Vocals Grade 1

The Grade 1 Vocals is for candidates who have mastered the key basic skills in vocal performance. There are two types of exam: Grade Exams and Performance Certificates.

The use of a microphone is not mandatory at Grade 1, but candidates may use one if they feel it will enhance their performance.

Exam Times

Grade exam: 25 Minutes (approx.)
Performance Certificate: 25 Minutes (approx.)

Key Features at: Grade 1

  • Dynamics, lyrics, rhythms and short phrases
  • The major scale and arpeggio
  • Small major intervals and spoken rhythms

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The Vocals Male & Female Grade 1 books contains everything you need to pass your first Vocals Grade exam – all in one place. You'll learn core theory and techniques to develop in later grades.

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Vocals Male 1 Vocals Female 1

Exam Structure

There are two types of exams 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

Candidates must prepare a total of three pieces for a Grade Exam and five pieces for a Performance Certificate.

The six songs at Grade 1 are:

Female

Feist - 1234
Billie Holiday - God Bless’ The Child
Ellie Goulding - I Need Your Love’ (Radio Edit)
Katy Perry - Roar
Katrina & the Waves - Walking On Sunshine
Lily Allen - Somewhere Only We Know

Male

Snow Patrol - Chasing Cars
Olly Murs - Dear Darlin’
David Bowie - The Man Who Sold The World
Bruno Mars - The Lazy Song
Owl City - Fireflies
The Kinks - You Really Got Me

Please note: as of October 2016, the 'Improvisation Requirements' for Performance Pieces - as published in older editions of the 2014 Vocal syllabus - are no longer a mandatory requirement for Rockschool Vocal candidates. Whilst we encourage individual musical interpretation, and candidates are free to improvise, the previous 'Improvisation Requirements' are no longer mandatory.

Technical Exercises

At Grade 1 there are four groups of Technical Exercises. The examiner will ask for a selection from each group.

GROUP A - Scales

Tempo: 70bpm
4/4 time signature

The major scale must be prepared. The candidate may select any starting note between A–E and may choose to sing along to a metronome click or to hear four clicks before the test starts. Whichever option is chosen, the starting note will be heard before the count starts.

This test can be performed using any vocal sound except humming or whistling.

GROUP B - Arpeggios

Tempo: 70bpm

4/4 and 3/4 time signatures

Two different patterns of a major arpeggio need to be prepared and the examiner will select one of these to be performed in the exam. This test must be performed to a metronome click and any starting note between A–E may be selected by the candidate. The chosen starting note will be played before the count starts.

This test can be performed using any vocal sound except humming or whistling.

GROUP C - Intervals

Tempo: 90bpm
4/4 time signature

In this group the following intervals must be prepared:

  • Major 2nd interval
  • Major 3rd interval

The candidate will be asked to perform one of these intervals in the exam, as chosen by the examiner. The examiner will choose a starting note within the range of A–C (female) and D-F (male). The candidate will then be required to sing the root note followed by the major 2nd or major 3rd at the examiner’s choice. The candidate may choose to sing along to a metronome click throughout or to hear four clicks before the test starts. Whichever option is chosen, the starting note will be heard before the count starts.

This test may be performed using any vocal sound except humming or whistling.

GROUP D - Technical Studies

Tempo: 85–120bpm
4/4 time signature

In this group the following studies must be prepared:

  • Rhythmic: Rhythmic accuracy
  • Melodic: Dynamic change

The examiner will ask the candidate to perform one of the above studies in the exam. The examiner will decide which, so both must be prepared before the exam. The Rhythmic Study starts with a four-beat count-in and consists of a four-bar rhythm spoken with lyrics. The Melodic Study starts with the root note followed by a four-beat count-in. The exercise consists of a four bar melody to be sung with lyrics and a dynamic change. Both tests need to be performed to the appropriate backing track.

Supporting Tests

At Grade 1 a choice between Sight Reading OR Improvisation and Interpretation will be offered. A previously unseen test will be used in the exam and an example of this can be found in the Grade 1 book.

Sight Reading

Female: C major
Male: C major
Tempo: 70bpm
Range: Up to a Major 3rd

At Grade 1 the Sight Reading test consists of whole notes (semi-breves), half notes (minims) and quarter notes (crotchets) in 4/4. The test is four bars long and starts with the root note. The examiner will allow 90 seconds preparation time and will offer the option of practicing with a metronome click throughout or a four-beat count-in at the start of the practice time. Whichever option is chosen, the practice time will start with the examiner playing the root note and the same choice is available when performing the test.

This test may be performed using any vocal sound except humming or whistling.

Improvisation & Interpretation

Female: C major
Male: C major
Tempo: 70-80bpm

At Grade 1 the examiner will give the candidate a chord sequence in the key of C major. The candidate must improvise a melody over the backing track. The test is four bars long and will be heard three times. The first and second time is for rehearsal and the third time is for the candidate to perform the final version for the exam. Each playthrough will begin with the root note and a four-beat count-in. The backing track is continuous throughout, so once the first playthrough has finished, the root note and count-in of the second and third playthroughs will start immediately.

This test may be performed using any vocal sound except humming or whistling.

Ear Tests

There are two Ear Tests: Melodic Recall (Test 1) and Rhythmic Recall (Test 2).

Melodic Recall

Tempo: 85bpm

The examiner will play three consecutive notes. The candidate will need to identify whether the last two notes are higher or lower in sequence. This means the candidate will need to tell the examiner whether the second note is higher or lower than the first, and whether the third note is higher or lower than the second. The test will be heard twice, each time with a four-beat vocal count-in.

Rhythmic Recall

Tempo: 90bpm

Part 1: Rhythmic Recall

The examiner will play a two bar rhythm played on a single note to a drum backing. The test will be heard twice and each time the test is played it is preceded by the root note and a four-beat count-in. There will be a short gap to practice after each playthrough. Next a vocal count-in will be heard, after which the rhythm must be sung back. For this exercise ‘da’ or ‘ba’ vocal sounds must be used.

It is acceptable to sing over the track as it is being played as well as practicing after the first two playthroughs. The length of time available after the second playthrough is pre-recorded on the audio track so the count-in may begin while the candidate is still practicing. The test is made up of quarter notes (crotchets), eighth notes (quavers) and equivalent rests.

Part 2: Identification

The candidate will then be asked to identify the rhythm heard in part 1 from two printed examples shown by the examiner.

General Musicianship Questions 

In this part of the exam five questions will be asked. Four of these questions will be about general music knowledge and the fifth question will be about the voice.

Music Knowledge

Part 1: General Music Knowledge

The examiner will ask four music knowledge questions. The questions will be based on one of the pieces (including Free Choice Pieces) performed by the candidate in the exam. The candidate can choose which one. If there are handwritten notes on the piece chosen, the examiner may ask the candidate to choose an alternative. The candidate will be asked to identify:

  • The treble clef
  • The time signature
  • Whole (semi-breve), half (minim), quarter (crotchet) and eighth (quaver) note values
  • A rest in the piece
Part 2: Your Voice

The examiner will also ask one question about the voice. Brief demonstrations to assist answers are acceptable. Candidates will be asked one of the following questions:

  • Where is your diaphragm?
  • Where is your larynx?
  • What is the difference between head voice and chest voice?
  • Why is it important to warm up before singing?

Assessment Criteria

Performance Pieces 

Attainment Band Assessment Criteria Not met PassMeritDistinction
Mark Range 0-1112-1415-1718-20
Grade DescriptorInsecure basic
techniques

Inconsistent awareness
of rhythm/pulse

Inability to maintain
pitch and intonation
accurately

Insecure use of diction,
articulation and phrasing
Secure basic techniques
some of the time

Awareness of rhythm/
pulse some of the time

Basic ability to maintain
pitch and intonation
accurately some of the
time

Basic ability to use
diction, articulation and
phrasing some of the
time
Mostly secure basic
techniques

Awareness of rhythm/
pulse most of the time

Basic ability to maintain
pitch and intonation
accurately most of the
time

Basic ability to use
diction, articulation and
phrasing most of the
time
Consistently secure
basic techniques

Awareness of rhythm/
pulse throughout

Basic ability to maintain
pitch and intonation
accurately throughout

Basic ability to use
diction, articulation and
phrasing throughout

Technical Exercises  

Attainment Band Assessment Criteria Not Met PassMerit Distinction
Mark Range 0-89-1011-1213-15
Grade DescriptorInability to maintain
pitch, pulse or rhythm
accurately

Inability to recall musical
and rhythmic phrases
accurately
Basic ability to sing with accuracy, pitch, rhythm and pulse some of the time

Ability to recall musical and rhythmic phrases some of the time
Basic ability to sing with accuracy, pitch, rhythm and pulse most of the time

Ability to recall musical and rhythmic phrases most of the time
Basic ability to sing with accuracy, pitch, rhythm and pulse consistently

Ability to recall musical and rhythmic phrases consistently

Sight Reading 

Attainment Band Assessment Criteria Not Met PassMerit Distinction
Mark Range 0-45-67-89-10
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 Band Assessment Criteria Not Met PassMerit Distinction
Mark Range 0-45-67-89-10
Grade DescriptorIncorrect responsesSome correct responsesMostly correct
responses
Consistently correct
responses

General Musicianship Questions

Attainment Band Assessment Criteria Not Met PassMerit Distinction
Mark Range 0-2 correct responses 3 correct responses4 correct responses5 correct responses

Additional Information

Free Choice Pieces 

Candidates are able to perform 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)

In vocal exams Free Choice Pieces can be selected from our list of Wider Repertoire - a full list of suggested pieces which can be found on our website. Alternatively, Candidates can choose or compose any song in any genre outside of the grade book and wider repertoire. These songs should 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. Candidates should refer to the Free Choice Piece Criteria available on our website when accessing the level of a potential piece. All pieces must be performed to a backing track.

Free Choice Pieces must be available in fully notated sheet music and Candidates need to bring a copy of the sheet music for the examiner to refer to during the examination. If there is any doubt about the appropriateness of the chosen piece, please contact freechoicepieces@rslawards.com.

Musical Interpretation

Musical Interpretation is allowed at all grades in both the Grade Exam and Performance Certificate. Rockschool encourages individual musicality, articulation, expression and use of dynamics when performing. This applies anywhere in the exam other than the technical exercises where articulation when specified must be observed. Candidates are reminded that all musical interpretation should be stylistically appropriate.

Use of Microphones

At Grades 1-5 the use of a microphone is optional, although candidates may perform with a microphone if they feel it will enhance their performance. At Grades 6-8 all sections of the exam are to be performed with a microphone.

Candidates can provide their own microphone for the examination should they prefer to use their own equipment, otherwise a microphone and lead will be provided by the centre.

Vocals Syllabus

Get a copy of the Vocals syllabus:

Vocals Syllabus (2MB, .pdf)

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Dates & Fees

Next exam period:

07 November 19 - 15 December 19

Next Closing Date

23 October 19

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Exam Fee

£45.00

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