“Music can change the world because it can change people.” ― Bono
Music is an essential aspect of our existence. A catchy tune and clever lyrics can brighten our day to no end or offer the opportunity to let a range of emotions out. I think most people would agree that the world would be a much worse place without music to get us through.
In fact, there are loads of people in the world who would defiantly say that if there was no music, they wouldn’t be interested in the world at all!
So, are you one of those people who think music is essential to existence? Could you create powerful songs that stir emotions all around you? Learning an instrument such as guitar is a fantastic way to let your creative spirit free and play music that lifts your soul. Whether it’s electric guitar, blues, jazz, rock or any style.
Let’s get into it, today we will look at guitar exams in Australia and have a look at what it takes to prepare for these assessments and move up the ranks of guitar!
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Guitar Grades in Australia
When you decide to learn an instrument, it’s not always like going to school, where you show up every day, and pass the years one by one. Many people decide to learn an instrument at their own pace. And that’s okay. However, some like to approach their instrument in a slightly more regimented way, to measure their improvement over time.
But how do you know which way is best?
While it’s entirely up to the individual, music exams are one of the best ways to encourage weekly and yearly improvement in anyone who learns guitar.
This is because the Australian Music Examinations Board, or AMEB, have designed a grading system that is designed to show steady improvement each year for all students who undertake the syllabus.
Starting with Preliminary, and working their way up to Grade 8, the grading system designed by AMEB is generally worked by taking on a grade per year, up until Grade 5, where it is suggested that further grades require two years of practice. Of course, some students will move at a different pace, but most will undertake grades at this speed.
Studying AMEB guitar grades is one of the best ways to learn, as students are receiving feedback with each grade on how they are progressing with their music. It also encourages students to practice almost daily, as the syllabus requires a lot of hard work to be memorized and carried out on exam day.
An exam is comprised of six sections for guitar students:
- Technical Work
- Set Pieces
- Sight Reading
- Aural Tests
- General Knowledge and
- Extra Works
Technical work can include up to a dozen scales, half a dozen arpeggios and set exercises for left and right hands. Exams place great importance on this section, as it is believed to be extremely important in the development of good guitar technique. Often students neglect this in their personal practice, which is why exams tend to place more emphasis on this aspect of learning.
Set pieces in guitar exams are split into 3-4 lists, depending on which level of exam is being undertaken. Students must choose one piece from each list. The lists represent different genres on guitar, meaning that a broad range of styles will be covered in the exam, and the exam cannot favour one style of a song over another.
Sight reading is an important skill in music, not just guitar. Being involved in ensembles such as guitar orchestras can prepare students well for this. Aural tests are included because this is an aural discipline.
Aural training books can be purchased from music stores. General knowledge is something that is taught at the foundation levels of guitar, however a lack of knowledge in this area can become obvious once the higher grades are reached.
How Guitar Exams are Marked
By getting to know the results system in AMEB exams, students will be better prepared to perform in the way that examiners are looking for. All your learning could potentially go to waste if you don't brush up on what is important to guitar experts you will be playing for. From the AMEB website:
PASS WITH HONOURS (A)
The candidate demonstrates an overall superior level of achievement in meeting the syllabus objectives in all sections, in terms of musicianship, security of technique (including intonation, tone, phrasing, articulation, rhythm), and stylistic awareness.
PASS WITH CREDIT (B+ OR B)
B+: In addition to satisfying the requirements for a B grading (below), the candidate demonstrates meritorious achievement against most of the syllabus objectives.
B: The candidate demonstrates an overall creditable level of achievement with appropriate development of musicianship, technique and stylistic awareness in accordance with the syllabus objectives. Some unevenness in achievement in meeting the syllabus objectives, or between different sections of the exam, may be apparent.
PASS (SATISFACTORY) (C+ OR C)
C+: In addition to satisfying the requirements for a C grading (below), the candidate demonstrates more than adequate achievement against some of the syllabus objectives in each section.
C: The candidate demonstrates an overall adequate level of achievement in musicianship, technique and style in accordance with the syllabus objectives. Considerable unevenness of achievement in meeting the syllabus objectives, or between different sections of the exam, may be apparent.
NOT SATISFACTORY (D)
The candidate demonstrates an overall inadequate level of musicianship, technique and style and does not satisfy the syllabus objectives. Often this has resulted from inadequate preparation. Presentation is often hesitant, evidencing technical errors and/or an inappropriate sense of style.
UNABLE TO ASSESS (UA)
Students receive this result when a significant or compulsory aspect of the grade and syllabus is not presented. The examiner is unable to provide grading and a certificate cannot be issued.
Some examples of this result include:
- a compulsory timing requirement is not met
- a candidate is unable to present pieces that require certain accompaniment with that accompaniment or
- significant sections of the examination are not presented.
You might find yourself asking what it now takes to reach these higher grades in your AMEB guitar exam. Here are some tips to help you succeed:
- Practice, practice, practice: annnnnnnnd practice! Practice makes perfect. We hear it all the time, but it really is true. If you put the hours into your guitar playing, you will only reap rewards in the future. You might think you can cram the night before for your History exam, but your guitar exam is not something that is going to click in to gear at 2AM the night before. When you work on your skills daily, with a vision in mind to acing the exam at the end of the year, that is where true progress can occur.
- Pay attention to performance skills: music is an art that can lend itself to the visual, as much as it is something we hear. When you sit your guitar exam, examiners will be critiquing you on everything, from the way you walk into the room, to the way you sit as you play. The most important thing is how it sounds, but when you exude confidence in your exam, that will actually help you play even better. If you can work on your posture as you play, this can only have a positive impact as you try to wow the judges in your exam.
- Get a tutor: it sounds obvious, but if you really want to succeed in your exams, a little outside help can go a long way. Websites such as Superprof are teeming with guitar teachers who will not only help you improve your guitar playing ability, but can also advise you, first hand, on what the judges will be looking for in the exam Take it from these guys, who’ve been there and done that. A good guitar tutor will be your greatest ally when it comes to reaching those ‘A’ grades in your exam.
Can I Skip a Grade?
Been playing the guitar forever but never managed to do a grade, or maybe you’ve just been crushing it so hard that you feel the lower grades could be worth skipping?
No matter your situation, yes you can skip grades on AMEB guitar.
While it is usually inadvisable to skip grades in guitar exams because the content develops significantly each year, there is no obligation to complete Preliminary, or Grade 1, before completing Grade 2. You might have played for so long, but never quite got around to doing a grade. It doesn’t matter, if you are good enough, and feel up to the challenge, your first guitar exam can be Grade 8 itself.
It’s all about how you want to test yourself, what credentials you would like, and what challenges you feel ready for. Most student will take the path of doing a grade each year, or every two years in the higher levels, but this path is only recommended for best practice in learning. There are no hard and fast rules for which exam you choose to take.
Teachers are available to teach private guitar lessons to students today. Lessons are available in person or online. Some teachers on Superprof give the first lesson free, to really see if you guys jam together! Whatever your main interest is: jazz, bass guitar, electric guitar, classical, acoustic, blues, rock or anything else, you will find a teacher that can teach these styles near you.
Playing and learning guitar is great fun with private guitar lessons.
How to Prepare for Your Guitar Exam
When preparing for your guitar exam, any advice should at least be considered if you want to do the best you can. Teachers, other musicians, and people who hear you play can all have helpful advice when it comes to your improvement. You should never be above a little healthy feedback.
Having said that, always take everything you hear with a grain of salt, and consider the person’s credentials and if they really do know what they are on about when they are giving you advice.
We’ve gone to the trouble of asking some qualified experts how you can give yourself the best chance of top marks in your guitar examinations.
- Master Your Scales and Arpeggios: you may not have begun guitar with this kind of playing in mind, but ask any accomplished guitarist, and they will tell you the importance of understanding and mastering your scales and arpeggios. These sequences form the backbone of your playing, and learning them will improve not only your playing ability but your compositional ability in the future. If learning them seems like a drag, remember, there is more weight on these in the exams so it will pay to practice them often.
- Set Goals: goals such as practising for an hour every day, learning a new piece once per week, and taking lessons with a guitar teacher once a week are objectives that can easily be achieved. You'll also see a lot of progress in your playing skills. Work with your private guitar teacher to create goals that you can review each lesson to become the best guitar student you can be.
- Use a Metronome: metronomes are essential since they are developed to help new musicians develop rhythm and are set to beats per minute. Using a metronome is extremely useful for guitar beginners as it helps them build timing from the beginning. Metronomes can be purchased at music shops or used on apps such as Tempo and Time Guru. If you are a beginner, get your guitar teacher to show you how to best make use of a metronome in your private guitar lessons.
Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced guitar teachers are available all across Australia, looking for students like you! It doesn't matter if you favour jazz, electric guitar, classical, acoustic, blues, rock or anything else, you will find a teacher for all different styles near you.
You can even have classes online if the teacher you want isn't local. Have fun playing and learning guitar from great teachers near you.
Get A Teacher
When preparing for exams, don't underestimate the importance of having a guitar teacher to help you improve and get ready. Learning guitar happens best when you engage a private guitar teacher to help you learn all aspects of guitar. When it comes to the exam, they can help you to read music, they can help you brush up on theory, they can correct your technique where it needs and share their years of experience with the up-and-coming student.
Teachers love to help students prepare for their exams. It gives the teacher and student a shared goal to work towards with the guitar exam and helps guide the lessons that the private guitar teacher is giving. Whether lessons are in-person or online, guitar teachers love to help beginners, intermediate players and advanced players ace their exams.
It doesn't matter what style you prefer, be it jazz, electric guitar, classical, acoustic, blues, rock, bass guitar, or any other styles, guitar teachers can work with you to design fun lessons that combine their years of experience with your fresh ready-to-learn attitude. Teachers help with chords, technique, different styles and even composition. Private guitar lessons from a private teacher are the best way to improve your guitar playing and progress from beginner, to intermediate, to advanced.
Hopefully, all the above information is sounding like music to your ears, and you can take on board our advice on how to prepare for and then subsequently ace your guitar exams.
Good luck and don’t forget to thank us when you’re selling out concert halls around the world! Book private guitar lessons today.
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