Vocals Grade 4

At Vocals Grade 4, it's time to harmonise and sing backing vocals. You'll also improve transitions between registers and expand your music theory before being testing your new skills in a series of performance pieces in your exam.

Exam Times

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

Key Features at: Grade 4

  • Two-­part backing vocals, slides, trilldowns, harmonising in 3rds, longer phrases, improvisation and development, greater use of head voice, control of the chest voice and transitions between the registers
  • The Major Pentatonic scale, the major arpeggio and a major ascending arpeggio with dominant 7 descent
  • Large major intervals, diction, articulation and microphone technique

Buy Your Book

The Vocals Grade 4 book will guide you through all you need to learn to take your exam, and looks in-depth at the skills of harmonising, backing vocals, improving transitions between registers, and more.

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Vocals Male 4 Vocals Female 4

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 4 are:

Female

  • Katie Melua - The Closest Thing To Crazy
  • Beyoncé - If I Were A Boy
  • Moulin Rouge!  - One Day I’ll Fly Away
  • Adele - Rolling In The Deep
  • Birdy - Skinny Love
  • Duffy - Warwick Avenue

Male

  • The Jam - Town Called Malice
  • James Morrison - Broken Strings
  • Coldplay - Fix You
  • Cee Lo Green - Forget You
  • James Brown - I Got You (I Feel Good)
  • Passenger - Let Her Go

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

GROUP A - Scales

Tempo: 80bpm
4/4 time signature
A major pentatonic 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: 80bpm
3/4 time signature
A major and major (ascending) with dominant 7 (descending) 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 (four-click) count-in.

The 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 6th interval
  • Major 7th 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 6th or major 7th at the examiner’s choice. The candidate can choose to sing to a metronome click throughout or to hear a four-beat count-in. 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 - Melodic Study

Tempo: 115bpm
4/4 time signature
In this group the melodic study for slides and trilldowns must be prepared. This exercise is an eight bar melody that must be sung to lyrics after the root note and four-beat count-in is heard. Candidates are required to perform the study with the appropriate backing track.

GROUP E - Backing Vocals

Tempo: 115bpm
4/4 time signature
In this group, both backing vocal parts need to be prepared. This is a two-part harmony test and the candidate will be asked to perform one part in the exam, as chosen by the examiner. The chosen part must be sung alongside the other part on the recording. The test needs to be performed to the appropriate backing track

Supporting Tests

At Grade 4 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 4 book.

Sight Reading

Female: D major, Bb major, B minor or D minor
Male: D major, Bb major, E minor or D minor
Tempo: 80–90bpm
Range: Up to an octave

At Grade 4 the Sight Reading test will feature lyrics and cover a range of up to an octave. The test will be in one of the above keys (the examiner will decide which) and will start with the root note. At this grade there is an element of improvisation in order to prepare candidates for the Quick Study Piece at Level 3 (Grade 6 upwards). Bars 5 and 6 are a repeat of bars 1 and 2 and a melody will need to be improvised in the final two bars. The examiner will allow 90 seconds preparation time, after which the test must be performed.

During the practice time candidates will be given the choice of a metronome click throughout or a four-beat count-in. Whichever option is chosen, the practice time will start with the examiner playing the root note. The same choice will be given when performing the test.

The improvised bars in this test may be performed using any vocal sound except humming or whistling. Improvised lyrics and vocal ad-libbing are permitted.

Improvisation & Interpretation

Female: D major, Bb major, E minor or D minor
Male: D major, Bb major, D minor or A minor
Tempo: 95bpm

At Grade 4 the examiner will give the candidate a chord sequence in one of the above keys (the examiner will decide which) and the candidate must improvise a melody over the backing track. At this grade there is also an element of sight reading to prepare candidates for the Quick Study Piece at Level 3. This consists of a two-bar section featuring lyrics at the beginning of the test. The examiner will allow 30 seconds to practice, after which the backing track will be played twice. The first time is for rehearsal and the second time is for the candidate to perform the final version for the exam. The backing track will begin with a root note and a four-beat count-in on both playthroughs and is continuous, so once the first playthrough has finished, the root note and count-in of the second playthrough will start immediately.

The examiner 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. The improvised bars in this test may be performed using any vocal sound except humming or whistling. Improvised lyrics and vocal ad-libbing are permitted.

Ear Tests

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

Melodic Recall

Female: D major or B natural minor scale
Male: G major or E 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.

Harmony Vocals

Female: C major or A major
Male: D major or F major
Tempo: 90–100bpm

The examiner will play a three-bar melody in one of the above keys (the examiner will decide which) and this will be based on the I–IV chords. The recorded vocal part will sing the root note of each chord and candidates need to harmonise a major 3rd above this part using the same rhythm. The examiner will give the candidate the lyrics. The test will be heard twice, starting with the root note and a four-beat count-in each time it is played. There will be a short gap to practice after each playthrough. Next a vocal count-in will be heard, after which the harmony line must be performed. 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 vocal count-in may begin while the candidate is still practicing.

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 or the microphone.

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 (an appropriate flat, sharp or natural must also be stated)
  •  Whole (semi-breve), half (minim), quarter (crotchet), eighth (quaver), triplet eighth (triplet quaver), 16th (semi-quaver) note values and adjacent note value combinations
  •  Whole, half, quarter, eighth and 16th note rests and adjacent rest combinations
  • Recognition of any interval up to a 7th 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 any time signature
  •  The meaning of ‘ad lib’
  •  The meaning of any dynamic marking
  •  The meaning of the tempo marking
Part 2: Your Voice and the Microphone

The examiner will also ask one question about the voice or the microphone. Brief demonstrations to assist answers are acceptable.

Candidates will be asked one of the following questions:

  •  How do you ensure consistent vocal tone?
  •  How do you create breathy (aspirate) tone?
  • When would you use vibrato?
  • How does a microphone amplify sound?

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

Get a copy of the Vocals syllabus:

Vocals Syllabus

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