Vocals Grade 7

When you reach Vocals Grade 7, you're well on your way to becoming a pro­level vocalist. So it's time to up your game, as you master advanced stylistic techniques, sustained note bends and large intervallic leaps, before performing a series of extended performance pieces in your exam.

Exam Times

Grade Exam: 36 Minutes (approx.)
Performance Certificate: 30 Minutes (approx.)

Key Features at: Grade 7

  • Three-­part backing vocals, applying advanced stylistic techniques, musical improvisation and development, harmonising in 3rds and 4ths, tonal control, chromatic step phrasing, sustained note bends, extended range and large intervallic leaps
  • The harmonic minor scale and augmented arpeggio
  • Major/minor interval sequences, legato/staccato phrasing and microphone technique

Buy Your Book

The Vocals Grade 7 book will help you tackle pro-­standard techniques, including: style study, sustained note bends and large intervallic leaps. Successful candidates are also rewarded UCAS Points, which contribute to higher education applications.

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Vocals Male 7 Vocals Female 7

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 & InterpretationCandidates 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 7 are:

Female

  • Shirley Bassey - Big Spender
  • Leona Lewis - Bleeding Love
  • Emeli Sande - Heaven
  • Les Miserables - I Dreamed A Dream
  • Estelle - American Boy
  • 4 Non Blondes - What’s Up?

Male

  • Moulin Rouge!  - Come What May
  • Elton John - I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues
  • The White Stripes - I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself 
  • Naughty Boy ft. Sam Smith - La La La
  • Jeff Buckley - Lover, You Should’ve Come Over
  • Plan B - She Said

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

GROUP A - Scales

  • Tempo: 100bpm
  • 4/4 time signature

A harmonic 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: 100bpm
  • 3/4 time signature

An augmented arpeggio must be prepared. This test must be performed to a metronome click track and any starting note between C–G may be selected by the candidate. The root note will be heard, followed by a one bar (four-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 interval sequences must be prepared:

  •  Major 3rd and major 2nd intervals
  •  Minor 3rd and minor 2nd intervals

The candidate will be asked to perform one of these sequences 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). Candidates will then be required to sing the 1st¬–major 3rd, 1st–major 2nd–1st in sequence, or the 1st–minor 3rd, 1st–minor 2nd–1st in sequence. This will be 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 can be performed using any vocal sound except humming or whistling.

GROUP D - Melodic Study

  • Tempo: 120bpm
  • 4/4 time signature

In this group all three backing vocal parts need to be prepared. This is a three-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 two parts on the recording. The test needs to be performed to the appropriate backing track.

GROUP E - Backing Vocals

  • Tempo: 80–125bpm
  • 4/4 time signature

Candidates will need to choose and perform one Stylistic Study from the group of styles listed below. This choice will determine the style of the Quick Study Piece. For example, if the Jazz and Blues stylistic study is chosen the examiner will give the candidate a QSP from the Jazz and Blues group.

  • Pop and Musical Theatre
  • Soul and R’n’B
  • Jazz and Blues
  • Rock and Indie

Supporting Tests

Quick Study Pieces 

Tempo: 70-160bpm

At this grade candidates will be asked to prepare and perform a short Quick Study Piece (QSP). This will consist of four bars of melody and eight bars of improvisation. Bars 1–4 of the test will be a notated melody and the candidate must sing all the written detail, including the lyrics. In bars 5–8 candidates will need to improvise a variation of bars 1¬–4, developing both the lyrics and melody as they feel appropriate. In bars 9–12 candidates are required to improvise freely, with no reference to bars 1–4 needed. These bars can be performed using any vocal sound except humming or whistling. Improvised lyrics and vocal ad-libbing are permitted.

The examiner will give the candidate the sheet music and then a full mix version of the track will be heard, including the notated parts. This first playthrough will be preceded by the root note and a one bar count-in. After the full mix candidates will have three minutes to practice. The root note will be played at the start of this practice time and then again after 90 seconds. During the practice time, candidates will be given the choice of a metronome click throughout or a one-bar count-in at the beginning. At the end of the three minutes, the backing track will be played twice more with the notated parts now absent. The first time is for rehearsal and the second time is for the candidate to perform the final version for the exam. Again, the root note will be heard and then a one-bar count-in before each playthrough. The backing track is continuous, so once the first playthrough has finished, the root note and count-in of the second playthrough will start immediately.

The QSP style will be from one of the following four groups. These match the groups of the Stylistics Studies in the Technical Exercises section.

  •  Pop and Musical Theatre
  •  Soul and R’n’B
  •  Jazz and Blues
  •  Rock and Indie

The style of the QSP given to the candidate will be from the same group as the candidate’s choice of Stylistic Study. The examiner will decide the specific style from the group chosen.

Ear Tests

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

Melodic Recall

Female: B major and D natural minor scale
Male: D major or E natural minor scale
Tempo: 90bpm

The examiner will play a two bar melody played to a drum backing. It will use one of the above scales (the examiner will decide which) and the first note will be the root note or the 5th. The test will be heard twice, each time starting with the root note and a four-beat count-in. There will be a short gap to practise 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 practising 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 practising.

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

Harmony Vocals

Female: A major or E minor
Male: E major or B minor
Tempo: 90–130bpm

The examiner will play a four bar melody in one of the above keys (the examiner will decide which), based on any diatonic chords. The recorded vocal part will sing the root, 3rd or 5th of each chord and candidates need to harmonise a diatonic 3rd or 4th 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 practise 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 practising 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 practising.

General Musicianship Questions 

In this part of the exam five questions will be asked. Three of these questions will be on general music knowledge of the piece, one will be on improvisation and one will be on the candidate’s understanding of the voice or microphone.

Music Knowledge

Part 1: General Music Knowledge

The examiner will ask three 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 and explain:

  • Any notation used in the chosen piece
  •  Recognition of any interval up to an octave between two adjacent notes (candidates will need to state major, minor or perfect)
Part 2: Improvisation

Candidates will be asked to briefly describe and demonstrate their approach to how they would improvise any part of the chosen song. This should be done with reference to melody, rhythm, phrasing, dynamics and expression. Candidates can choose the part.

Part 3: Your Voice and the Microphone

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

  •  What type of exercise might you use to practise ‘flipping between registers’, including the pitches you would use in the exercise for your voice?
  • Give two examples of vocal effects you might employ while singing in the rock style
  •  Explain the difference between ‘warm-ups’ and ‘technical practice’, including one example of the type of exercise used for each
  • What equalization settings might you use to correct a singer with a very ‘nasal’ sound?

Assessment Criteria

Performance Pieces 

Attainment BandAssessment Criteria Not MetPassMeritDistinction
Mark Range 0-1112-1415-1718-20
Grade DescriptorInsecure physical techniques
Insecure expressive techniques
Insecure use of rhythm Insecure use of pitch or intonation
Insecure use of harmony or melody Inability to demonstrate stylistic awareness
Inconsistent use of rhythm and timing Insecure use of diction, articulation and phrasing
Some secure physical techniques
Some secure expressive techniques
Secure use of rhythm some of the time Secure use of pitch and intonation some of the time
Secure use of harmony and melody some of the time
Strong stylistic awareness some of the time
Assured use of rhythm and timing some of the time
Assured use of diction, articulation and phrasing some of the time
Mostly secure physical techniques
Mostly secure expressive techniques Secure use of rhythm most of the time Secure use of pitch and intonation most of the time
Secure use of harmony and melody most of the time
Strong stylistic awareness most of the time
Assured use of rhythm and timing most of the time
Assured use of diction, articulation and phrasing most of the time
Consistently secure physical techniques Consistently secure expressive techniques Secure use of rhythm throughout
Secure use of pitch and intonation throughout Secure use of harmony and melody throughout
Strong stylistic awareness throughout Assured use of rhythm and timing throughout Assured use of diction, articulation and phrasing throughout

Technical Excercises 

Attainment BandAssessment Criteria Not MetPassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-89-1011-1213-15
Grade DescriptorInability to maintain pitch, pulse or rhythm accurately
Inability to recall musical and rhythmic phrases accurately
Ability to sing with accuracy, pitch, rhythm and pulse some of the time
Ability to recall musical and rhythmic phrases some of the time
Ability to sing with accuracy, pitch, rhythm and pulse most of the time
Ability to recall musical and rhythmic phrases most of the time
Ability to sing with accuracy, pitch, rhythm and pulse consistently Ability to recall musical and rhythmic phrases consistently

Quick Study Pieces

Attainment BandAssessment Criteria Not MetPassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-45-67-89-10
Grade DescriptorInability to read rhythmic, harmonic and melodic notation OR Inability to improvise rhythm, harmony and melodySecure ability to read rhythmic, harmonic and melodic notation some of the time OR Secure ability to improvise rhythm, harmony and melody some of the timeMostly secure ability to read rhythmic, harmonic and melodic notation OR Mostly secure ability to improvise rhythm, harmony and melodyConsistently secure ability to read rhythmic, harmonic and melodic notation OR Consistently secure ability to improvise rhythm, harmony and melody

Ear Tests

Attainment BandAssessment Criteria Not MetPassMeritDistinction
Mark Range0-45-67-89-10
Grade DescriptorIncorrect responsesSome correct responsesMostly correct responsesConsistently correct responses

General Musicianship Questions

Attainment BandAssessment Criteria Not MetPass MeritDistinction
Mark Range0-2 correct responses3 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 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:

01 May 19 - 31 July 19

Next Closing Date

01 April 19

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Exam Fee

£85.00

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