Our Rock & Pop exams for groups look at your band's ability to plan and play a set (90 marks) and presentation skills (10 marks).
Choosing your songs
Your band can choose the music that makes up the set list for the exam. At Foundation and Intermediate level, we specify one song to include, but the rest is free choice and can include your own original material. At Advanced level you are free to select the entire set list. You will need to check that the level of difficulty of the songs you choose is similar to the songs set for the equivalent grade in our solo exams (Foundation = Grade 3, Intermediate = Grade 5 and Advanced = Grade 8).
The compulsory songs set at Foundation and Intermediate level have been carefully arranged to suit a five-piece band of bass, drums, guitar, keyboard and vocals. However, any band of two or more players/singers can enter a group exam and present their own interpretation of the specified song. Arrangement of the compulsory song should be made to suit the particular performers in the group. The arrangement can be from a commercial source, arranged by the performers themselves, or by a teacher.
Amps and Equipment
Groups requiring amplification not covered by the syllabus kit-list will need to bring their own additional equipment including cables, microphones and stands. Vocal groups and backing singers will usually require a microphone for each performer, so it’s a good idea to contact your local centre to check that the PA meets your needs. All members of a vocals only group should use a microphone for at least one of the songs, unless you are part of a large vocal group, when it may be necessary to perform without microphones – please check with us before entering.
Backing tracks may be used for vocal groups of two or more singers when no instrumentalists are also in the group, however all other line-ups should play all parts live. Vocal groups should provide the backing tracks to the examiner on CD or other portable media, in the order to be performed during the set.
Vocal groups may perform songs a) along with a backing track, as above, or b) unaccompanied – ‘a capella’. There is also the option for ONE song only to be accompanied ‘live’ by one musician e.g. a piano accompanist or guitarist (who may be the teacher).
Vocal groups may be directed by a non-performing director/conductor (who may be the teacher), or they can perform without a separate director. All instrumental groups must perform without a separate director, although as is usual within a band, any of the band members can take the lead for indicating intros and endings, tempi, solo slots, etc.
Your band, your way
You’ll want to show off the talents of individual group members in your set, so it’s a good idea for each member of the group to perform at least one solo slot, as bands do in real live gigs. It could be a short solo at Foundation level, a little longer at Intermediate and by Advanced level you can show off your more developed musical and technical skills.
Bands with more than one guitarist should feature at least some rhythm and lead playing by all players and a band with multiple singers could feature some harmonised backing vocals in addition to the solo slots. Our groups exams allow you to use your imagination and be creative in shaping your bands sound.
Being in a band isn’t just about playing your tunes well, you should also think about what songs to play and in which order, how you want to look on stage, how slick your changes are between songs, what you might say in between songs, the balance of your sound levels and making sure your set fits the time slot you’ve been given.
You should also think about your promo pack which contains everything from your band biography to publicity pictures and your set list.
Ten marks are awarded for Presentation Skills - broken down as follows:
Programme Planning (3 marks)
This looks at your choice of songs and the overall balance of your set. Credit is given for a programme that allows your band to present a variety of skills, styles and moods. The timing of your set is also assessed here.
Promo Pack (4 marks)
Marks are awarded for your promo pack, which is given to the examiner at the start of the exam. What you include in your promo pack is up to you, but this is a good chance to impress with neatly presented, well thought out promotional material.
Your promo pack could include:
The promo pack can be presented in any language, but a translation into English should also be provided. Someone outside of your band is able to do the translation for you if you wish. If you have done any research for your promo pack, remember to write in your own words, and to include a list of reference sources including websites.
Stagecraft (3 marks)
From the moment you walk into the exam room your band is right in the spotlight. From plugging in, through the sound check and into the performance, you are demonstrating your professionalism as a group. The examiner will let you present your set as if it were a public gig, so be sure to brush up on all areas of your presentation to impress.
Your band will be assessed using the same areas as the solo Rock & Pop exams – Fluency and Musical Detail, Technical Control and Communication & Style. Each section will be awarded a mark out of 30, to which will be added your Presentation Skills mark out of 10.