Ukulele Grade 8

The Grade 8 Ukulele exam is for candidates who have been typically learning for five years or more and have now consolidated their playing to a high level. They have mastered the key skills up to Grade 7 and developed heightened technique, use of expressive devices, rhythmic complexity, fluency, co-ordination and musical understanding. Candidates will be able to improvise to an advanced level with effortless assurance and personality plus demonstrate seamless musical form and structure. There will be an innate stylistic conviction and distinctive musicality with strong individuality. Communication will be commanding.

There are two types of exam available at Grade 8, either a Grade Exam or Performance Certificate.

Key Features at: Grade 8

  • Performance Pieces
  • Technical Exercises
  • Supporting Tests
  • Ensemble Backing Tracks and Solo Arrangements

Buy Your Book

The Rockschool Ukulele Grade 8 book contains everything you need to pass your Grade 8 exam in one essential book. Featuring a truly diverse range of contemporary repertoire from some of the world's most iconic artists, including Jake Shimabukuro, Taimane Gardner and Chick Corea.

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Ukulele Grade 3 Book

Exam Structure

There are two types of exam available, a Grade Exam or Performance Certificate.

Grade Exam

Prepared Work
Candidates are required to play three performance pieces and Technical Exercises which cover scales, arpeggios, chords and stylistic studies.

Unprepared Work
Candidates are required to complete either a Quick Study Piece and two Ear Tests which continue to develop melodic and harmonic recall.

The Grade 8 exam lasts 32 minutes and is taken in the following order:

  • Performance Pieces*
  • Technical Exercises*
  • Quick Study Piece
  • Ear Tests
  • General Musicianship Questions

*These elements can be taken first or second at the candidate’s request

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

Prepared Work
Candidates are required to play five performance pieces. There is no unprepared work in the Performance Certificate.

The Grade 8 Performance Certificate lasts 30 minutes.

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 8 they are longer, typically in the region of three to three and a half minutes in duration. The expectation and length of pieces are designed so candidates can demonstrate the required assessment criteria.

Featured Repertoire:

  • Bohemian Rhapsody – Jake Shimabukuro
  • Fire – Taimane Gardner
  • Cinema Paradiso (Love Theme) – Pat Metheny
  • Holier Than Thou – Metallica
  • Rather Be – Clean Bandit
  • Spain – Chick Corea

Technical Exercises

At Grade 8 there are four groups of technical work: Scales, Arpeggios, Chords and stylistic studies.

All exercises need to be played in straight feel, in the keys, octaves and tempos shown. Candidates may use their book during the exam for all groups.

Group A: Scales

Tempo: 100bpm
Rhythms: Eighth Notes
Range: As shown in grade book

Each of the following scale types needs to be prepared from the root notes E, F, F# and G

  • Whole tone
  • Diminished
  • Altered

Each of the following scales needs to be prepared from the root notes shown only:

  • Chromatic scale on one string | starting on any open string (G, C, E or A)
  • E phrygian mode | campanella style
  • C major | in sixths on strings 3 & 4

In addition, candidates must prepare the following from previous grades:
Linear scales with root notes on any of the four open strings (G, C, E or A) as specified by the examiner.

  • Major
  • Natural minor
  • Melodic minor
  • Harmonic minor
  • (continued)

    2. Any of the following scales or modes from previous grades played campanella style:

    • D natural minor
    • D harmonic minor
    • E natural minor
    • E dorian mode
    • C major
    • G major

    Tempo: 100bpm
    One octave
    Eighth notes, finishing on a quarter note
    Ascending and descending

    Group B: Arpeggios
    Tempo: 100bpm
    Rhythms: Eighth Notes
    Range: As shown in grade book

    Each of the following arpeggio types needs to be prepared from the root notes E, F, F# and G:

    • Dominant 7#5 arpeggio
    • Dominant 7b5 arpeggio
    • Dominant 7b9 arpeggio
    • Minor/major 9 arpeggio

    In addition, candidates must prepare the following from previous grades:
    Tempo: 100bpm
    One octave
    Eighth notes, finishing on a quarter note
    Ascending and descending

    • E minor 6 arpeggio on four strings
    • G minor 7 arpeggio on four strings

    Group C: Chords

    Altered chords. Candidates must perform both voicings to continuous click

    • F dominant 7#5 | two voicings
    • F dominant 7b5 | two voicings

    Altered chords. Candidates must perform the voicing shown in the grade book when directed by the examiner

    • C dominant 7#9 | one voicing only, as shown in grade book
    • C dominant 7b9 | one voicing only, as shown in grade book

    Group D : Stylistic Studies

    Candidates will prepare a stylistic study from the grade book, drawn from one group of styles from the list below and perform it to the backing track. The choice of style will determine the style of the Quick Study Piece, for example, if candidates choose a rock & pop Stylistic Study then the examiner will give a rock & pop Quick Study Piece in that section of the exam.

    Styles:

    • Rock and Pop
    • Soul, Jazz and Blues
    • Ukulele Specialist

    Supporting Tests

    At this grade candidates will be asked to prepare and play a short Quick Study Piece (QSP). The QSP chosen will be a previously unseen example, but similar to those provided as exemplar material in the grade book.

    Candidates will be shown the test and played the track with the notated parts played. Any bars that require improvisation will not be demonstrated. Candidates will then have three minutes to study the test. The backing track will be played twice more. Candidates will be allowed to practise during the first playing of the backing track, with the notated parts now absent, before playing it to the examiner on the second playing of the backing track.

    The style of the QSP is determined by the Stylistic Study selected by the candidate in the technical exercise section. The QSP is in the form of a lead sheet and candidates must create their own interpretation of the music in the parts where instructed to do so.

    Styles:

    • Rock & Pop
    • Blues & Country
    • Acoustic Specialist

    Ear Tests

    There are two Ear Tests in this grade. The examiner will play each test twice.

    Test 1: Melodic Recall

    The examiner will play a two bar melody with a bass and drum backing using the F major, F harmonic minor or F natural minor scale. The first note of the melody will be either the root note or the fifth and the first interval will be either ascending or descending. Candidates will play the melody back on their instrument. The test will be played twice.

    Each time the test is played it is preceded by four clicks. There will be a short gap for candidates to practise. Next there will be a vocal count-in and candidates will need to play the melody to the drum backing. The tempo is 90 bpm.

    Test 2: Harmonic Recall

    The examiner will play a tonic chord followed by a four bar chord sequence in the key of F major played to a bass and drum backing. The sequence will be a selection drawn from the following chords: I, IIm, IIIm, IV, V and VIm. The chords may occur in any combination. The I and IV chords can be either major or major 7 chords.

    Candidates will be asked to play the chord sequence to the drum backing in the rhythm shown in the example in the grade book. This rhythm will be used in all examples of this test given in the exam. Candidates will then be asked to identify the sequence.

    The test will be played twice. Each time the test is played the sequence is: count-in, tonic, count-in, chords. There will be a short gap to practise after the second playing. Candidates will hear the count-in and tonic for the third time followed by a vocal count-in, and will then need to play the chords to the drum backing. Candidates will then need to name the chord sequence, including the chord type and any chord extensions. The tempo is 90 bpm.

    General Musicianship Questions

    Candidates will be asked five questions about a performance piece of their choosing. Four of these questions will be about general music knowledge and the fifth question asked will be about technical knowledge.

    Music Knowledge

    The examiner will ask candidates four music knowledge questions based on a piece of music they have played in the exam. Candidates will nominate the piece of music about which the questions will be asked.

    In Grade 8 the examiner can draw on the following subject areas for these questions:

    • The names of pitches
    • Any expressive musical marking found in the piece such as palm muting, accents, staccato, legato, vibrato
    • Any dynamic marking found in the piece
    • One type of scale that can be used appropriately in the solo section of the piece you have played and its relation to the underlying harmony of the piece (if relevant)

    or:

    • How you developed a section of the piece (if relevant)

    or:

    • A stylistic feature of the piece characteristic of its genre

    Technical Knowledge

    The examiner will also ask candidates one question regarding a technical consideration of your piece, in relation to:

    • Picking hand: Strumming or picking technique for a short phrase (up to one bar) – demonstration is acceptable
    • Fretting hand: Fretting position and fingering used to play a short phrase (up to one bar) – demonstration is acceptable

    The examiner will choose the section of music and will ask candidates to give a brief explanation as to why the technique was appropriate for the chosen section.

    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

    Free Choice Pieces

    For all examinations, candidates are able to play a number of free choice pieces:

    • Grade Examinations: Two free choice pieces (a minimum of one piece must be from the Ukulele grade book)
    • Performance Certificates: Three free choice pieces (a minimum of two pieces must be from the Ukulele grade book)
    • Free choice pieces must demonstrate a comparable level of technical and musical demand to the pieces given in the set selections in
      the grade books which can be referred to as an indication of appropriate level.
    • Free choice pieces must be in a modern popular genre such as Pop; Rock; Jazz; Country; Blues; Soul; Reggae, Film and Musical Theatre.
    • Own compositions are also acceptable. Pieces should be selected carefully to ensure that they provide suitable opportunity for candidates to demonstrate the relevant assessment criteria.

    Candidates are reminded that if a chosen Free Choice Piece does not
    meet these requirements this may impact on the level of achievement possible within the examination.

    Free Choice Pieces can be performed to a backing track (without the examined part on the track), or as a solo piece (without backing track).

    Candidates are reminded that RSL examination regulations state that pieces must be performed to the exact requirements as detailed in the relevant syllabus guide. If a performance piece over runs, the examiner can halt the performance and grade material demonstrated until that point only. Candidate mark sheets in this instance will automatically be referred to the Head of Assessment at RSL and may be returned to the candidate with accompanying notes.

    Free Choice Pieces must be available in fully notated sheet music. Candidates need to bring a copy of the sheet music for the examiner to refer to during the examination. It is acceptable for candidates to refer to their own duplicate copy during the performance. Candidates are reminded that both copies need to fully reflect the interpretation and intended performance of the piece. Examiners will retain all photocopied materials from the exam session.

    If there is any doubt about the appropriateness of the chosen piece, please contact freechoicepieces@rslawards.com.

    Instrument Specifications 

    Candidates are reminded that it is their responsibility to select and provide an appropriate musical instrument for each syllabus to allow demonstration of the relevant stylistic and technical skills within their performance.

    At all levels of examination, if any outcomes or assessed criteria cannot be demonstrated or are demonstrated less securely as a result of the equipment, this may be reflected in the marks awarded.

    Download the Ukulele Syllabus

    Download the latest Ukulele Syllabus:

    Ukulele Syllabus (2020 Edition)

    For candidates taking the 2017-2020 Ukulele syllabus within the crossover period – up to 1st September 2021 – please download the syllabus below:

    Ukulele Syllabus (2017 Edition)

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