Session skills

Performers choose to complete one of two Session skills in their exam – Improvising or Playback. Developing these important skills will prepare musicians for their careers in the music industry.


Performers improvise over a chord progression played on a backing track. They will be given a previously unseen song chart with the chord symbols and song style. The styles include blues, ballad, rock and reggae. Performers build on their improvising skills as they move through the grades.


Performers play some music they haven’t seen or heard before, presented as both a song chart and an audio recording. They can listen to the audio to repeat what they hear, they can sight-read it from the song chart, or they can use both.


You’ll find guidance on the Session skills in the songbooks for each grade. They include practice samples, in notation and on the CD. There’s more information about Session skills in the downloadable syllabus and on our Syllabus page.

Session skills parameters

  • Details of what you need to learn for the Playback Session skill at each grade

download the PDF (93.0Kb)

  • Details of what you need to learn for the Improvising Session skill at each grade

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New Session skills books

A brand new series of books to help with preparation for the Session skills section of our Rock & Pop exams for Bass, Drums, Guitar, Keyboards and Vocals is now available.

Three books are available per instrument:

  • Initial to Grade 2
  • Grade 3 to Grade 5
  • Grade 6 to Grade 8

Each book contains:

  • Example tests
  • An audio CD of backing tracks for the example tests
  • Preparation tips 
  • 10 improvising examples and 10 playback examples for each of the three grades covered, in styles that may be encountered in the exam

Visit our online shop to buy our new Session skills books.