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.

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Vocals Male 3 Vocals Female 3

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 3 are:

Female

Taylor Swift - 22
Nina Simone - Ain’t Got No (I Got Life)
Jessie J - Domino
Christina Perri - Jar Of Hearts
Ellie Goulding - Lights
Adele - Make You Feel My Love

Male 

Gnarls Barkley - Crazy
David Bowie  - Heroes
The Lumineers - Ho Hey
Ed Sheeran - Lego House
John Newman - Love Me Again
Imagine Dragons - Radioactive

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

GROUP A - Scales

Tempo: 90bpm
4/4 time signature

A major and natural minor scale must be prepared. The candidate may select any starting note from A–E and may choose to sing along to a metronome click or 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: 90bpm
3/4 time signature

A major and minor arpeggio must 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 root note will be heard, followed by a one-bar (three click) count-in.

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:

  • Perfect 4th interval
  • Perfect 5th 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 A–C (female) and D-F (male). The candidate will then be required to sing the root note followed by the perfect 4th or perfect 5th 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: 95–100bpm
4/4 time signature

In this group the following studies must be prepared:

  • Rhythmic: Rhythmic accuracy
  • Melodic: Quick dynamic changes and bends

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 and will make use of quick dynamic changes and bends.

Both tests need to be performed to the appropriate backing track.

Supporting Tests

At Grade 3 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 3 book.

Sight Reading

Female: C major or D minor
Male: F major or E minor
Tempo: 75–85bpm
Range: Up to a Perfect 5th

At Grade 3 the Sight Reading test consists of whole notes (semi-breves), half notes (minims), quarter notes (crotchets), eighth notes (quavers) and quarter note rests in 4/4. The test is four bars long, starts with the root note and is in one of the above keys (the examiner will decide which). 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.

The candidate will then perform the test for the examination. This test may be performed using any vocal sound except humming or whistling.

Improvisation & Interpretation

Female: G major or E minor
Male: G major or E minor
Tempo: 80-90bpm

At Grade 3 the examiner will give the candidate a chord sequence in the key of G major or E minor (the examiner will decide which). The candidate must improvise a melody over the backing track and the chord sequence 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

Female: C major or A natural minor scale
Male: F major or A natural minor scale
Tempo: 90bpm

The examiner will play a two bar melody played to a drum backing. It will use a range of up to the first five notes of the above scales (the examiner will decide which) and the first note will be the root note. The test will be heard twice, each time with 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 melody must be sung to the drum backing. Candidates are permitted 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.

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

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 for you 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:

  • Any pitch name (flat, sharp or natural must also be stated)
  • Whole (semi-breve), half (minim), quarter (crochet), eighth (quaver), triplet eighth (triplet quaver) and 16th (semi-quaver) note values
  • Any rest value
  • Recognition of any interval up to a fifth between two adjacent notes (it is not required to state major, minor or perfect)

The candidate will be asked to identify and explain:

  • The meaning of the 4/4 time signature marking
  • The meaning of repeat marks, first and second time bars
  • The meaning of staccato marks
  • The meaning of slurs
  • The meaning of crescendo/diminuendo
  • The meaning of D.C., D.S., al Coda and al Fine markings
  • The meaning of ad lib
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:

  • 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 each of the following: a) A type of food that would be good to eat before a performance? b) A type of food that would not be good to eat before a performance?

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

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

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

£57.50

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