major or C minor, 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 any combination of chords from the C major scale, 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 7 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
Scales / modes which are being played.

Group 2: Melody
Intervallic construction of melodic phrases within the piece up to crotchet length.

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

Group 4: Technical
Fingering used to play the 3rd//5th/7th/9th/11th/13th 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

Ability to demonstrate
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

Ability to demonstrate
stylistic awareness most
of the time

Secure use of harmony
and melody 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

Ability to demonstrate
stylistic awareness
throughout

Secure use of harmony
and melody 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
pitch, pulse or rhythm
accurately

Inability to recall musical
and rhythmic phrases
accurately

Secure physical
techniques not shown

Accuracy of notation not
shown
Ability to play with
accuracy, pitch, rhythm
and pulse some of the
time

Ability to recall musical
and rhythmic phrases
some of the time

Secure physical
techniques shown some
of the time

Accuracy of notation
shown some of the time
Ability to play with
accuracy, pitch, rhythm
and pulse most of the
time

Ability to recall musical
and rhythmic phrases
most of the time

Secure physical
techniques shown most
of the time

Accuracy of notation
shown most of the time
Ability to play with
accuracy, pitch, rhythm
and pulse consistently

Ability to recall musical
and rhythmic phrases
consistently

Secure physical
techniques shown all of
the time

Accuracy of notation
shown all of the time

Sight Reading / Improvisation & Interpretation Assessment

Attainment Band Assessment Criteria Not MetPassMerit Distinction
Mark Range0-45-67-89-10
Grade DescriptorInability to read
rhythmic, harmonic and
melodic 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 Band Assessment Criteria Not Met PassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-45-67-89-10
Grade DescriptorIncorrect responsesSome correct responsesMostly correct
responses
Consistently correct
responses

General Musicianship Questions (GMQ's)

Attainment BandAssessment Criteria Not MetPassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0–2 correct responses3 correct responses4 correct responses5 correct responses

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

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Piano Syllabus (5.3MB, .pdf)

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Dates & Fees

Next exam period:

01 May 19 - 31 July 19

Next Closing Date

01 April 19

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Exam Fee

£85.00

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