Have you ever found yourself wondering: 'Do I need to go through all the singing grades?'
Well, this article is just for you.
While singing grade exams are designed around a framework that tracks the student's progression from beginner to advanced stages, the rules are not set in stone. There are several factors that make you want to skip a singing grade. Some of these include the high-cost implications if you decide to take the singing grades one after the other and prior knowledge of music. Another is the realization that most programs and institutions only care about the highest singing grade you've attained and a few other reasons.
So, just in case you're only skimming through this article and want a fast answer, here it goes: Relax, you can skip grades. But just before you make the final plunge, let's dig a little deeper into singing grades.
What Are Singing Grades?
While it is possible to commit the success of your singing career to luck, chance, or sheer coincidence, there is a much better way. Put in the work. See how to study for singing exams.
Graded exams help you to do just that. Singing grades are a method of assessing the performance and proficiency of students against predefined standards with respect to singing. These grades range from beginner to more advanced level (1-8). Each exam attempts to assess your abilities and skills for that grade's standard requirements, with every new level getting progressively challenging.
There are no age restrictions for grade exams, and passing one with strong points does not automatically reflect in the next grade. Although progressive, the grades are independent of each other, and the exams can be taken in the same manner. The only exceptions to this are exam levels beyond grade 5 (6-8) that requires students to have passed the grade 5 exams before being eligible to take them.
Each singing grade consists of music theory exams, practical exercises, and musicianship. The graded exams are offered by three examining boards that have a significant presence in Canada. They include the associate Board of the Royal Schools of Music, also known as ABRSM, and Trinity College.
Another reputable graded examination board in Canada is the Royal Conservatory of Music, located in Toronto. While ABRSM exams are graded from 1-8, they also offer a preparatory test qualification that serves as background preparation for the grade 1 exam. This program is aimed at students who are not sure they are proficient enough even to take the grade 1 exams. The London school of music goes a step further to offer three exams before the official grade one exams (one for pre-preparation and two-step exams).
Passing each singing grade will give you more confidence in your singing skills, expose you to internationally vetted standards, and help to broaden your musical horizons.
The first four grades are more beginner-oriented and will focus on assessing whether your musical foundations are stable while the subsequent grades delve into more advanced concepts.
However, with every exam you successfully go through, you'll know you are qualified to sing at that grade – even at an international level. You will also be a little better than the average singer out there.
What Is The Purpose Of Singing Grades?
Singing grades can also be considered as a music certification program because the qualifications are internationally recognized. Many institutions consider success on some grades as an entry requirement for their music or art programs. The ABRSM Grade 8 qualifications, for example, is an entry requirement for higher studies in a music college or a university.
Singing grades are structured to provide an objective guide for determining a student's skills and progress. The carefully designed curriculum and requirements ensure you can consistently advance your musical career by having definite goals to aim for. They are also more concerned about the quality of music, and as such, they often include a one-on-one assessment by a professional.
Contrary to the opinion of many, the singing grades provided by examination boards in Canada do not exist to test your ability to sing well or pass a vote on your music career. Instead, they offer a fertile ground to determine how well you can bring all your music training elements into both written and practical work. The exams are also well-rounded, cutting across all the aspects of music, styles, timelines, and even the technical aspects.
To pass each grade, you will be tested on scales, arpeggios, and set pieces (accompanied by the piano). You will also be required to sight-read music, demonstrate aural skills, and have a solid music theory.
The approach ensures that you're versatile and can easily hold your ground when singing. Some examination boards like the ABRSM also test your musicianship and how well you understand harmony, melody (piano), rhythm, etc.
While these tests are not 'officially' graded, they are used as a means of internal assessments to evaluate the student's performance. There are also Jazz exams.
Circumstances When You Can Skip A Grade as a Singing Student
While there are people who frown at the idea of skipping music grades, it's not a big deal.
Singing Grade exams are not like chapters of books where missing the previous chapter may affect your understanding of the next chapter. Again, let me remind you: Singing grades exams are independent of each other.
There are also circumstances where your singing instructor can advise you to skip a grade. This includes:
- Missing an exam deadline.
- Your instructor deems you good enough for the next grade.
When you miss a grade exam deadline for reasons beyond your control, your instructor may deem it fit to advise you to skip the grade and move to the next. If you've already covered all the curriculum for that grade and you're well-grounded, there is already a high chance of you scaling the grading exams quite easily, so why wait another year?
You can also decide to skip a grade and move to the next if your instructor decides you're ready and you feel confident enough. Often, it is normal for good students to skip one or two grades. Unless, of course, they relish taking multiples exams in a year and have a time-schedule that allows them.
The exercises in each grade level are rather cumulative and not a one-off task. This means skipping a grade does not mean you automatically lose every concept covered in the grade. You are going to cover it in the next grade, only at a higher level. However, before you make a final decision on skipping a grade, be sure to consult your instructor and get his or her opinion.
Your instructor will be in a better position to give an honest evaluation of your abilities and decide if you'll be able to handle the next grade while skipping the current one. This assessment will allow you to be able to make a more informed decision.
Note that, unlike every other grade, many examination boards consider grade 5 to be a prerequisite for subsequent higher grades. This implies that you cannot skip the grade 5 exams.
But are singing grades exams for everybody? No.
Why Graded Exams Are Not For Every Student
Depending on your goal for taking singing lessons, you may not even need to take the official graded exams. If you love singing and all you're passionate about is being able to sing and play the piano at your friends' parties and school concerts, taking multiple music grade exams can be an over-kill.
What of those that opt for voice lessons to improve his/her public speaking ability and communicate his thoughts as clearly and effectively as possible?
While graded exams are excellent if you're venturing into a professional singing career, many singers do not need to take the exam. If you are singing as part of a choir in your church, for example, you may have little or no need to go the whole length of enrolling for music grade exams.
Many voice artists and professional actors also take voice lessons to help them get better in their careers. The essentials of voice and online singing lessons like posture, breathing exercises, and tuning are some of the benefits of improving their performance. But this does not mean they have to go the full length of enrolling in a grade exam or a music certification program.
It all depends on you and what is best for you. Your decision whether to go for graded exams or not should be based on whether it gets you closer to your dreams. However, if you feel the need to take any of the graded singing exams, even if you have no plan to going into a professional music career, feel free.
Just be prepared to give it your best shot.
Grade exams can be challenging and involve a lot of hard work, but its benefits to your professional career makes it worth it. You can skip the grades you're already well above and reach the highest peaks of your career.