Vocals Grade 8

Pass Vocals Grade 8, and you're ready to sing on any stage or in any session in the popular music world. First, though, you'll need to prove you're ready by demonstrating sophisticated phrasing, extended range, comprehensive theory knowledge and put in perfect performances at exam time.

Examination Times

Grade Exam: 33 Minutes (approx.)
Performance Certificate: 30 Minutes (approx.)

Key Features at: Grade 8

  • Three ­part backing vocals, stylistic use of techniques and improvisation/development, register flips, long melismas, sustained vibrato, slides to scream, extended range and intervals
  • The Chromatic Scale and diminished 7th arpeggio
  • Large intervals in major/minor sequences, advanced phrasing and articulation and microphone technique

Buy Your Book

The Vocals Grade 8 book will be your indispensable guide as you tackle the complex challenges of your final grade exam. Once again, each successful candidate will earn UCAS points – a vital currency for university applications - as well as preparing you for your first performances in a professional environment.

Buy Your Book!

Rockschool Vocals Grade 8

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 8 are:

  • Beyoncé – I Care
  • Andra Day – Rise Up
  • Sam Smith – Writing’s on the Wall
  • Keala Settle – This is Me (from the Greatest Showman)
  • Whitney Houston – I Have Nothing
  • Skunk Anansie – Weak
  • Ella Fitzgerald / Chaka Khan – Night in Tunisia
  • Foo Fighters – Best of You
  • Seal – Kiss from a Rose
  • Ray Charles – A Song for You

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 five groups of technical exercises at this grade: Scales, Arpeggios, Intervals, Backing Vocals and Stylistic Studies. The scale, arpeggio and intervals are to be performed to a click track, the backing vocals and stylistic study to backing tracks. Unless specified otherwise, the exercises may be performed using any vocal sound except humming or whistling.

Group A: Scales

Candidates are to perform the following scale, as written in the grade book:

Scale: Chromatic scale
Starting note: Candidate’s choice
Range: 1 octave
Tempo: 100bpm
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 perform the following arpeggio, as written in the grade book:

Arpeggio: Diminished arpeggio
Starting note: Candidates Choice
Range: 1 octave
Tempo: 100bpm
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 interval sequences, as written in the grade book. The examiner will ask for one of them to be performed in the exam:

Major 7ths, minor 7ths and octaves
Starting note: Candidate’s choice
Tempo: 90bpm
Accompaniment: Click track

Major 3rds and minor 3rds
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: Backing Vocals

Candidates are to perform one of the two backing vocals exercises given in the grade book. Each exercise in the book has three notated vocal parts — candidates must prepare all of these for their chosen exercise. The examiner will ask which exercise the candidate has prepared (Exercise 1 or Exercise 2). They will then select one of the vocal parts for the candidate to perform (the other two notated parts will be included on the backing track). Candidates will hear the root note, followed by a 4-beat count in, before performing the test to the backing track.

Group E: Stylistic Studies

Candidates are to perform one of the eight stylistic studies given in the grade book. The studies are divided into the four distinct genre groups below, with two options for each genre group:

  • Pop and Musical Theatre
  • Soul and Contemporary R&B
  • Jazz and Blues
  • Rock and Indie

The examiner will ask which genre group and which study the candidate has prepared (study 1 or study 2). Candidates may sing in any octave but the studies cannot be transposed to a different key. Candidates will hear the root note, followed by a 4-beat count in, before performing the test to the backing track. Note that the choice of genre group for this test will determine the style of the Quick Study Piece the examiner will select in the exam.

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!

Quick Study Piece

Requirements

Candidates will be given a short previously unseen piece to perform, the style of which will be one of the two from the genre group that candidates chose for their stylistic study. The piece will be 12 bars long, in any major or minor key up to four sharps/flats, covering a range of up to a 10th. In bars 1 to 4 candidates will sing the written melody and lyrics; in bars 5 to 8 candidates will improvise a variation on the first 4 bars, developing the melody and lyrics as they wish; in bars 9 to 12 candidates will improvise a melody using any vocal sound except humming or whistling. The tempo will be 70–160bpm.

Preparation

Candidates will be asked whether they would like a higher-pitched test or a lower-pitched test. Candidates will by played a full mix version of the track, including the notated parts. They will then be given 3 minutes 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. The root note will be played again halfway through the practice time.

Performance

After the practice time, the backing track will be played twice more with the notated parts now absent. The first time is for candidates to rehearse and the second time to perform the final version for the exam. Only the performance 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 playthrough 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: Harmony Vocals

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 B major or E natural minor, starting on the root note, 3rd or 5th. Candidates may sing in any octave. The melody may contain half notes, dotted half notes, quarter notes, dotted quarter notes, eighth notes, dotted eighth notes and sixteenth notes and will 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: Harmony Vocals

  • Requirements: The examiner will play a 4-bar melody. Candidates will be asked to harmonise the melody a diatonic 3rd or 4th above, using the same rhythm and lyrics. The melody will be based on diatonic chords (chords I, IV, V and VIm). The tempo will be 90–140bpm.
  • Process: Candidates will be asked whether they would like a higher-pitched test or a lower-pitched test. The higher-pitched test will be in A major or B minor (Option 1), the lower-pitched test in D major or E minor (Option 2). They will be given the lyrics for their test. The test will be played three times, each time preceded by the root note and a 4-beat count in. There will be a short gap after each playthrough. After the gap following the third playthrough candidates will be given a vocal count in, after which they should sing their harmony line. The length of time available after the third playthrough is pre-recorded on the audio track so the vocal count in may begin while the candidate is still practising.

General Musicianship Questions

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

Part 1: General Music Knowledge
There will be three 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 and explain any two sections of notation
  • Identify and explain any interval up to a octave between two adjacent notes (including stating 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 song, making reference to melody, rhythm, phrasing, dynamics and expression. Candidates can choose the part of the song.

Part 3: Knowledge of the Voice and the Microphone
There will be one question about the candidate’s knowledge of their voice or the microphone, chosen by the examiner from the list below. Candidates may be asked:

  • Can you name three effective resonators for singing?
  • Can you explain the difference between ‘aspirate onset’ and ‘glottal onset’?
  • Which exercises might be safe to perform when your voice is tired or you have a sore throat?
  • How can you balance your sound on microphone when switching between chest voice (low register) and head/falsetto voice (high register)?

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

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

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

Preparing for classical graded music exams with other examination boards? Get graded with RSL Awards...

LEARN ABOUT OUR FREE CHOICE PIECE EXTENSION

Rockschool Vocal Wider Repertoire

Wider Repertoire

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

Vocals Syllabus (2014 - 2021)

Find a centre

We work with centres all across the UK and in +40 other countries around the globe. Find your nearest centre.

Find a centre

If you're based outside the UK, hit the button below!

INTERNATIONAL CONTACT SEARCH

Find a teacher

Looking for a teacher in your region? We can help! Find a teacher near you via our extensive online database.

Find a teacher

Dates & Fees

Next Exam Period & Closing Date

Hit the button below to see all our upcoming graded music exam dates -

Exam Fee

Hit the button below to see prices for all our graded music exam formats at this Grade.

View All Exam Fees