Keys
Grade 8

The Grade 8 Keyboard exam is for candidates who have been typically learning for five years or more and have now consolidated their playing to a high level. They have mastered the key skills up to Grade 7 and developed heightened technique, use of expressive devices, rhythmic complexity, fluency, co-ordination and musical understanding.

There will be an innate stylistic conviction and distinctive musicality with strong individuality.Communication will be commanding.

Estimated Examination Time:

  • Grade Exam: 30 minutes (approx.)
  • Performance Certificate: 25 minutes (approx.)
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Purchase Your Book & Exam Entry

The essential syllabus for the aspiring, contemporary keyboard player. Keys Grade 8 will provide you with everything you need for your Grade 8 exam, including a diverse range of repertoire, a truly innovative range of supporting tests and a vast array of professionally recorded backing tracks and audio examples.

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Keys Grade 8

The essential syllabus for the aspiring, contemporary keyboardist. Keys Grade 8 will provide you ...
Graded Music Exam Grade 8

Graded Music Exam: Grade 8

All instruments - General guidance: Graded Music Exams Overview - How to book an exam UK / Republ...

Performance Pieces

The pieces in the grade book can be used for both the Grade Exam and Performance Certificate. The expectation and length of pieces are designed so candidates can demonstrate complete ownership of notation accuracy, values, evenness of sound, tone quality/ consistency, technical control, articulation, style awareness and sync at an advanced level. There will be instinctive presentation of musical structure with effortlessly fluent, maturely expressive communication.

Featured Repertoire:

  • Rather Be – Clean Bandit feat. Jess Glynne
  • Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
  • Spain – Chick Corea
  • Hit Me – Dirty Loops
  • Lingus – Snarky Puppy
  • End Credits (E.T.) – John Williams

Technical Exercises

At Grade 8 there are four groups of technical work: Scales, Arpeggios, Chord Voicings and Technical Studies.

  • Candidates must prepare both natural minor and harmonic minor scales
  • Major scales, minor scales, chromatic scales and arpeggios need to be played:
    – hands together
    – ascending and descending
    – either straight or swung feel

(as directed by the examiner)

    – either legato or staccato

articulation (as directed by the examiner)

    – across four octaves (except half-whole and whole half diminished scales, which must be played over two octaves, and extended arpeggios which are one octave only)
  • Groups A, B and C (scales, arpeggios and chords) need to be played from memory, and candidates will be required to close the grade book. Candidates may use the book for Group D (technical studies)

The examiner will ask for a selection from groups A, B and C. Candidates can prepare the technical study of their choice from group D.

Groups A and B need to be performed to a metronome click. Group C can be performed at a tempo of the candidate’s choice, but the examiner will be looking for the speed of response. The chosen technical study from Group D needs to be performed to a backing track.

Note: the use of any notes or any reading from the grade book during the technical exercises will result in a deduction of overall marks for this section. (See Assessment Criteria).

Any fingerings shown in the grade book are for suggestions only.

GROUP A – Scales

Tempo: 176 bpm
Rhythms: Eighth notes, finishing on a whole note.
Rhythms: Eighth notes, finishing on a quarter/dotted half note.

  • C half-whole diminished (two octaves)
  • C whole-half diminished (two octaves)

GROUP B – Arpeggios

Tempo: 132 bpm
Time Signature: 3/4, 4/4
Octave range: 4 octaves (except extended arpeggio shown below, 1 octave)
Rhythms: 3/4: Eighth notes, finishing on a dotted half note. 4/4: Eighth notes, finishing on a whole note.

  • D# dim7 arpeggio
  • A7 arpeggio
  • Eb7 arpeggio
  • C13b9#11 arpeggio (1 octave)

Additional Scale
Candidates will be asked to perform one additional scale from any of the Group A exercises in any of the previous grades, selected by the examiner. The scale will need to be played ascending and descending, in eighth notes and hands together. The examiner will confirm the scale, number of octaves, whether straight or swung, tempo and time signature.

Additional Arpeggio
Candidates will be asked to perform one additional arpeggio from any of the Group B exercises in any of the previous grades, selected by the examiner. The scale will need to be played ascending and descending, in eighth notes and hands together. The examiner will confirm the scale, number of octaves, whether straight or swung, tempo and time signature.

GROUP C – Chord Voicings

Candidates will be asked to play one chordal exercise from below, chosen by the examiner:

  • C13b9#11
  • C diminished major 7

Candidates will be asked to play one of the chord exercises from memory. The examiner will state the chord type/exercise. This test is performed in free time (without backing track or click), but the examiner will be looking for the speed of your response.

GROUP D – Technical Studies
Candidates will be required to perform one technical study of their choice to the backing track.

Supporting Tests

At Grade 8 candidates will be offered the choice between Sight Reading or Improvisation and Interpretation. Both are previously unseen and examples of each are given in the grade book.

Sight Reading

Key: Any key
Time Signature: Any
Rhythms: Whole, dotted half, half, dotted quarter, quarter, eighth, sixteenth notes, associated rests. Eighth, quarter, sixteenth note ties
Dynamics: Any

The sight reading test is in the form of a 16–24 bar example in any key.

You will first be given 90 seconds to practise, after which the examiner will play the backing track twice. The first time is for you to practise and the second time is for you to perform the final version for the exam. For each playthrough, the backing track will begin with a one bar count-in. The tempo is 60–200 bpm.

During the practice time, you will be given the choice of a metronome click throughout or a one bar count in at the beginning.

The backing track is continuous, so once the first playthrough has finished, the count in of the second playing will start immediately.

Improvisation & Interpretation

Key: Any
Tempo: 60 – 200 BPM
Time Signature: 4/4, swung 4/4

The Improvisation test is in the form of a 16–24 bar chord progression with all chord symbols indicated.

Candidates are required to improvise melodies and chordal comping between left hand and right hand, in any way they wish, interpreting the chord progression and backing track given in the exam.

Candidates will have 90 seconds to practise after which the examiner will play the backing track twice. The first time is to practise and the second time is to perform the final version for the exam. For each playthrough, the backing track will begin with a one bar count-in.

During the practice time, candidates will be given the option of a metronome click throughout or a one bar count-in at the beginning. The backing track is continuous so once the first playthrough has finished the count-in of the second playing will start immediately.

Ear Tests

At Grade 8 there are two ear tests: Melodic Recall and Harmonic Recall. Both are previously unseen and an example of each is shown in the grade book.

Melodic Recall
Key: C major, C natural minor or C harmonic minor
Tempo: 95bpm
Time Signature: 4/4
Rhythms: Half, quarter, eighth notes.

The examiner will play a 2 bar diatonic melody in the key of either C major, C natural minor or C harmonic minor, with a range up to an octave.

There will be a C root note at the beginning of the test, then the melody will be played twice. After this, candidates need to play the melody back to a metronome click. Both playings of the melody and the metronome backing for the exam version will be preceded by a one bar count-in.

The first note of the melody will be either the root, third or fifth.

It is acceptable for candidates to play over the track as the test is being played and there will be 10 seconds to practise after the second playing. The piano can be used to assist at any time prior to being counted in to perform the exam version.

Note: the 10 seconds is pre-recorded on the audio track so the count-in for the exam version may begin while candidates are still practising.

Harmonic Recall
Key: C major or C minor
Tempo: 95bpm
Time Signature: 4/4
Rhythms: Whole, half notes

The examiner will play a chord progression containing any combination of chords from either the C major or C minor scale, including seventh chords. Candidates will hear the test twice, then play the chords back to a metronome click. Both playings of the initial test and the metronome backing for the exam version will be preceded by a one bar count-in.

Note: there is no requirement for the chords to be voicing specific but the diatonic progression needs to be correct.

It is acceptable for candidates to play over the track as the test is being played and there will be 10 seconds to practise after the second playing. The piano can be used to assist at any time prior to being counted in to perform the exam version.

Note: the 10 seconds is pre-recorded on the audio track so the count-in for the exam version may begin while candidates are still practising.

General Musicianship Questions

At Grade 8 candidates will be asked five questions, one from each of the following groups:

  • One question relating to harmony
  • One question relating to melody
  • One question relating to rhythms
  • One question relating to technical requirements
  • One question relating to genre

Candidates can choose the piece on which basis the questions will be asked. It must be one of the pieces performed in the exam. The exact bars or phrases will be chosen by the examiner.

The questions will cover the following topics:

Group 1: Harmony
Scales / modes which are being played.

Group 2: Melody
Intervallic construction of melodic phrases within the piece up to crotchet length.

Group 3: Rhythm
Whole, half, quarter, eighth, sixteenth, thirty-second notes, any dotted notes, triplets or any associated rests up to one minim length.

Group 4: Technical
Fingering required to execute voice leading between two consecutive chord voicing’s.

Group 5: Genre
Melodic / harmonic / rhythmic devices indicative of the genre chosen.

Exam Structure

There are two types of exam 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 Tests Candidates respond to 2 aural tests. These account for 10% of the exam marks
5 General Musicianship Questions Candidates 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.

Assessment Criteria

Performance Pieces

Attainment Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 18-20 15-17 12-14 6-11 0-5
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding all 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 & Expression Consistently 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 13–15 11–12 9–10 4–8 0–3
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding all 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 9-10 7-8 6 3-5 0-2
Accuracy & Understanding All 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 9-10 7-8 6 3-5 0-2
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding All 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 Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 5 correct responses 4 correct responses 3 correct responses 2 correct responses 0-1 correct responses

Performance Certificate

Attainment Band Distinction Merit Pass Below Pass Below Pass 2
Mark Range 18-20 15-17 12-14 6-11 0-5
Command of Instrument Consistently clear production of sound and even tone quality throughout Mostly clear production of sound and even tone quality overall Some clear production of sound and generally even tone quality Sound produced is unclear with uneven quality of tone produced No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Sync or Pulse Performance consistently synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance mostly synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance sometimes synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse maintained Performance not synchronised to the music, or an internal pulse not maintained No attempt and/or incomplete performance
Accuracy & Understanding All 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 & Expression Consistently 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

Digital Files

For the RSL shop we’ve chosen the most widely used media for ease of use and flexibility when transferring across different devices.

Every complete digital book (e.g. Electric Guitar Grade 1) includes:

  • PDF sheet music
  • MP3 audio
  • Supporting tests

Download Limits

We know downloading digital content can be frustrating at times which is why we’ve given you multiple chances to download your audio and sheet music.

Each complete digital book purchased includes:

  • 5 audio downloads
  • 3 sheet music downloadsThis means if you misplace your content, or if your download times-out, you’ll still have plenty of attempts to download your content.

Purchase Options

1. Hard Copy

The hard copy or paperback version can be purchased from our shop for shipping to the UK. Orders for shipping to other countries can be placed via www.musicroom.com. The paperback version includes everything you need for your exam in one essential book, including sheet music, a code for access to MP3 audio and complete supporting tests.

2. Digital Download (where applicable)

Digital downloads is the most popular way of purchasing and downloading a Rockschool book, track or supporting test. Rockschool digital book downloads come complete with PDF sheet music, MP3 audio and supporting tests for instant accessibility on all your favourite devices.

Note: Digital sheet music is stamped with your email address and order number.

3. Digital Download + E-Book Access

The RSL e-books, utilising Learning Platform technology powered by MatchMySound, are the ultimate practise tool, giving you the ability to master your instrument like never before.

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