Are graded examinations essential?

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Classical Guitar By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: Guitar » Classical Guitar
Last updated: 06/06/2012
Tags: exams, grades, guitar, styles


Graded instrumental exams provide a stable learning process for a lot of pupils. The carefully selected pieces and exercises mean that a pupil can progress through each grade knowing that they will not be attempting anything wildly beyond their abilities. For some children the structure and routine is very beneficial as they know what they need to get done each week and what to expect in the next.

In my opinion this is most true of classical guitar. More often than not, children will not have as extensive a knowledge of classical guitar repertoire as they would with popular music and the grades can serve as an introduction to the former.

Within other styles I believe that the grades are less essential, but when used in the right way can be very beneficial. For example, pupils learning electric guitar are more likely to come to lessons knowing a song they wish to learn or a band they like. With the right guidance from the right teacher, pupils can learn the styles they want and as long as the teacher can keep an eye on technique, approach to learning and other such aspects, the results can be just as rewarding and relevant as graded examination.

I feel that grades such as the Rock School series can often help pupils to learn essential skills that would perhaps be overlooked by self taught guitarists. Skills such as reading music as well as tablature, scales, technique and a good theoretical knowledge. However, I think it is essential for pupils using these books to find music that they like and wish to play outside of the books. This is because the songs from these books are often written purely for the grades and in imitation of certain bands or musicians and learning the real thing is often more relevant for the pupil.

With more advanced classical students I would expect the same level of interest and listening to repertoire outside of the grades.

Personality also factors into the decision of grades or no grades. Some people not only need the structure and stability, but enjoy having a target to meet for each exam.

Music is an incredibly personal art form and each pupil requires a different approach and level of guidance. The trick is realising what suits the needs of each pupil and gauging a balance between pupil and teacher.


Thomas Emery Classical Guitar Teacher (South East London)

About The Author

I believe that, as a teacher, my role, is to nurture a passion for music in my pupils. Together we can achieve an excellent standard of music making together, with solid technique, passionate musicianship and a hard work ethic.




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