Vocals Grade 3

Vocals Grade 3 adds improvisation elements and concentrates on fundamental areas of technique, such as perfect intervals, bends, small leaps and arpeggios. At exam time, you'll be tested across a series of three or five performances, depending on the exam you choose.

Exam Times

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

Key Features at: Grade 3

  • Quick dynamic changes, bends, wider ranges, head voice, small leaps, limited improvisation
  • The major and natural minor scales and the major and minor arpeggios
  • Perfect intervals and spoken rhythms

Buy Your Book

The Vocals Grade 3 book has all the info you need on the skills covered in the grade exam, including how to start out with improvisation, perfecting intervals and small bends, and arpeggios.

Buy Your Book!

Rockschool Vocals Grade 3

Exam Structure

There are two main types of exam available, a Grade Exam or Performance Certificate, which can be booked as a face-to-face exam or recorded video exam and is also available in some centres as a live-streamed video exam. More info about our video exams can be found here...

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 ten songs at grade 3 are:

  • Judy Kuhn – Colors of the Wind (from Pocahontas)
  • Bruno Mars – Marry You
  • Taylor Swift – 22
  • Billie Holiday – All of Me
  • George Ezra – Shotgun
  • Pharrell Williams – Happy
  • Jon Batiste – It’s All Right (from Soul)
  • Amy Winehouse – Valerie
  • Birdy – People Help the People
  • Imagine Dragons – Radioactive

Technical Exercises

Please note: The following information relates to the new 2021 Vocals syllabus launched in September 2021. For exam information relating to the 2014 - 2021 Vocals syllabus, please download the syllabus specification at the base of this page!

There are four groups of technical exercises at this grade: Scales, Arpeggios, Intervals and Technical Studies. The scales, arpeggios and intervals are to be performed to a click track, the technical study to a backing track. The exercises may be performed using any vocal sound except humming or whistling.

Group A: Scales

Candidates are to prepare both of the following scales, as written in the grade book. The examiner will ask for one of them to be performed in the exam:

Major Scale
Starting note: Candidate’s choice
Range: 1 octave
Tempo: 90bpm
Accompaniment: Click track

Natural Minor Scale
Starting note: Candidate’s choice
Range: 1 octave
Tempo: 90bpm
Accompaniment: Click track

The examiner will ask the candidate which starting note they have chosen (the examiner can play starting notes in the range A3–G#4, but candidates may sing in any octave). Candidates will hear the starting note, followed by a 1-bar count in, before performing the test to the metronome click.

Group B: Arpeggios

Candidates are to prepare both of the following arpeggios, as written in the grade book. The examiner will ask for one of them to be performed in the exam:

Major Arpeggio
Starting note: Candidate’s choice
Range: 1 octave
Tempo: 90bpm
Accompaniment: Click track

Minor Arpeggio
Starting note: Candidate’s choice
Range: 1 octave
Tempo: 90bpm
Accompaniment: Click track

The examiner will ask the candidate which starting note they have chosen (the examiner can play starting notes in the range A3–G#4, but candidates may sing in any octave). Candidates will hear the starting note, followed by a 1-bar count in, before performing the test to the metronome click.

Group C: Intervals

Candidates are to prepare both of the following intervals, as written in the grade book. The examiner will ask for one of them to be performed in the exam:

Perfect 4th, ascending
Starting note: Candidate’s choice
Tempo: 90bpm
Accompaniment: Click track

Perfect 5th, ascending
Starting note: Candidate’s choice
Tempo: 90bpm
Accompaniment: Click track

The examiner will ask the candidate which starting note they have chosen (the examiner can play starting notes in the range A3–G#4, but candidates may sing in any octave). Candidates will hear the starting note, followed by a 1-bar count in, before performing the test to the metronome click.

Group D: Technical Studies

Candidates are to prepare both the rhythmic study and the melodic study from the grade book. The examiner will ask for one of them to be performed in the exam.

Rhythmic study
If the examiner requests the rhythmic study, candidates will hear a 4-beat count in, before performing the test to the backing track. The tempo is 95bpm.

Melodic study
If the examiner requests the melodic study, they will ask candidates which option they are going to perform: (Option 1: F# or Option 2: B# minor). Candidates will hear the root note, followed by a 4-beat count in, before performing the test to the backing track. The tempo is 100bpm.

Supporting Tests

Please note: The following information relates to the new 2021 Vocals syllabus launched in September 2021. For exam information relating to the 2014 - 2021 Vocals syllabus, please download the syllabus specification at the base of this page!

Before seeing the tests, the examiner will ask whether the candidate wishes to perform a piece of sight reading or take a test of improvisation and interpretation. Once the candidate has decided, they cannot change their mind.

Sight Reading

Requirements

Candidates will be given a short previously unseen rhythm to perform, using any vocal sound except humming or whistling. The rhythm will be 4 bars long, in the key of F major or D minor, covering a range of up to a perfect 5th. Candidates may sing in any octave. The tempo will be 75–85bpm.

Process

Candidates will be given 90 seconds to practise, after which they will perform the test. Before the practice time begins, candidates will be given the choice of a metronome click throughout or having a 4-beat count in at the beginning. Whichever option candidates choose, the practice time will start with the examiner playing the root note. Candidates will receive the same choice when performing the test.

Improvisation & Interpretation

Requirements

Candidates will be given a previously unseen chord progression, over which they will improvise a melody using any vocal sound except humming or whistling. The chord progression will be 4 bars long, in the key of G major or E minor. The tempo will be 80–90bpm.

Process

Candidates will hear the backing track three times. Candidates can rehearse during the first and second playthroughs, before performing the improvisation over the third playthrough. Only their improvisation over the final playthrough will be assessed. Each playthrough will begin with the root note and a 4-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.

Ear Tests

Candidates will be given both of the following ear tests, examples of which are included in the grade book:

  • Test 1: Melodic Recall
  • Test 2: Rhythmic Recall

Test 1: Melodic Recall

  • Requirements: The examiner will play a melody. Candidates will then sing back the melody to a drum backing, using any vocal sound except humming or whistling. The melody will be a 2-bar diatonic melody in the key of C major or A minor, starting on the root note, using up to the first five notes of the scale. Candidates may sing in any octave. The melody may contain half notes, quarter notes and eighth notes and may contain rests. The tempo will be 90bpm.
  • Process: The test will be played twice, each time preceded by a 4-beat count in. There will be a short gap after each playthrough. After the gap following the second playthrough candidates will be given a vocal count in, after which they should play the melody back to the drum backing.

Test 2: Rhythmic Recall

There are two parts to this test: Rhythm Recall and Identification.

Part 1: Rhythm Recall

  • Requirements: The examiner will play a 2-bar rhythm. Candidates will be asked to sing the rhythm back, on any pitch, using ‘da’ or ‘ba’ vocal sounds. The rhythm will be played on a single note, to a drum backing. The tempo will be 90bpm.
  • Process: The test will be played twice, each time preceded by a 4-beat count in. There will be a short gap after each playthrough. After the gap following the second playthrough candidates will be given a vocal count in, after which they should sing the rhythm back. The length of time available after the second playthrough is pre-recorded on the audio track so the vocal count in may begin while the candidate is still practising.

Part 2: Identification

  • Requirements: Candidates will be asked to identify the rhythm they heard in Part 1.
  • Process: Candidates will be shown two notated rhythms. They will be asked to identify one which matches the rhythm they heard in Part 1.

General Musicianship Questions

Candidates will be asked five questions. Four of these will be music knowledge questions, based on any one of the pieces performed in the exam, the fifth will be about knowledge of the candidate’s own voice. Candidates can use brief demonstrations to support their verbal explanations.

Part 1: General Music Knowledge
There will be four music knowledge questions in relation to one of the pieces performed in the exam. Candidates will be asked which piece they would like to be asked about. If the candidate’s copy of the chosen piece contains extensive handwritten notes the examiner may either use their own version of the score as the basis for the questions or they may request that candidates select a different piece.

Candidates may be asked to identify:

  • Identify any pitch name (including stating flat, sharp or natural)
  • Identify rhythmic values, from the following:
    • Whole note
    • Half note
    • Quarter note
    • Eighth note
    • Sixteenth note
    • Triplet eighth notes
  • Identify any interval up to a fifth between two adjacent notes (candidates will not need to state major, minor or perfect)
  • Identify and explain the meaning of any of the following:
    • 4/4 time signature marking
    • Repeat marks, 1st and 2nd time bars
    • Staccato marks
    • Slurs
    • Crescendo/diminuendo
    • D.C. al Coda, D.S. al Coda and al Fine markings
    • Ad lib.

Part 2: Knowledge of the Voice
There will be one question about the candidate’s knowledge of their voice, chosen by the examiner from the list below. Candidates may be asked:

  • What is the meaning of the ‘break’?
  • What is the meaning of ‘transition’?
  • How do you support a long sustained note?
  • Give an example of a type of food that would be good to eat before a performance?
  • Give an example of a type of food that would not be good to eat before a performance?

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

General 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 n 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

Rockschool Vocals is back with an updated, refreshed and expanded syllabus! Please download the 2021 syllabus specification for Debut – Grade 8.

Rockschool Vocals Syllabus (2021)

Rockschool Vocals FAQs:

Rockschool Vocals FAQs

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Rockschool Vocal Wider Repertoire

Wider Repertoire

Get a copy of the 2014 - 2021 Grade 1 - Grade 8 syllabus

Vocals Syllabus (2014 - 2021)

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